Summer is here and you are planning the most epic road trip of your life! Let’s see if you are really ready, with this list of essential things to do, to check or to have with you, to make the most of your time on the road.
Road trips are great but you don’t want to end up having your vehicle to be towed? right??
So let’s start by talking about car maintenance
If you are using your own car for your road trip, you might want to consider sending it to the garage for a day of pampering.
Make sure to tell your mechanic that you are planning a road trip and that you need him to check all the important things including brakes conditions, oil level, coolant, filters, belts, electric stuff, battery and so forth…
If a day at the garage is not an option, you really should at least:
– Check the condition of your tires and the pressure in them. Checking the pressure should be done during your road trip as well.
– Check your oil level and other fluids.
– Fill up the windshield washer fluid reservoir. Bring some with you. You will probably use a lot of it, to remove summer bugs!
– When you’re at it, you might want to check your wipers as well. I hate it when I can’t take pictures through the windshield because it’s too dirty!! Not that pictures through the windshield while driving on a bumpy road are any good, but they are great souvenirs anyway.
– Check your lights, and make sure you have some spare ones. (Remember to not touch the glass when changing a headlight bulb).
– Check your air conditioner system and top up the refrigerant if needed. It’s up to you of course but driving on a highway with open windows for hundreds of miles a day, just to keep cool, is very tiring. You won’t be able to listen to the fantastic playlist you prepared specially for the road and won’t hear a thing your road partner(s) have to say. I admit, it might be a way to avoid arguments?! Or it might be a way to create one!
If you are renting a car, there are a few things you can do as well:
– Check the car mileage. In some countries rental cars can have loads of miles under the hood. It doesn’t mean it will break during your trip, but if you have concerns, you can always try to change car. Mileage should most of the time be indicated on your rental contract.
– Just like with your car, check the basics: tires, oil, wipers, lights, air conditioning…. Ask for the windshield washer reservoir to be filled up.
– Check really thoroughly the overall condition of the car, external and internal. Insist, if needed, that things you spotted are reported in the contract. In some countries they are very relaxed about it. In other countries, they will seem relaxed about it when you take the car, but they will be very picky when you return it and will try to charge you with every little scratch and bumps.
Additional tip: if you’re going to return the car when the car rental place is closed and leave the keys in the drop box, take lots of pictures of the car before leaving. This is just to ensure that the rental company is not trying to blame you for some damages that occurred after you returned the car… or imaginary ones…
Hey, I’m in no way implying that rental companies are monsters which are just trying to rip you off. But there are places, where things might not go the same way than in your own country. It’s better to be careful than sorry…
So what are the essentials to do, check or have with you in your car?
– Should I really mention that you must have your ID, driving license, car documents and travel insurance with you!!! Just basic things to never forget.
– You might want to update your GPS or download the maps of the country(ies) you are heading to. GPS in rental cars, are often an option you will be paying for. One would therefore expect that they are up to date, but it depends of the country. But real maps are great too!
– Please have with you as many yellow security vests as there will be passengers. These can save lives if your car breaks down and you have to wait on the side of the road. Plus, you can use them if you are going cycling for example. Double win! Please remember that in some countries these are mandatory.
– Try to have with you the list of emergency numbers of the various countries you will cross. Don’t think that because you have a smartphone, you can google that, if needed. Murphy’s law will apply and chances are you will not have any 3G coverage when most needed.
– Keep the car manual in your car. If something breaks down, it might be useful.
– It might be a good idea to check before hitting the road, the various regulation applicable to the country(ies) you are visiting. Road signs might look very different than what you are used to at home, so this could make your life easier.
– A small first aid kit you can cary around when going on a hike is always a good idea.
– Having a flash lamp seems redundant now that all our phones have this built-in functionality. But I think you should save your phone battery for other uses.
– And if something goes really wrong, you should have something on you, easily accessible, that gives your emergency contacts, social security number, blood type, any allergies or medical specific information that could be required to treat you efficiently.
– And don’t forget to tell someone (friend or family) what your plans are. How long you’ll be gone and what your itinerary should be.
Other little things you can bring that will make your ride more enjoyable?
– You should consider having some toilet paper in your glove compartment. I’m not suggesting you should do your business in the wild and leave nasty trash being. Please don’t do that actually! But it’s surprising how many places have run out of this basic supply when you need it most 😉
– Since we are on this topic, you should probably have something to disinfect your hands as well! Another basic supply that seems to be lacking a lot of the time from public restrooms. (EO hand sanitizer below is organic and the small of lavender is soothing and relaxing. Perfect in the car!!)
– Some garbage bags could also be useful.
– Sunscreen! Yes, you can get a sunburn in your car!
– Listening to the radio could be very entertaining but if you’ve prepared a killer playlist, you might want to consider bringing this little Audio Cable to plug your iPod, iPhone or whatever, to the radio system. Lots of cars have USB ports nowadays, but not all of them. But bring your USB cable as well of course!
– A little cooler is a plus. Keeps your drinks and snacks cool and avoid having to trash some food because it spoiled with the heat. I usually also have little ice packs that I put in the hotel freezer at night.
– Snacks and drink to put in your cool little cooler 😉
– Blankets and pillow to hit the snooze button comfortably or as comfortably as possible in a car!
– And finally : Good conversation, good friends and good spirit!
I wish you a happy Road Trip!
Don’t forget your kids on the parking lot.
And don’t leave your pet in a boiling car!
So tell me in the comments below:
What do you bring on road trips? What essentials do you have in your car?
Where are you going this summer?