There’s nothing like the open road to let you really enjoy the freedom of summer. Along with freedom, though, comes responsibility, especially if you want your road trip to be enjoyable and stress free. When it comes to road trips, packing the right materials can mean the difference between a grand adventure and a trip you’d rather forget. So to help you make your next road trip as smooth as possible, we’ve prepared the ultimate road trip checklist for you, which contains all of the items any savvy traveler should pack with them before they leave the house.
You’d never drive anywhere without your insurance papers, right? Of course you wouldn’t, but just to be sure, it’s always a good idea to make sure your insurance is up to date and you have your papers with you before you set out on a long trip. While you’re at it, you should also check to see what roadside assistance (if any) is covered as part of your auto insurance.
If you don’t have enough coverage, you can access roadside assistance by joining a motor club like the Alberta Motor Association (AMA), which provides 24/7 roadside assistance anywhere in Canada and the United States for only $83 per year. Once you’ve registered for roadside assistance, all you have to do is make sure you have your membership card with you, and you’ll have access to benefits like tow trucks, battery boosts, fuel delivery, and even a locksmith service (just in case you happen to lock your keys in the car when you’re 200km away from your spare set at home).
While summer often brings good driving conditions, that doesn’t mean you won’t run into any dangers out on the road. Before setting out on a road trip of any distance, make sure you have a few bottles of drinking water and some non-perishable food with you, just in case you become stranded and have to wait for a long period of time without access to food or water.
Road trips aside, a first aid kit is always a useful tool to have in your car; you never know when you’ll need to bandage a cut or treat a bug bite when you’re out on the road. Other items to consider including in your travel first aid kit include: a safety blanket, pain relief medication, disinfecting ointment, insect bite remedy, and Gravol or another motion sickness remedy.
Depending on where you’re headed, finding a bathroom isn’t always the easiest thing to do on a road trip, especially one with soap and running water. In case you need to make any pit-stops at less than ideal locations, it’s always comforting to know you have a bottle of hand sanitizer available.
Whether you have a navigator in the passenger seat following directions on their phone, or you’re using a built-in GPS unit, make sure you’ve updated your GPS to the latest version of the operating system before you hit the road – that way you’ll get the latest information about route closures, detours, and other potential obstacles you might find along the way.
In addition to a digital GPS system, it’s never a bad idea to bring a paper map with you as well. While your GPS might occasionally lead you astray or malfunction, you can always depend on good old paper when the technology isn’t cooperating.
Our phones really are our lifelines these days, and sometimes the car is the only reliable place to charge your device when you’re away from home, so make sure to bring a phone charger that plugs into your dashboard if you want to keep your lifeline powered up.
Every car should come with a spare tire, but you should always check to be sure the tire is in good condition before you head out on a road trip. Even if you’re not able to change a tire yourself, having a working spare on hand will be useful in case you need to call in roadside assistance. In addition to a spare tire, other car repair items to bring with you include a jack, jumper cables, a fire extinguisher, and a set of flares.
Tire pressure makes a big difference out on the road – did you know that for every 1 psi of tire under-inflation, you could lower your gas mileage by 0.2%? In addition, keeping your tires properly inflated will also keep you safer and help your tires last longer.
While you’re checking your tire pressure, it’s a good idea to have your wheel alignment checked as well, especially if you haven’t had it checked in the last year. Because most roads are higher in the middle than on the sides (to allow for water drainage), even regular driving can cause your wheels to become misaligned, so wheel alignment could be a concern for you even if you haven’t run over any curbs lately.
One of the best ways to ensure longevity for your vehicle is to change the oil regularly, and one of the best times to do an oil change is before heading out on a road trip. With a full service oil change, you’ll not only have your oil and filter replaced; a technician will also inspect and top up other fluid levels such as windshield washer fluid, coolant, power steering fluid, transmission fluid, and more. They’ll also inspect other important mechanical elements such as your brake fluid levels, engine air filtration system, exterior lights, wiper blades, and tire pressure.
If you’re going for a long road trip, you may want to consider bringing extra automotive fluids with you so you don’t have to buy them when you’re out on the road. These could include fluids like engine oil, windshield washer fluid, power steering fluid, and any other fluids that your oil change technician recommends. When buying engine oil, make sure to buy the grade recommended by your vehicle’s manufacturer, as using the correct grade of engine oil has been shown to improve gas mileage by 1 – 2%.
Lastly, to ensure the full safety of your vehicle, you should run it by a mechanic who can perform a full service check to make sure everything is working as it should. A mechanic will be able to verify the safety of your brakes, steering, transmission, and any other parts of your vehicle that could end up causing trouble.
For more on how to get your car ready for a summer road trip, come by and visit the automotive experts at EconoLube. At EconoLube, we’re not just an oil change centre – we offer a full range of car care services to help keep your vehicle in prime condition all year round. Start with a 10-minute oil change, or give us a call at 780-306-0911 today to learn more about our other automotive services.