How to Prepare for a Road Trip in 4 Easy Steps

How to Prepare for a Road Trip in 4 Easy Steps

Going on a road trip can be one of the best adventures of your life; There is no doubt about that! Whether it be taking a road trip to the mountains or the beach, and exploring the open road is an adventure in itself. With your favorite tunes on the radio and a wide-open road ahead of you, there is much to experience before it’s time to go home. However, when it is finally time to return, the last thing you want is to arrive at a house in disarray. Dead plants, ruined patio furniture, and a stinky fridge are common results of poor road trip preparation! To prevent a negative ending after having the time of your life, we have come up with some great tips to help you come home feeling relaxed and ready to jump back into reality.

Here are four things you can do before you leave to ensure your vacation ends with a good night’s rest instead of a Sunday filled with stress!

1. LEARN about your vehicle.

Read or skim through your vehicle’s operation manual. Be sure to reference the locations of your hazard button and warning indicators. You should also determine how to check your oil and washer fluid as well as the condition of your tires. These are important things to do before you go on a trip, especially if you can’t remember the last time you had your oil changed or your vehicle serviced! You should know where your spare tire is located along with the tools necessary to change a tire. Being prepared means having the ability to jump into action if you are on the road and get a flat, rather than fumbling through tools and instructions you have never seen before. In addition, this would be a great time to learn how to use all the features, bells, and whistles that you may have forgotten about since you purchased your vehicle.

Once you have learned about your vehicle, we recommend running a short checklist prior to your departure to ensure your vehicle is in good working order. Things like windshield washers, good wiper blades, and clean, functional headlights are excellent safety features that help drivers to avoid danger. Having a small checklist can ensure safety and notify you of any underlying problems before you are on the road in the middle of nowhere!

a. Here’s a short Vehicle Inspection Checklist:

  1. Check your fluids! oil level, engine coolant, windshield washer fluid, power steering fluid, brake fluid, transmission fluid, etc.
  2. Check your headlights, tail lights, marker, reverse, and brake lights for any dim or broken bulbs. Make sure your lights are all clean before embarking.
  3. Check and fill the air pressure in all five tires. Don’t forget your spare tire! If you are unsure how, visit your auto dealer or tire shop.
  4. Make an appointment for an oil change and basic inspection one month prior to your trip.
  5. Address any issues found during the inspection and ensure all notification lights have been addressed.
  6. Before you depart, clean your windows inside and out. Clean windows make you a safer driver! Don’t forget your mirrors as well!

2. Plan your travel and gain a helpful tool in the process!

Before leaving, you should know a few basic things about the places you will visit and create a schedule. These travel plans, or itineraries, are great tools that can be easily shared with family and friends. Providing information about your whereabouts at approximate times can significantly help your family or friends to check in with you as well as give them the ability to communicate with proper authorities if concerns arise along the way.

Study the route you will be taking and know your exits. Plan rest stops and determine approximate times of arrival for each destination. Consider allocating time for additional stops to take pictures and stretch your legs—especially if you are traveling with a pet! Pro Tip: Calculate how much mileage your vehicle gets per fuel tank. This will help you to determine reasonable distances between stops. Running out of gas can quickly ruin your road trip vibe!

Once you are feeling confident with a solid itinerary, it will be time to make your reservations for accommodations. Depending on when you plan to travel, vacancy is not always available. Making reservations ahead of time will ensure you have a comfortable place to stay upon arrival. Additionally, if you have pets, you will want to decide whether or not to bring them on vacation with you. Check the policies and fees regarding traveling with your pets.

3. Plan your overnight logistics!!

Do research ahead of time. There is nothing worse than looking at great ‘retouched’ photos, and then arriving only to wonder if you made it to the right place! Analyze information on websites, read reviews from previous travelers, and confirm your registration along with promised amenities via a short phone call. Part of the fun of a road trip is planning your overnight stops. Some options are rustic while others can be quite luxurious. There are often bargains to be had if you are a savvy online shopper. Now would also be the perfect time to consider your pets as well. If your pets will be joining you, you will want to confirm that the places you are stopping are pet friendly and will welcome your furry friends happily (and without unexpected fees)!

Side Note: If you have house plants, you may want to have a house sitter or a plant sitter to check on your “nature babies” while you’re away. We know how exciting (and sometimes heartbreaking) it can be to grow a houseplant! Make sure you leave detailed notes about the care of your plants. It is tragic to come home to a house of dying, wilting or discolored plants! Once you have confirmed your reservations and make accommodations, do NOT forget to call (or visit online) your credit card company to notify them that you will be traveling. You also might consider a call to your home alarm monitoring company to disclose travel plans.

4. Pack Your Bags!

Knowing what to bring can be stressful, and most of us (yes even us) are guilty of leaving it to the last minute. To help you pack in a pinch, we created a list of essentials to include when packing! Feel free to print out the Stampede Excursions Packing Checklist and check it off as you go!

  1. Documents:
  2. Auto Insurance Documentation
  3. Vehicle Registration Documentation
  4. Vehicle Operation Manual
  5. Paper maps of the areas you will be driving through in the event your navigation device loses service. If you are an AAA member, their local offices have maps and guidebooks free of charge.
  6. Driver’s License
  7. Cash & Credit Cards
  8. Kits:
  9. Vehicle Safety: Flares or Warning Lights, Reflective Vest, Danger Triangle
  10. Stampede Excursions Survival and First Aid Kit
  11. Basic Tool Kit
  12. Flashlight
  13. Blanket during the cold seasons
  14. Clothing:
  15. Hiking Shoes, Tennis Shoes
  16. Socks / Undergarments
  17. Jeans / Pants
  18. Shorts
  19. Sweaters, Rain Coat, Warm Jacket
  20. T-Shirts / Tank Tops
  21. Bathing Suit, Flip Flops
  22. Small Pack
  23. Sunglasses, Hat / Beanie, Scarf, Mittens or Gloves
  24. Hygiene
  25. Shampoo / Conditioner, Soap, Body Lotion
  26. Sunscreen
  27. Towels / Wash Cloths
  28. Toothbrush / Toothpaste, Dental Floss
  29. Contact Lenses / Fluid, Glasses
  30. Hair Ties, Hair Brush / Comb
  31. Toilet Paper / Sanitation Wipes
  32. Hand Sanitizer
  33. Lysol Wipes for sanitization of fuel pumps, credit card terminals, and more.
  34. Entertainment / Misc.
  35. Earbuds
  36. Phone, Camera, and Chargers, including car chargers for your devices
  37. Music Library – Digital or Old School
  38. Books or Audio Books (make sure to download before your trip)
  39. Notepad, Sketchbook, and Pen

Now you have set yourself up for success, packed your bags, and are ready to walk out the door to enjoy the world before you! Not so fast – There are a few more things that you may want to do at home about a week prior to your departure. You can print out the full Stampede Excursions Road Trip Checklist to use as you complete each item.

BONUS: Happy Home, Happy Roam…! (See what we did there?)

  1. Bring in your outdoor furniture.
  2. Clean out your fridge of perishable items and freeze items for later use. (Make sure to put the trash out when you’re done!)
  3. Prepare a hearty freezable meal that you can heat up once you get back home. If you can’t do this, make a budget ahead of time so you don’t splurge too much!
  4. Make advance payments on utility bills if you are going to be gone for an extended time. Alternatively, make sure you can pay all your bills easily online while traveling and leave sometime in your schedule to do so.
  5. Place a hold on mail delivery or set up a temporary PO Box at the post office.
  6. Turn off your water heater to conserve power.
  7. Unplug electronics.
  8. Adjust your thermostat for the economy.
  9. Seal open boxes of food and dried goods. Clean your house – no party mouse here!
  10. Consider acquiring travel insurance.
  11. Make copies of important documents like identification, travel itinerary, etc.
  12. Check the weather and consider additional preparations that might be necessary.

Okay, you are FINALLY ready to embark on the trip of a lifetime! Adventure awaits you, filled to the brim with sights, tastes, experiences, and memories that are sure to last you a lifetime. Time to load up the car, lock the house, and fill the gas tank because you are soon to be on the open road!

You can relax, knowing that you will be returning to a happy house and a hearty home-cooked meal!

Group Size
no limit

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