The Consummate Traveler: The Holiday Road Trip Checklist

November 27, 2014 Updated: November 27, 2014

The holiday season has finally arrived, which means that many of us will be driving on the road to spend time with our loved ones. Before you pack up the family and pets to visit Aunt Mary next weekend, I thought it would be appropriate to go over a basic checklist of important things to consider before hitting the road.

1. Assess the health of your car battery:  If your battery is over three years old, it is a good idea to have it checked out by a local car repair shop to assess if it needs replacing. The last thing you want to do if you have a long journey ahead of you is risk getting stuck on a small country road where it may be a challenge to find help.

2. Confirm “on the road” assistance coverage:  Regardless of what road assistance company you use, make sure you have your ID card in your wallet and call to confirm the status of your membership if you are not sure about it. Also, I suggest visiting the applicable website to get familiar with what types of services are covered and what is not covered. If you have any special questions or concerns then call and talk to an operator. It is always better to know before you go.

3. Share your complete itinerary:  Whether you inform a family member not traveling with you or a trusted neighbor, it is always a good idea to share your complete itinerary with someone in case of an emergency. Mention your planned start time, streets and major highways you will be taking, sightseeing stops, hotels you will be staying in overnight, and estimated arrival time to your destination. I also suggest making a few checkpoint calls with those at your destination so they can track your progress during the trip.

4. Consider leaving at “off peak” times:  If you have a particularly long journey, leaving early in the morning (4 a.m.–6 a.m.) or later in the evening (10 p.m.–12 p.m.) may help you avoid heavy traffic jams into and out of major city hubs. If you have younger children, this may also be helpful to mom and dad, as they may sleep through much of your trip.

5. Check tires:  Something I don’t do regularly enough is to give my car tires a thorough scan before taking a long car ride. I would start with checking the tire pressure, then looking for any objects stuck in the tire treads such as nails or glass. Finally, and most importantly, you should also be ensuring that the tire bolts are tight on each wheel. I have a personal story to share on this. Several years ago my family and I were driving to Raleigh, North Carolina, to spend Thanksgiving with my sister. Somewhere on a major highway the rear tire of my brother’s truck came completely off while we traveled at high speed in the middle lane. Through some heavenly miracle we were able to pull over safely and even recovered the tire. It was all due to loose lug nuts. Check them please!

6. Pack blankets and food/water: You can never predict being stranded in a remote stretch of road or stuck in a 22-car pileup that blocks traffic for six hours. Therefore, my rule of thumb is to always be prepared for anything. Pack at least two heavy blankets per person and always keep plenty of sandwiches, snacks, and water inside your car—not in the trunk it could freeze.

As always, I wish you all the happiest of travels!