Complete this Road Trip Checklist Before you Leave to Stay Safe this Summer

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of the U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA). All opinions are 100% mine.

Summer road trips are the original family vacation and this year, as more families take to the road than the skies, staying safe is paramount. We all could use a getaway and whether you are driving to the beach, camping in the woods, or planning an epic road trip, there are steps you need to take before you leave to make sure you stay safe on the road. To help, use this road trip checklist, from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

With a new driver in our house, and other layer of concern about what would happen if we break down on the road, we are taking extra care in planning and prepping for our summer road trips. So while we all want to focus on the fun we will have on vacation, don’t skip over the steps you need to take before you hit the road.

Road curving around bend in Badlands National Park with mountains on the side

Summer Road Trip Checklist – Safety First!

Plan your route and stops.

I’m usually one who maps out our road trips months in advance, meticulously planning our stops and activities. This year, there is a lot of uncertainty keeping us from planning too far in advance, as local rules and regulations at our destination and along our route keep changing. This summer, road trips are going to require some last-minute planning and possible flexibility on our destination and route.

While that makes it seem like the better option is just to jump in the car once you have the all-clear, you really do need to plan ahead. You don’t want to be in a position of finding a stopping place along the way when you get tired. Instead, I would recommend planning your route and booking a hotel or campsite in advance. This gives you the opportunity to research the safety and sanitation protocols in place in order to make a wise choice.

Research local rules.

Different rules may apply to different cities / counties /regions within a state when it comes to what is open, and what guidelines are in place regarding social distancing, face coverings, and size of gatherings. It is critical to research this information in advance and stay up-to-date as they are subject to change frequently. I recommend Googling the state or region “reopening plan” to read more information.

Pack everything you need.

On most road trips, it is easy enough to get the food, drinks, and other supplies that you might need when you are on the road, but that might not be the case this year. If you are camping or renting a vacation house, I would highly recommend that you pack your car with everything you will need including paper products, cleaning supplies, healthcare needs, food, and drinks. Be sure to check out this road trip packing list.

If you are road tripping to a hotel or resort, be sure to bring along everything that you will need for the drive and the trip including wipes, sanitizer, road trip snacks and drinks, extra “to go” toilet paper, sunscreen, face coverings, etc. When you arrive at your destination, you may find some stores are closed or don’t have the supplies that you need in stock.

Put together an emergency roadside kit.

While you are packing, be sure to put together an emergency roadside kit, because even a well-maintained vehicle can break down. Your emergency roadside kit should include: a cell phone and backup battery + charger, first aid kit, flashlight, flares and a white flag, jumper cables, a tire pressure gauge, tire jack, work gloves, tools and duct tape, wet wipes, extra windshield washer fluid, paper maps, an emergency blanket, quick dry towel, water, and nonperishable food.

Get your car serviced before you go.

These days you really don’t want to rely solely on the kindness of strangers to stop and help, or wait around for roadside assistance, so it is important to make sure your car is serviced before you go. Bring it in for regular tune-ups, oil changes, battery checks, and tire rotations to help avoid breakdowns.

NHTSA Vehicle safety checklist video

Check for recalls.

You really want to check for vehicle safety recalls and get those repaired before you go. You can use the NHTSA’s VIN look-up site to enter your vehicle identification number (VIN) to learn if a specific vehicle has not been repaired as part of a safety recall in the last 15 years.

Go over your vehicle safety checklist.

No matter how well you take care of your car, stuff happens. For your family’s safety, you should perform a few basic safety checks before you go on a road trip.

woman checking tire of grey car
  1. Tires – check the air pressure of all your tires, including your spare, as well as tread wear.
  2. Lights – make sure your headlights, brake lights, turn signals, emergency flashers, and interior lights are all working properly.
  3. Cooling system – make sure your radiator has water and antifreeze.
  4. Fluid levels – check your vehicle’s oil, brake, transmission, power steering, and windshield washer fluid levels to make sure they are full.
  5. Belts and hoses – inspect all belts and hoses to make sure there are no signs of bulges, blisters, cracks, or cuts.
  6. Wiper blades – check for wear and tear to see if they need to be replaced.
  7. A/C – make sure your air conditioning is working properly, especially when traveling in hot temps!
  8. Floor mats – make sure your mats fit correctly and are clipped into place securely.
Man checking windshield washer fluid

These planning and prevention steps may take a little extra time up front, but will hopefully spare you from dealing with the consequences of a breakdown — or worse — during your road trip.

Be sure to read all of the NHTSA’s Summer Driving Tips before you leave!

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Publish Date: July 12, 2020


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