Get Ready for a Summer Road Trip

According to’s Fuel Price Outlook 2016, the average gas price in the U.S. will be $2.28, which means that American motorists will spend $20 billion less on gas than in 2015, and also that the roads will likely be busier than last summer.

Before you head out on that road trip, here’s some advice to help you and your loved ones stay safe, save money, and have fun on the road this summer.

Summerize your vehicle – Just as you would winterize your car or truck for the cold weather, summerize it for the hot weather. Here’s a pre-road trip vehicle checklist.

  • Fluids: Top off all fluids to the manufacturer’s recommended levels. If the vehicle is due for an oil change, get it done before you leave. Have the engine coolant filled with 50/50 coolant—50 percent water and 50 percent coolant. This will help the engine run cooler and more efficiently in hot weather.
  • Tires: Check that the treads are not too worn down. Driving on bald tires is particularly dangerous in the summer because of the high temperature of the roads. Worn tires also mean a greater risk of hydroplaning on wet roads. Make sure all four tires are filled to the proper pounds/square inch—that’s 32 PSI on most mid-sized cars, but check the wall of the tire for your vehicle’s proper PSI. This will help tire wear and help save on gas consumption.
  • Air conditioning: Most new vehicle’s A/C systems run off the electrical system, which can be a heavy load on the alternator. Have a mechanic check that your vehicle’s electrical system is running efficiently.
  • Lights: Make sure all lights are in working order, windows are clean and the windshield wipers are working properly.
  • Gas: Fill up before you leave: You never know when you may get stuck in a traffic jam with no gas station near.

Preparing for the trip

You can avoid a lot of problems and stress on the road by planning ahead and preparing your vehicle. Here’s what to do before you pull out of the driveway.

  • Paperwork: Make sure the vehicle’s registration and insurance are up to date, and keep the paperwork in the glove compartment.
  • Clean: Clean out your vehicle to create more room and reduce the overall weight to improve gas mileage.
  • Directions: Know your route and length of trip. If you’re using a GPS, pre-program your destination’s address into the unit and make sure the GPS can find the location. Print out a hard copy of the directions—both there and back—in case the GPS malfunctions. It also doesn’t hurt to have a highway map of the states you are driving through.
  • Supplies: Expect the best, but be prepared for the worst. Pack a first aid kit, car jack, spare tire, reflective jacket, torch and fire extinguisher.
  • Snacks: Purchase a cooler and fill it with ice, bottles of water, and healthy snacks that can be eaten easily on the road, such as apples, bananas and sandwiches. This will save you time and money on the road. Avoid junk food and sugary drinks—it will make you tired and sluggish while driving.
  • Children: If traveling with young children, make sure they have some easily accessible items to make their trip more comfortable, such as a favorite stuffed animal, music player, electronic game and books. Caution them not to read or play their game too much in a moving vehicle or they may get car sick.
  • Pets: If you’re driving with pets, be sure to have enough water and pet food on hand, and never leave an animal in a hot car. Heat stroke can kill pets quickly. If your dog or cat is small enough, keep them in a pet carrier. For larger dogs, consider buying a harness and securing them with a seat belt in the back seat.
  • Packing: Place heavier luggage at the bottom of the trunk, with lighter bags on top. Make sure all items are tightly packed and secured, so nothing can fly forward in the vehicle in case you stop short. Keep luggage below window level for a clear line of sight out the back of the vehicle.

On the highway

And here are some common sense reminders for when you’re out there on the road.

  • Drive the speed limit. Driving at or just under the posted speed limit is a good idea for several reasons. In case something happens on the road, such as a car stopping short in front of you, it will give you a little more time to react.
  • Never text while driving and use a hands-free device if you must talk on your phone. Avoid other distractions as well and use extra caution when going through construction zones.
  • Safety: To avoid fatigue on the road, stop about every two hours to stretch and move around. If driving far, stop at a motel at the halfway point and get some sleep. Booking ahead online can save you money and reduce stress. As an added safety measure, tell a friend or relative your plans and approximate time of arrival before you leave, and check in with them when you arrive.

Avoid the Lines and Make Your Flight on Time

In the past months, you’ve probably seen and heard a lot about excruciatingly long lines at airport security checkpoints. At Chicago O’Hare in May, more than 400 passengers had to spend the night on cots and the floor after missing their flights. Flyers across the country are rightfully upset, prompting the Twitter hashtag, #iHatetheWait.

While the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has been increasing employee overtime and bringing in more screening officers, airline officials are also exploring the pros and cons of privatizing airport security.

In the meantime, here are some things you can do to help ensure that you get to the airport early and make your scheduled flight.

Summer travel tips from the TSA

1. Apply for a trusted traveler program, such as TSA Pre✓®, Global Entry or NEXUS. These help expedite the boarding and security check process. To find out which trusted traveler program best suits your needs, see the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Trusted Traveler Program comparison chart.

2. Make sure you have proper ID, such as a driver’s license or other state photo identity card issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles. Important: Make sure that your name matches your boarding pass. For a list of accepted IDs, see the TSA’s Identification page.

3. Don’t pack prohibited items. Knowing what is prohibited at the airport and on planes will help the screening process go much quicker. Even if an item is generally permitted, it may be subject to additional screening or not allowed through the checkpoint if it triggers an alarm during the screening process, appears to have been tampered with, or poses other security concerns. If you’re not sure what’s prohibited, check the TSA’s list of prohibited items at

4. Leave plenty of time. Arrive at least two hours before your flight when flying domestic, and three hours early when flying international. Allow for more time at larger, busier airports.

5. Prepare for airport security checkpoints by having your ID and boarding pass out. Remove large electronics from bags, such as a laptop; remove 3-1-1 compliant liquid bags, and consider checking your bags instead of carrying them on to save time.

What’s the 3-1-1 liquids rule?

According to the TSA’s 3-1-1 liquids rule, you are allowed to bring a quart-sized bag of liquids, aerosols, gels, creams and pastes through the checkpoint. These are limited to 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) or less per item.

Additional advice from a travel expert

Wall Street Journal travel writer, Scott McCartney, shares some useful travel tips he’s compiled over the years talking to travelers like you.

McCartney thinks the most important thing when going through airport security and dealing with the TSA is to be consistent and have a routine. For example, it’s very easy to end up losing your driver’s license when walking through the airport because you’re taking it out of your pocket a lot, and you may forget where you put it. His routine is to instantly put his license back in his wallet before he moves on.

When it comes to carryon baggage, make sure you put items, such as books, electronics and liquids back in the same compartment every time, so you know exactly where they are and where to unzip to get to them. He also thinks it’s good practice to put larger bags through the x-ray belt first, with the laptop being the last thing that goes through.

This way, if you get delayed at the metal detector/body scanner machine, your laptop will be the last to come out, and you’ll have the laptop bag already. You don’t want to be standing there holding your shoes, laptop, etc. without a bag.

McCartney also suggests printing your boarding pass early. Here’s why: Not only does it eliminate a stop at the airline’s check-in counter — if you don’t have to check a bag — but it’s an important way to claim your seat on the flight. If you’re an infrequent flyer flying on a less expensive ticket, and the flight is overbooked, those who have not checked in are in greater danger of being bumped from the flight, if the airline has to bump somebody and can’t get enough volunteers.

Since compensation is based on the price of your ticket, airlines typically look for the cheapest tickets, and so if you check-in and claim your seat early, it makes it harder for the gate agent to bump you from the flight.

Visit for more flying tips and to learn about how you can receive expedited screening through TSA Pre✓®.