Get Ready for a Summer Road Trip

According to GasBuddy.com’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.