Road Trip Checklist: Tips to Make Your Next Vacation Run Smoothly
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Road Trip Checklist: Tips to Make Your Next Vacation Run Smoothly

From national parks to amusement parks, historic tours to brew tours, there’s a lot of things you can visit by car. These tips will help you have a better experience the next time you travel.

Preparing Your Car

Is your car almost due for service? Getting an oil change or replacing the air filter will be easier to do now than when you’re on the road. If it’s been a while since your car has been inspected, have it looked over by a mechanic. Try to get this done at least two weeks in advance so repairs can be made before your trip.

Is your car clean? A professional detail will get the inside and outside of your car cleaner than it would be if you did it yourself. If your headlights are cloudy, getting them polished won’t just make your car look better, it will improve visibility at night.

Don’t forget to check the air pressure in the spare tire. If your car doesn’t have a spare, make sure the can of sealant in the flat repair kit is within date.


Even if your phone has “nationwide” coverage, data coverage can be spotty in remote areas. If you’re relying on your smartphone for navigation, have an app with offline maps on hand. Both Google Maps and Apple Maps can store route information when using a WiFi connection, while Here WeGo and most OpenStreetMap-based apps can download maps for entire states ahead of time.


Have a large family? Instead of packing individual suitcases for everyone, consider separating out clothing by day so you have just a couple bags to lug to the hotel room.


We’re used to cold winters and relatively mild summers, but climates can be wildly different across the country.

In the Rockies, you can go from summer to winter weather by changing altitude. Have a coat handy if you’ll be driving on mountain passes.

Keep rain gear handy if you’re going to the Pacific Northwest, Florida or the tornado belt. All three areas are all subject to sudden rainstorms.

Outside temperatures above 100ºF can lead to cabin temperatures nearing 200ºF in a parked car. If you’re traveling to the south or southwest, a reflective sunshade is a must for keeping temperatures down.

Staying Comfortable

Look at a road trip the same way you would a long plane ride: you’re going to be sitting for long stretches, so loose, comfortable clothing is a must on long travel days.

Polarized sunglasses can block light reflected off flat surfaces, reducing glare and eyestrain during the day. However, yellow-tinted “night driving” glasses have been shown to reduce visibility and glare recovery.

Skip the candy bars, chips, and giant fountain sodas. Go for unsweetened drinks like water and tea paired with high protein snacks like nuts. If you have problems with motion sickness, avoid fatty and spicy foods at meals.

Make small adjustments to the seat position from time to time. This puts your body in a new position, reducing muscle fatigue. Some luxury cars have a setting that will do this automatically.


If you prefer to get a room for the night wherever you end up, it still pays to check prices beforehand. A festival or other major event could mean sky-high prices and booked hotels.

Many travel sites now have maps that let you get a top-down view of hotel locations. This makes it easy to find an affordable place to stay close to where you want to go the next morning or locate a hotel within a drivable distance when nearby places are overbooked or overpriced.

Always carry a printed copy of your hotel reservations as a backup in case it can’t be brought up on your smartphone or it’s missing from the hotel’s computers.

Traveling with Kids

Keeping your kids happy is a matter of combating boredom and motion sickness. If they don’t get car sick easily, consider building activity packs that include coloring books, games, and a solid surface to write on.

Car sickness is caused by the inner ear feeling motion while the eyes see only fixed objects. If you have a child that gets car sick easily, encourage activities that keep them looking outside of the car. According to the CDC, music not only keeps young eyes on the road, the distraction can lessen the feeling of nausea. If your kids want to watch movies, use a tablet holder that attaches to a front seat headrest. This lets them see the moving scenery in their peripheral vision.

Prepare for Your Trip with Help from Merton Auto Body 

Merton Auto Body does more than just collision repair. We offer wheel alignments, detailing, headlight restoration and paint restoration to get your car ready for your next big road trip. These jobs are handled by the same I-CAR and ASE certified staff our customers trust to fix their vehicles after accidents. Stop by our convenient Sussex location or visit our website to get a free online estimate. We proudly service Waukesha County and the surrounding Lake Country area including Oconomowoc, Hartland, Delafield, and Pewaukee.



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