I love summer and I am beginning to love the idea of traveling more by car as sometimes the slower route is more relaxing than the wait in an airport and sitting in cramped seats that seem to cost more than they are worth.

This summer I will be doing some traveling and I anticipate the only worry that I have while traveling is that the car doesn't break down on me. This is my checklist for when I travel the fast freeways and empty county roads.

✔  Tune-up: A month or so before I am to leave on a long trip I get the battery check out, oil changed, tires rotated, belts checked and fluids topped off. Fluid leaks are at the top of my list to watch for- Black drips are oil; green, orange, or yellow are coolant; and brown or reddish oily drips can be transmission or brake fluid.

✔  Tire Back-up: I make sure to have the back up tire in working condition should the tire blow, making sure to have all necessary tools that are accessible and not hidden under luggage in the trunk.

✔  Wipers: Two years ago when we were traveling across country, we found that the car couldn't go above 55-60 without the wipers lifting off of the windshield. That was fixed by getting proper wipers next time around. I also run sandpaper along the wiper blade to cut out the streaks and help them last longer.

✔  Fuses: A box of fuses were bought and changed out about two years ago for the last trip. Haven't noticed anything out of the ordinary for lights or sounds that makes me believe they need to be changed anytime soon. But those fuse kits aren't very expensive.

✔ Extra Keys: I haven't gotten locked out of the car yet, but traveling with a second key on long trips has been very helpful. I know I almost locked my keys in the car on one trip because I ran out of the car so fast to get to the bathroom and almost forgot to grab the keys as I closed the door. Those things do happen.

✔  Food/Drink: I don't have children but I found that having the gallon cooler of water with us and some light food (crackers, apples) was the cheapest way to travel. Gas stations were for bathroom breaks and gas only and made the trip move quicker since we weren't deciding what junk food we wanted to buy.

✔ Entertainment: Last time I brought a laptop to play movies on but that wasn't very useful for us as the sun made it hard to see the movie and the road noise was too loud for the laptop speakers. This time it will be books, music, sleeping and talking.

✔ Maps: Last time the road atlas worked just fine. It doesn't tell you about upcoming road construction like a GPS but that may be something to consider for the future.

✔  Sleeping: Getting an idea of how long to travel each day and what towns will have places to sleep is an excellent preparation that can otherwise suck money out of your pocket. Last time we just relied on the road signs and road map telling us. This time I will have phone numbers of motels/hotels and coupons to use, plus any discounts.

✔  Misc: First Aid Items, Napkins, Trash receptacle, Doggy bags when traveling with dog, Cell phone and numbers for emergency assistance, pillows and blankets.

What items were handy for you while traveling by car for vacations?


  1. Hammy // Monday, April 05, 2010 7:26:00 AM  

    Use the power of the Net to guage any worthwhile sights along the way to break up the trip if necessary. It's not always about A or B but places in between. Tourist info sites are helpful. Perhaps even check out blogs as they are first hand references and better than magazine or paid for publication recommendations.

    Having a CD of your favourite songs in MP3 format helps to cut down on the clutter too.

    If you have kids it is an idea to bring books suitable for them if, of course, they don't suffer from motion sickness.

    If the trip is long enough prepare some sort of picnic-style lunch.

    I usually do almost all the driving so having a cricket or football match on the radio at the same time makes the hours pass by quickly.

    Best tip would be leave when the spouse is good and ready and doesn't feel rushed. Otherwise the trip could be horrible no matter how much pre-planning you have done.

  2. Dawn // Monday, April 05, 2010 9:12:00 AM  

    That is one of the biggest deal for us - travel with no expectations.

  3. Jen // Monday, April 05, 2010 10:09:00 AM  

    I do a road trip from Seattle to Minneapolis--straight through--about 30 hours each way. There are two of us driving, so we sleep off and on. My favorite tips:

    -Comedy on CD: I don't like books on CD so much (although I always bring one) because I zone out of them, or need to sleep when the other person is listening to them. With comedy, I can zone in and out of it and never miss a crucial piece of a story. Oh, and always get them from the library; rarely are the lending times too short for a road trip. And if you have to mail it back, it's still usually cheaper than buying it.

    -Junk food: This is one of the few times that I buy junk food, but I figure that I'm going to want it, so I might as well buy it at the grocery or discount store instead of on the road. But I have rules: I must buy both protein and sugar (to keep blood sugar more stable and satisfy appetite) and bring along at least twice as much water as I do soda. And anything that doesn't get eaten on the trip doesn't get purchased for the next trip. I obviously didn't need it that much.

    -Eating out on the road: I don't remember where I first heard it, but it's true. If you're looking for where to eat on a road trip, look for the big rigs. Truckers tend to have their favorite haunts for a reason: they want good food quickly and inexpensively. I've yet to be disappointed.

    -More on snacking (not so much a "frugal" tip, but certainly handy): When I gather all of my snacks together before I leave, I put either a binder clip (or clothes pin) on the bag and/or throw a handful of rubber bands and binder clips in the bag or box (or cooler) that I keep all of the snacks in. This way, when I'm done with that bag of chips, I always have a clip to put on it. In the same way, when the M&Ms are only half finished, I can roll the top down and fasten a rubber band around the whole thing, throw it back in with the other snacks, and don't worry about cleaning out a mess when we get to a destination.

    Handy things: In addition to bringing rubber bands and binder clips for the snacks (although I've used the binder clips for wrangling cords), some other things I bring on every road trip are a pillow and blanket, resealable plastic bags (i.e. ziploc), a roll of paper towels (fits nicely in with the snacks; good for both mopping up spilled coffee and checking the oil), and a roll of scotch tape (to close snack bags, affix directions to the dash, tape cords together, etc.).

    Happy trails!

  4. Dawn // Monday, April 05, 2010 10:14:00 AM  

    Rubber bands and clips, excellant idea - thanks!

  5. Lillie // Tuesday, April 06, 2010 11:05:00 AM  

    One of the things that I would make sure that I have is some replacement bulbs. For some reason, one particular bulb has had to be replaced several times and it always goes out after what it seems to have been just replaced. Probably a defect since it is the only bulb that does it. I never thought about the fuses.

    When we travel, there are teen children and my adult daughter who all love to sleep (I enjoy the peace and quiet) so we always have plenty of blankets and pillows, snacks and individual DVD players for the awake times. Makes life and traveling so much easier.