Planning a summer family road trip adventure?
Before hitting the road, it’s important to ensure your vehicle is in top-notch condition and equipped with all the essentials for a safe and comfortable journey.
Our shop and families have over 200 combined years of road trip experience, and we’ve created this article based on our auto expertise and family travel experiences.
We’ll guide you through our recommended road trip checklist, and cover everything from scheduling an auto care appointment to packing essential tools and supplies to ensure smooth travels.
Download our free PDF Road Trip Checklist to have a printable copy on hand.
Let’s get rolling! Buckle up and get ready to embark on a worry-free road trip with the guidance of this checklist.
Schedule an Auto Care Appointment
Before you hit the road, be sure to schedule an auto care or maintenance appointment with a qualified mechanic to ensure your vehicle is in tip-top shape. A fully functional vehicle is essential to ensure a smooth and enjoyable journey, especially if you plan on driving in the mountains and remote areas or going on a long-distance adventure.
Scheduling an auto appointment is the first step in preparing your vehicle for a road trip.
During your auto care appointment, a mechanic will thoroughly inspect your vehicle and check the engine, brakes, tires, fluid levels, and other components. They’ll address any necessary maintenance or repairs so that your vehicle is reliable to take you wherever your adventure leads you.
A pre-trip maintenance appointment can prevent breakdowns or other vehicle inconveniences during your travels. So, don’t forget to add ‘schedule auto care appointment’ to your trip checklist, and you’ll be on your way to a safe and worry-free adventure.
Check the CDOT Travel Planner Website
Check for any road issues before you hit the open road! It’s important to ensure a smooth and hassle-free driving experience.
From heavy traffic to construction, weather, and fallen rocks, Colorado can experience various issues that can cause hiccups in your plan. By knowing about any road closures, you can plan alternative routes in advance and avoid getting stuck in traffic or facing unexpected obstacles. It pays to be well-informed and prepared for any potential challenges that may arise.
One of the best ways to check up on and stay updated about potential road issues is by browsing cotrip.org, a reliable and public CDOT travel planning resource for travel alerts, road closures, conditions, construction, and traffic information.
You can even use the CoTrip website to view live road cameras. It’s a super cool resource that not many Coloradans know about. Now you know!
Don’t forget to add the CoTrip website to your road trip checklist and prepare your car for a smooth road trip.
Road Trip Packing List
When preparing your car for a road trip, make sure to pack essential safety and comfort items.
Based on our vehicle and road trip experiences, it’s important that your road trip packing list also contains the following items: spare tires & tools, jumper cables, first aid kit, offline Google maps, spare phone charger & battery, water & snacks, paper towels & hand sanitizer, duct tape & zip ties.
Spare Tires & Tools
Does your car have a spare tire? Is it fully inflated to the recommended PSI? Do you have tools to change your tire? Do you know how to change your vehicle’s tire?
Before embarking on your trip, take a few moments to inspect the condition of your spare tire and tools and familiarize yourself with how to change your tire. Make sure your spare tire is fully inflated and doesn’t show signs of wear and tear. Check that the lug nut key, wrench, jack, and any other necessary tools are present and in proper working order.
The last thing you want is to discover a flat spare tire, or faulty or missing tools when you’re stuck on the side of the road with no cell service to call help. By preparing your car for a road trip and ensuring the availability and function of the spare tire and tools, you can avoid unnecessary stress and delays during your adventure.
If your car doesn’t have a spare tire (in the trunk, beneath your vehicle, or attached to the outside of your vehicle), you may be equipped with run-flat tires, which are tires designed to allow you to drive on them (for a limited distance at a limited speed) in case of a flat tire.
Jumper Cables or Portable Jump Starter
Ensure you have a set of jumper cables ready, and that you know how to use jumper cables, in case your car battery needs a jump. Jumper cables are an essential tool to have in your car, especially when you’re going on a road trip. They can be a lifesaver in a situation where your battery unexpectedly dies and your car won’t start, leaving you stranded.
With jumper cables, you can flag down a passing vehicle, connect your car battery to the other vehicle’s battery, and jumpstart your car. It’s a simple and effective way to get your car running again and continue traveling.
If you want to have extra peace of mind, you can pack a portable jump starter, which eliminates the need for another vehicle. The portable jump starter contains a battery and jumper cables so that you can jump your vehicle.
Don’t forget to add jumper cables or a portable jump starter to your road trip checklist. In fact, we recommend that your vehicle always carry a jump tool. Just be sure to keep the portable jump starter charged if that’s your preferred tool.
First Aid Kit
A well-prepared car always contains a first aid kit. Having a well-stocked first aid kit is like having a safety net for unexpected bumps and bruises on your journey, and it’s an essential item that should be included in your trip checklist. Whether you’re traveling alone or with loved ones, accidents can happen at any time, and it’s important to be prepared.
Having a well-equipped first aid kit will give you peace of mind and ensure that you’re prepared for any minor medical issues that may arise.
So, what should you include in your first aid kit? Start with the basics like bandages of different sizes, adhesive tape, and antiseptic wipes to clean wounds. It’s also a good idea to have pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen, as well as antihistamines for allergic reactions. Don’t forget to pack tweezers for removing splinters and scissors for cutting tape or clothing if necessary. Additionally, include disposable gloves, a thermometer, and a CPR mask for more serious situations.
Offline Google Maps
Sometimes, travel routes may take you outside of your phone’s service area where there is no internet connection. Imagine getting lost and driving through a remote area without internet to find a gas station…
Offline Google Maps ensure that you don’t have to worry about these situations! You can keep using map navigation even when your phone has no internet by knowing how to download offline Google Maps.
With just a few taps on your phone, you can download offline maps for specific areas or entire countries before your trip. The offline maps provide turn-by-turn directions, just like a GPS navigation system, and by adding offline maps to your road trip checklist, you’ll always have a reliable navigation tool at your fingertips.
Phone Cord & Portable Charger
We all know how important it is to keep our phones charged, especially during long road trips when we heavily rely on them for music, navigation, entertainment, and staying connected.
Carrying a phone charger or portable charger is a game-changer,
With a cord and portable charger, you can say goodbye to the anxiety of a dead phone. You’ll be able to charge your phone using a portable battery or your car’s USB or cigarette lighter socket.
Flashlight or Headlamp
Don’t hit the road without a reliable portable light source. Prepare your car for a road trip by packing a flashlight or headlamp in the glove box or center console.
Whether you stop in the middle of the night for an emergency car issue or a bathroom break, it can be scary not to be able to see clearly. With a headlamp or flashlight, you can navigate dark surroundings with ease.
A headlamp (vs. a flashlight) is a great choice because it frees your hands to handle possible tasks. Whether you need to change a tire or make a bathroom pit stop, having a flashlight or headlamp is a must-have. Plus, it provides a sense of convenience and efficiency, allowing you to tackle the situation with confidence.
Water & Snacks
Make sure you have spare water and snacks packed in your car.
Long hours on the road can be tiring, and having spare water and snacks readily available will ensure that everyone stays hydrated and nourished. Plus, water and snacks prevent hangry passenger attitudes.
Prepare your car for your road trip with water bottles and non-perishable snacks such as granola bars, trail mix, or dried fruits.
Paper Towels & Hand Sanitizer
You never know when accidents or spills might happen. There’s no telling what might get stuck to your windows, seats, or floor when you have a car packed full of passengers. Having paper towels on hand can save you from messy hands and a messy car.
Prepare your car and prevent messes by packing paper towels and a bottle of hand sanitizer for quick and easy clean-ups.
Duct Tape & Zip Ties
With a roll of duct tape and a pack of zip ties, you can transform your car into a temporary fix-it shop, ready to tackle any minor issue that may arise on the open road. These two simple tools have the power to prepare your car for unexpected issues during a road trip, to save the day, and keep you on track.
Whether it’s a loose bumper, a broken side mirror, or a hanging exhaust pipe, duct tape can be your best friend. Simply tear off a strip and securely fasten any loose parts. Duct tape gives you the power to make quick and easy temporary repairs.
And let’s not forget about zip ties, the unsung heroes of temporary fixes. They, too, can hold things together when you least expect it, like securing a broken hose or even temporarily fixing a broken seat. With a little creativity and resourcefulness, duct tape and zip ties can become your magic fix for any minor car issues you may encounter on your road trip.
Be sure to add duct tape and zip ties to your road trip checklist, and prepare your car for the trip by packing them in the glove box or center console.
Entertainment for Kids
This final road trip necessity can be a huge sanity saver for long trips…
If you plan on traveling with the whole family, don’t forget to add entertainment options to your checklist. Packing electronic entertainment is an easy way to reduce passenger boredom. By packing a dedicated entertainment device (such as an iPad), you can ensure that younger passengers don’t go stir-crazy.
Sitting still for multiple hours can be difficult! Back in the day, many of our parents used to keep us kids in the back distracted with a small tube TV sitting on the center console. These days, we have movies, games, and more all packed into our phones and tablets! If you prefer non-electronic entertainment, we recommend books, a deck of cards, travel-sized road trip games, and coloring books.
Find Auto Care Services Before Your Trip
To ensure a smooth road trip, it is recommended to locate a nearby mechanic shop for a maintenance service appointment as a top priority. Let the shop know of your upcoming travel plans and they’ll get you squared away and ready to log miles.
Have a safe trip!