By Christina VanGinkel
If you are planning to travel by car this summer, for a daytrip, weekend away, or a vacation that will have you driving for a week or two, do not leave until you go over a few basics that can mean the difference between a pleasant trip or one rife with hassles.
Whether or not you have a new or older model vehicle, schedule it for a maintenance check if you have not had one in the last three to six months. If you have, and anything of concern was noted that the service center told you to be aware of or that might be a concern in the future, now is the future, so have it taken care of. Paying for a repair at a local service station that you are familiar with is always better than in the middle of some unfamiliar town where you know no one, and your time would be better spent lazing on a beach or catching up with you Great Aunt Frieda on the latest family gossip.
Check the wear and tread of your tires, both those on the vehicle and your spare. While you are at it, also make sure all of the parts to your jack are intact and in good working order. Did you know that you can buy a hydraulic jack, which is much easier to use than many of the standard hand crank jacks that come standard with many vehicles, for less than fifty dollars?
A map may recall memories of your father in the front seat of the family station wagon asking your mother to read the map of where the next turn is to get to Yellowstone Park on the family vacation you took thirty years ago, but maps come in various forms today. Some identical, save for updated roads to the one you mother was reading all those years ago, and some come in the form of a GPS unit that is attached to your dash, or as a piece of software on your Pocket PC or laptop. Whether you prefer the standard road atlas, or a newer electronic device, take a map with you, with your route mapped out to save on confusion and extra gas when you have to turn around because you suddenly find yourself a couple hundred miles out of your way.
A service such as On Star is great if you happen to lock yourself out of your vehicle, but what happens if you are hundreds of miles from home and realize that you have lost your keys completely? On Star and other services are available that will both let you into your vehicle, and bring you a duplicate key. If you do not have access to one of those, or even if you do, save yourself time and hassle by bringing along an extra key. Keep it on your person at all times. A key on a long chain that you can wear is the simplest way to avoid the lost key or lock out scenario. As my daughter once said when I told her that I would look odd with a key around my neck at my age, “Well Mom, nobody knows you on the road anyway, so what do you care if a few strangers think you look odd!” Well said, and if nothing else, tuck it in your shirt or sweater and no one will even know you are wearing a key on a chain or cord.
Watch your gas gauge. If you are traveling long distances, avoid running out of gas in an inconvenient area by making sure you never let your tank even come close to empty.
Finally, bring along a few items that you may or may not consider normal attire:
A pair of sunglasses for those driving times when your sun visor just is not cutting it.
A cell phone for emergencies, and so that you can call conveniently from your own vehicle to double check on items such as hotel reservations, along with any phone numbers that you might need including your hotel, your insurance company, and any roadside assistance such as AAA.
Change for tollbooths.
A first aid kit along with a bottle of drinking water and a few nutritious snacks just to cover the basics!