Planning a Summer Road Trip

Planning a summer road trip? Use this checklist to help make sure you have everything you need for a summer on the open road.

Road Trips 101

There’s something freeing about life on the open road — blue skies, sunshine, and even though there’s a destination in mind, there’s bound to be a few adventures along the way. To make your road trip as carefree as possible, it’s best to make a few plans, and to make sure your car is in tip-top shape. Use this checklist as a roadmap to help you plan your summer road trip.

Planning Your Road Trip


Step 1: Plan your route

Before you hit the open road, make sure to have a plan in place. Sure, getting there is half the fun of a road trip, but only if you don’t spend the entire time stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic or trying to backtrack to where you made that wrong turn. You can use a GPS or a smart phone to keep up to date on changing traffic, but be sure to check for road closures or construction before heading out.

Step 2: Check and change your car’s oil

The motor oil helps to keep your engine running smooth, so take a few minutes to check your oil before you leave. You should change the oil every three months or every 3,000 – 5,000 km (depending on the manufacturer), so if you’re getting close to needing an oil change before your trip, it’s best to do it beforehand. Many service technicians and mechanics will also to a brief inspection of the car and your fluid levels, which could save you some hassle on your trip. Take the time now to make sure your engine is well lubricated and you’ll save time — and money — on repairs later. Be sure to swap out the old filter for a pristine one while you’re at it, since residual dirt can seep into and contaminate the new oil.

Step 3: Check your tires

A flat tire can really put a wrench in your plans, so don’t let a bit of busted rubber ruin your trip. Check the inflation of your tires before driving (while they’re still cold), and make sure the pressure is what the manufacturer’s recommends. If not, fill ’er up! You should also keep a spare tire in the trunk, just in case you need it while you’re out and about. 

Step 4: Check the battery

If your battery dies, all of your car’s electrical circuit goes as well. This could leave you stuck without lights, heat/AC, GPS, or a radio, while you wait for a boost or a pricey service call. Before tragedy strikes, take your car in to your mechanic for an inspection, or check the battery yourself using a voltmeter. A reading of less than 12.4 volts means it’s time for a new battery — and could mean the difference between highway happiness and a road trip headache. Tip: keep a pair of jumper cables in your trunk, just in case your battery dies en route.

Step 5: Check the AC

If you’re going to spend a long time in your car, working air conditioning is a must. You’ll never feel more grateful for air conditioning than when you’re driving down a dusty, dirt-choked road in 40-degree heat. Check the AC before hitting the road, just to make sure everything is good to go.

Step 6: Fill up on fluids

From your windshield washer fluid to the coolant, you should check all your fluid levels before you put the pedal to the metal. Between bugs and summer storms, your windshield can get pretty dirty, and washer fluid will help keep your line of vision clear. You should also check your car’s coolant level, paying close attention to potential leaks, which could cause the engine to overheat and your road trip to fizzle out.

Step 7: Keep your car clean

Between stops for fast food and snacking on the go, your car can quickly fill up with garbage. There’s nothing fun about sitting in a few day’s worth of wrappers, bottles, and crumbs, so be sure to grab some trash bags, as well as wet wipes and hand sanitizer, to keep the car and its crew clean.

Step 8: Entertain the kids

If you’re travelling with kids, a few books, games, or a portable DVD player can be the difference between a few hours of peaceful driving, and a few hours of sibling rivalry. Pack a few of their favourite movies, as well as CDs, travel games, books or magazines (as long as they’re not prone to motion sickness) to keep kids occupied until you reach your destination.

Step 9: Pack an emergency kit

Anything can happen on the road, and it’s always better to be safe than sorry, so it makes sense to put together a well-stocked emergency kit just in case. Make sure to include basic first aid supplies, a flashlight, drinking water, non-perishable foods (like granola bars), a blanket, jumper cables, a whistle, a small fire extinguisher and road flares. Tuck it away in your trunk and you’ll be prepared for almost any situation on the road.

Step 10: Travelling with pets

Animals don’t always make the best travel companions, so if you’re travelling with your cat or dog, be sure to keep them in their carrier instead of letting them roam freely inside the car. This will keep your furry friend from crawling all over you while you’re driving, and will also ensure that they don’t bolt out an open door at a rest stop. Pack some toys to keep them entertained, and consider bringing along an odour-eliminating spray, too. If your pet doesn’t travel well, make a visit to their vet before you hit the road; the vet may have some tips and tricks to ensure they stay calm in the car.

Quick Tips:

• Make sure you have all your documents (up-to-date insurance and ownership) in your car
• Buy a phone card; your cell phone might not work in some remote areas
• Remember to build some rest days into your schedule
• Research some road-side assistance providers or travel clubs; if necessary, join before your trip
• Remember to take breaks!

Shop Road Trip Essentials:

This article is intended as general information. Always be sure to read and follow the label(s)/instruction(s) that accompany your product(s). Walmart will not be responsible for any injury or damage caused by this activity.



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