road trip

If it’s always been a dream of yours to see the USA in your Chevrolet — or Toyota or Nissan or Ford — having a family that lives far away might give you the opportunity to do just that. But unlike a day running errands or even an overnight vacation in a nearby town, planning a cross-country road trip to see your grandbabies involves some serious pre-planning. If your loved ones live in Portland and you’re bound and determined to drive to see them from Phoenix, Dallas or Baton Rouge, the following tips will get you and your car ready to go:

Step 1: Plan Your Route

Invest in a detailed U.S. road atlas and look at all possible routes between your home and your family’s place. While certain routes will be more direct — for example, traveling up I-5 into Oregon — there are other, possibly more scenic routes that you can take instead, such as cutting across Nevada rather than simply motoring up California. Once you have your route planned, you can use Google Maps to help you determine the driving distance and timing. AAA also has a trip planning feature called TripTik that may helpful.

Step 2: Make Reservations

Once you make your itinerary and have a good idea of where you’ll be stopping each night, make reservations at hotels or motels. While it can be fun to play it by ear and decide along the way, it can also be stressful to be really tired and unable to find a place with vacancies. If you belong to an auto club you can get trip booklets with recommendations about nice lodging options, or you can use websites like Trip Advisor to check reviews of hotels in different cities.

Step 3: Prepare your Car

Nothing will put a damper on a cross-country road trip faster than an overheating engine or flat tire. Have your car checked at least a week before you leave or you can do a check up yourself if you’re handy with cars. If your tires are looking bald in spots, they may not make it through a long drive. You should definitely replace them before you leave. Retailers like TireBuyer stock a wide variety of tires, including Continental Tires, which are made with touring in mind. These can be ordered online from the comfort of home and then delivered to a local installer.

Step 4: Make a List

About two weeks before you leave, create a list of everything you will need for your trip. Keep the list in a handy place and add to it as you think of more things you will need. About a week ahead of time, start setting aside the clothes and other personal items you plan to bring. Then shop for the things that you don’t have on hand. There is nothing worse than being rushed at the last minute. Allow for enough time to get organized and buy everything that you need. Here is a preliminary checklist to base yours off of. Be sure to include plenty of snacks and drinks for the road. Include a basic tool kit, a first aid kit, needed medications, and CDs and audio books that will help you to pass the time.