As the countdown towards the holidays commences, part and parcel with preparing for the celebrations is planning for the travel that will bring friends and family together.
For most people, this includes packing up the car to visit relatives. It may be for a short three-hour drive, or a multi-day road trip across the states. But when it comes time to pack up, remember these five tips to help ensure a safe and enjoyable ride.
If the holiday trip requires an overnight stop along the way, pack a small overnight bag with all the essentials. This includes sleepwear, a change of clothes, and toiletries. Keep this bag separate and pack it last so that it’s on top and easy to grab when it is time to call it quits and take a break. This prevents having to unpack and haul in numerous bags for one short stay.
Forgo the hard-sided suitcases and use soft-sided duffle bags for a road trip. These are easier to pack as they can mold to fit into the various nooks and crannies. Pack the largest and heaviest items first, in the center of the cargo area or trunk, and as far forward as possible. This helps keep the center of gravity low. Evenly distribute the rest of the bags to keep the weight balanced over all four wheels. Secure the loose items that are added at the last minute like coats and purses. A quick stop can send them flying. And lastly, do not pack all the way to the ceiling. Ensure the driver has a clear line of sight through the rear window after everything is loaded.
Certain items need to be packed so they are accessible without unpacking the entire vehicle to get to them. This includes an emergency car care kit. Store it under a seat or pack it last on top. A cell phone and charger, wallet with ID and insurance cards, and medications can also be kept in the center console, glove box, or under a passenger seat. Items like gloves and sunglasses are also often needed items to keep at hand.
A fully loaded vehicle will drive differently than how it handles during our normal commutes. It is important to recognize these differences and adjust accordingly. Heavier vehicles will take longer to slow down and stop. Give yourself plenty of following room. If using a roof-top or hitch carrier, make note of the height change as well as turning radius requirements. All of these will decrease fuel efficiency, requiring more frequent stops to fill-up.
Before any road trip, take the time beforehand to do a safety inspection. Check the tire pressures and fluid levels. For a long drive, schedule routine maintenance beforehand and have your service provider give the vehicle a once-over to identify any potential problems. Getting stranded on the side of the road is not how anyone wants to spend their holiday. And finally, plan your routes, check the weather and give yourself plenty of time. It’s always safest to avoid rushing, especially during heavy travel times.