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The Safe Family Road Trip Checklist


We choose to travel by road trip far more now that we have a child (and our airfare costs have increased by 50%). We drive in snowy winter weather to ski and crazy summer traffic to get to and from our vacation. Both on the inside and the outside, we’re harder on our car.

So it’s important take good care of it and follow smart safety practices at any time of the year.

Here’s a checklist for your next road trip.  It reminds you what to do to get ready and how to be safe once you’re out on your adventure

____ Stock the car

  • Water (to drink, plus extra for filling the engine, or cleaning hands or messes)
  • First Aid kit and hand sanitizer
  • Tire Change kit, something to kneel on
  • Jumper cables, flashlight, travel-size multi-tool, window scraper, small shovel
  • UV film can improve driver safety on a road tripBlankets
  • Put UV film on the windows.

UV Film was a new product to me but I can see the sense of it. Exposure to UV rays in the car is an issue year-round, not just summer. The film blocks them. Plus, it keeps the car cooler in summer so you can use your air conditioner more efficiently. In winter it decreases the sun’s glare off of snow and ice, which can inhibit your visibility and worsen eye fatigue on a longer road trip.

  • Read what AAA and the NHTSA have to say about car safety in summer and winter.

____ Use the right child seat

proper car seat use is important on a road tripI know it’s tempting to move your child to increasingly smaller, lighter, easier-to-use seats and boosters as fast as possible. And it’s especially tempting to move an older child up when a younger sibling is ready for that next seat.

But car seats and boosters do a lot. They make sure seat belts are positioned correctly, they provide additional protection in a crash or fender bender. And they give kids extra height, which can help with carsickness and boredom. My child complains far less on road trips when she can look out the window.

  • Use the right car seat or booster, use it until your child has grown out of it height and weight-wise even if this is longer than strictly required.
  • Make sure your seat is installed correctly. A surprisingly large number aren’t.
  • Have your kids take bulky or puffy coats off in the car; they keep straps from being as tight as they ought to be to prevent whiplash and other injuries. For very little ones use a fleece bag that’s made for car seats. For older kids keep blankets in the car and crank the heat.

Read more about car seat safety and general car safety with kids.

navigating and knowing what's ahead is important on a road trip____ Keep yourself informed

  • If your car is overdue for routine service, this is a good time to do it. Mention your upcoming drive so they check things like the battery, spark plugs, water, oil, windshield wiper fluid, anti-freeze and so on.
  • Check the traffic and weather where you are and where you’re going.
  • Check your tire pressure frequently especially around the change of seasons and if you are driving between zones with significantly different temperatures.

____ Know when to park and wait

It’s tempting to just want to get where you’re going and get the driving over with. But delays are part of travel and better to arrive late and safely

  • Switch drivers every 2-3 hours so no one gets road fatigue.
  • If you’ve only one driver it’s OK to pull over and let her have a cat nap when she’s feeling tired.
  • When the weather is too bad – be it summer rain, thunderstorms or winter snow and ice—just wait it out.
  • If you are sitting in your car in snowy or icy weather and plan to keep the motor running, make sure the tail pipe is clear of ice, snow or mud. If your exhaust backs up it will make its way into your car surprisingly quickly.

Pin it for later!

A checklist for road and car safety on your next family road trip.

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