5 Tips For Your Holiday Road Trip

Traveling for the holidays? These tips will help you enjoy your road trip, and arrive safely at your destination this holiday season. Make sure to check out all the must-have items on the road trip essentials checklist!

road trip tips

‘Tis the season for holiday travels!  This year, Mike and I will be making a 7 hour road trip to see family for the winter holidays.

Our 450 mile route will begin in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, take us East through the Columbia River Gorge and over the Blue Mountain Range. We’ll cross the Snake River into Idaho, and reach our final destination of Boise, ID.

Since we got married in 2013, Mike and I have lived at least one state away from our families and over the years, we’ve made numerous road trips. We’ve learned a few tips that we’d love to share! If you’re planning a road trip this holiday season, make sure to check out all of our tips below.

Tips For Your Holiday Road Trip

This post is sponsored by Kelley Blue Book; however, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

1. Clean Out Your Vehicle Ahead Of Time

Before a road trip, I always make sure our truck is clean, organized, and packed with everything we’ll need for the trip. Staring the drive with a clean vehicle is an absolute must for our long trips.  

I recommend getting ahead of the game by cleaning out your car a few days before the trip. Last minute packing and loading is stressful, so any tasks you can accomplish ahead of time will make your travel day that much easier.

looking out the window on a holiday road trip

Start by getting rid of trash and any unnecessary clutter. Make sure to clean out the center console, glove box, and all the little storage compartments. Remove anything that isn’t necessary for your trip.

This will help to make extra room for your road trip essentials (see tip #3!). Once everything is cleaned out, finish the job by vacuuming the interior. 

If you feel like splurging, consider getting your vehicle professionally detailed before a road trip. It’s an added expense, but it can be worth it; the detailing will make your car or truck feel brand new again! 

2. Pre-Trip Vehicle Maintenance

It’s important that your vehicle is in tip top shape, and up to date on maintenance and repairs going into a road trip. Mike handles our vehicle maintenance, and he’s a stickler about getting the truck serviced before our travels.

Our new favorite resource for vehicle maintenance information is the Kelley Blue Book Auto Repair Guide. It’s an easy-to-use online tool where you enter your vehicle information (make/model/year/mileage), and the Auto Repair Guide gives you useful information on what maintenance is needed.

It also has information on recalls and a feature that helps you find a fair price on repairs. Plus, you can schedule service appointments with local dealerships right on KBB.com. 

check your oil before a road trip

If your vehicle will be due for an oil change during your trip, it’s a good idea to get it done before you leave. Make sure to schedule appointments for maintenance, repairs, or manufacture recalls with plenty of time to spare. 

On the day before your trip, it’s a good idea to check the oil and other fluids. Check your headlights and taillights too. 

Tip: If you’re traveling with an RV trailer, make sure to check the running lights, turn signals, and brake lights on the trailer. 

3. Must-Have Road Trip Essentials

Safety first! Before we get to the fun stuff like snacks and music, make sure to bring an emergency roadside tool kit. It’s easy to piece together your own kit with all the essentials, or you can buy a pre-made kit from an auto parts store or online retailer.

Make sure your emergency kit includes jumper cables, emergency road flares, a tow strap, a flash light, gloves, and a first aid kit.  A Leatherman multi-tool, duct tape and bungee cords will help you make MacGiver style impromptu repairs. πŸ˜‰

Road Trip Essentials Checklist

In addition to your emergency roadside tool kit, here is a list of must have road trip essentials:

  • Vehicle Registration + Proof of Insurance – keeping an up-to-date vehicle registration and proof of insurance is not something I think about often – but they’re important! Before you leave on your big trip, make sure none of your documents are expired (or about to expire).
  • Phone Charger or USB Cable – Nothing is more annoying than your phone running out of battery and not having a charger handy. Make sure to bring a phone charger (with fast charging capability) or, if your vehicle has built in chargers, then bring the proper USB charging cable. 
  • Sunglasses – Driving for long periods of time in sunny conditions can lead to eye strain and headaches – especially if you’re driving into the sun while it’s going down in the evening. 
  • Travel Mug – Save money at gas stations and coffee shops by bringing your own travel mug. Many stores charge less money for drip coffee if you provide your own cup.

bring your own travel mug on a road trip

  • Pillow + Blanket / Sleeping Bag – The driver has to stay alert, but that doesn’t mean the passengers can’t get comfy with a pillow and blanket! Plus, blankets and sleeping bags double as safety gear for winter emergencies where staying warm is crucial. 
  • Audiobook or Real Book – Listening to an audio book while you drive is an easy way to pass the hours on a lengthy trip. Another option for passengers that don’t get carsick is reading a physical book or an eBook. 
  • Laptop / iPad & Movies – If you get tired of sitting and taking in the scenery – passengers can watch movies on a iPad, laptop or built in DVD / Blu-ray player.
  • Healthy Snacks & Water Bottles – If you’re like me, you might be tempted to stop at fast food restaurants, coffee shops and convenience stores to get all the junk food, candy, treats and drinks along the way. But with a little planning, you can easily swap these out for healthy snacks. I recommend bringing a cooler packed full of healthy snacks, water bottles and your favorite drinks.

packing the essentials for your road trip

  • Cash $$$ – Even if carrying cash isn’t your thing, having a little bit of that good old fashion paper money is sometimes necessary for road tolls or parking.   
  • Games – Remember to pack small games that are easy to play while driving. Or you can play road trip games that don’t require cards or game boards (like: 20 Questions, I Spy, or the license plate game).
  • Music – Take some time in the days or weeks leading up to your trip to put together an awesome playlist. Your passengers will be impressed with your road trip DJ skills. 

setting your music playlist

  • Toiletries –  Having some extra napkins and wet wipes will come in handy for small messes. And don’t forget to pack a roll of toilet paper, you never know when a rest stop bathroom might be out. Plus, it’s always a good idea to have a roll of TP on hand…just in case. πŸ˜‰
  • Camera – Let’s be honest – these days, most people just use their cell phone to snap pictures. However, if you have a nice digital camera that you haven’t used in a while, or maybe a Polaroid style instant camera, you should take the extra minute to pack it so that you can capture all those memories.

fill up your vehicle with fuel before a road trip

4. Fill ‘Er Up!

This might seem a little too obvious, but don’t run out of fuel! Running out of gas (or diesel in our case) is a serious pain and it’s bad for your engine. Plus, being stranded on the side of the road is dangerous – especially during the winter months.

If you’ll be traveling ‘through the middle of nowhere’, keep an eye out for the blue and white informational road signs that let you know how far the next service station is. The signs usually read like this: “NEXT FUEL 78 MILES” or “NO GAS NEXT 120 MILES”.

In some rural areas of the country it can be 100 miles or more between fuel stations, so plan your route ahead of time, and make sure to fill up your tank to make it through those long stretches between gas stations.

5. Use Winter Tires 

Traveling during the winter months usually means there’s a good chance of snow and ice on the road. To stay safe on dangerous roads it’s important to slow down, drive with extra caution, engage the 4wd (if applicable), and most importantly – make sure your vehicle has high quality winter tires.

use winter tires for your winter road trip

It’s always a good idea to visit your favorite local tire shop before making a long trip. Ask to have your tires inspected, and tire pressures checked. A good tire shop will be able to identify any problems, and give you advice on repairs or replacement. 

In some southern climates, winter tires may not be as necessary, but they’re still worth considering. Summer tires are typically designed to be used in weather above 45 degrees Fahrenheit. So even if you’re not driving through snow and ice, winter tires are still recommended. 

road trip travel break

We hope you found these road trip tips helpful. We wish you enjoyable travels this holiday season – drive safe, friend! 

Have any of your own road trip tips? Please share in the comments below!

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