Autos, Travel

If you're traveling by car this Memorial Day, here's a road trip checklist

If you're traveling by car this Memorial Day, here's a road trip checklist

Like millions of Americans, Caroline and Jesse Wasson are taking their kids on a road trip for Memorial Day weekend.

In preparation for the two-and-a-half hour drive to camping grounds, the Wassons spent the week loading up their 1970 Airstream RV with clothes, groceries and fishing supplies.

Caroline says she has the entire trip plotted out from start to finish.

During the commute from their home in Springfield, Missouri, to Echo Bluff State Park, the kids will watch shows and movies pre-downloaded on tablets, and once the family arrives, the Wassons have card games, swimming, bonfires and other holiday festivities awaiting them.

"I'm made a list a week in advance, and I'm checking it off as we go. We've already packed all the dog's stuff, and I'm planning all the meals in advance," Caroline said.

The family's Ford F-150 pickup that's towing the 27-foot RV is also getting attention: "We make sure we check the tires. We've checked the brakes and also the spare tires. My husband fills up with gas before ... heading on the road," Caroline says.

Whether you and those closest to you are headed off the beaten path or toward your timeshare in Florida this summer, everything you've planned can be undone in an instant if you haven't properly prepped your vehicle.

It's common knowledge that preparation involves packing the right items – food, entertainment and extra bottles of water.

While taking care of passengers is crucial, your car's needs can mean the difference between making it to your destination safely and getting stranded in the middle of nowhere. In fact, the American Automobile Association predicts it will be rescuing 353,000 road trippers this weekend due to dead batteries, flat tires and other car troubles.

That's out more than 37 million people that will travel this weekend by car.

Use this road trip checklist with tips from the AAA to make sure your summer vacation gets off to a smooth start:

Car maintenance

1. Battery: Hot weather can shorten the life of a car battery, so have yours tested by a technician before you hit the road.

2. Belts & Hoses: Look for worn, cracked, blistered or soft belts and hoses. Be sure to turn the engine off before performing the check.

3. Oil: Check the level and condition of the engine oil. The owners manual will have specific recommendations.

4. Tires: Check tires for tread wear. Make sure all tires, including the spare tire, are properly inflated.

5. Technician: Consider having your car checked by a technician before you head out.

Travel planning

If you are thinking of getting out of town for the upcoming Memorial Day holiday, the best time to leave was last week, according to the AAA. Still, you have time to do the following before you head out:

1. Accommodations: Reserve all accommodations in advance, but be flexible as emergencies happen.

2. Emergency kit: Carry a kit with a flashlight, batteries, jumper cables, first aid materials and extra water.

3. Entertainment: Pack books and games and make sure mobile devices are charged if you plan on using them.

4. Fuel: Don't let the gas level get below one-quarter of a tank. Fill the tank before you leave.

5. Route-planning: Plan your route ahead of time. Make occasional stops to avoid drowsy or fatigued driving. AAA predicts drivers will experience the greatest amount of congestion on Thursday, May 23, and Friday, May 24 in the late afternoon as commuters leave work early and mix with holiday travelers. So, plan accordingly.

6. Safety: Make sure all the adults in the car are wearing seat belts and that children have adequate car seats and boost seats.