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The Complete Road Trip Checklist

Road Trip from Springfield

Taking a road trip is an amazing experience but one that has gone by the wayside as more people rush to get to their destinations. Road tripping is for those who want to get away, relax through the journey rather than rush to a destination.

Before you get out on your journey, there are a few things you should consider, so you are properly prepared. Use this as your complete guide to preparing for one amazing adventure!



Your vehicle is going to be a key for your road trip, regardless of whether you are going for just a weekend, or taking a week-long coast-to-coast trek. Here is what you want to think through.


Rent or use your own?

First, do you want to rent a car or use your own? As you think through this step, consider all of the aspects. First, you know your own vehicle and how it handles. However, it can be a great opportunity to try a new vehicle.

Next, think about the wear on your own vehicle and the longer-term impact on the repairs it may require. If you were to travel the entire Route 66 you are looking at a journey of 2,448 miles one-way.

Finally, think about the room you may want for the trip. If you have a small vehicle, you may want something a bit more spacious, especially if you have more than one traveling companion. However, if you drive a large SUV, you may want something a little smaller to improve the gas mileage.


Mechanical Health

Next, consider the mechanical health of the vehicle you take. Make sure your serpentine belt is in good condition, you do not want to get out on the road only for that to snap and leave you stranded.

Also, think about your suspension. Make sure your shocks are in good working order, and your ball joints are solid.

Be sure your battery and alternator are also working properly. It may be prudent to take your battery for a bench load test, which will tell you how much life you have left in your battery. You can also have your alternator tested on your vehicle to ensure it is outputting the correct voltage.



Before you hit the road, check all of your fluids, including your oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid, power steering fluid, coolant, and washer fluid. If you are nearing your next oil change, consider getting it before heading out.

Be sure all of your other fluids are full and are not showing signs of being overheated, especially your transmission fluid and coolant. If they do, consider having your systems flushed with new fluid.



You want to ensure your tires are in good working condition before heading out. The legal minimum of tread is 2/32”. However, more tread is good to ensure you are ready regardless of what kind of weather you hit.


Heat or AC

Finally, check that your AC and heat are working well, especially if your trip takes you into northern areas of the country. Have your AC system checked to ensure it has the correct refrigerant pressure.


Your Planned Route

Once you have your vehicle chosen, plan out the route you will take. As you think about your route, think about where you are and where you want to end up. For instance, if you are in Springfield, you can take a weekend trip to the north along Route 66 and end up in Chicago.

If you want a longer journey, take it to the west. If you go all the way to the end, you’ll end up in Santa Monica, CA. Regardless of where you are headed, think about not only your primary route but some secondary routes in case you run into construction or other surprises.


Destinations & Excursions

On top of your primary route, think about the things you might want to enjoy during your trek. Consider some of the natural wonders you may be near that may be of interest. There are places like the Grand Canyon, Pikes Peak, Mount Rushmore, and more.

Not only can you drive by these places, but consider taking some time to explore them. Trek down the trails of the Grand Canyon, explore Joshua Tree National Park, or Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park.

As you think through your destinations, be careful of commercial tourist attractions. These are often a waste of time and money compared to many other options. Budget your time and money wisely for the entire experience.


What Will You Eat?

Food is a critical piece of making or breaking your journey. You can always make foot and take it with you. However, if you are on an extended road trip, this will take a lot of space, not to mention you miss the local flavor.

Consider doing a blend of purchasing food along the way, while also taking some with you. Easy snacks may be nuts, jerky, or even stable cheeses. However, take it up a notch with things like trail mixes, sausage and chive pinwheels, ham and cheese or BLT muffins.

As you plan your route, consider adding some places of interest to stop for food rather than just eating national chains the whole way. If your trip takes you north on US-23 in Michigan, consider stopping at Tony’s Diner for a mountain of bacon. If you’re headed south, check out the Fish Shack in Plano, TX. There’s also Carol’s Kitchen in Robinson, ND if you’re taking a northern route. If you happen to be traveling through Springfield, check out Grad School for a burger that made its way through college.


The Final Preparation

The most important piece of your trip is actually not your car, your route, or even what you’ll eat. Rather, you will be operating your vehicle during this excursion, which means your safety, as well as that of others, depend on you.

Be sure you properly hydrate, eat, and tend to your own needs. Before you get on the road, be sure you are well-rested. Do not try to overdo any given day, but take your time. Consider taking some vitamins to help keep your body healthy. Also, be careful of how much caffeine you consume.

Too much caffeine can mess with your digestion in addition to increasing your physiological stress response. Along with caffeine, be careful of an increase in energy drinks you may want to consume.


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