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Ultimate Checklist for a Cross-Country Road Trip

Cross-country road trips can be a defining life moment, whether it’s your first summer road trip alone before you head off to college, or a family road trip through America’s best tourist spots with your beloved family in tow.
However, before you hit the road, you’ll need to perform some basic maintenance and checks on your vehicle or risk finding yourself stranded in the middle of nowhere. You also need to check those travel gears and items that will make your road trip hassle-free.
A quick mechanical check-over takes only moments. If you find a substantial issue, then you can take your vehicle to a qualified service center before a west coast road trip, and if it is on its last legs it might to time to trade up and buy a new or used car that is guaranteed to make the whole journey!
On the other hand, travel gears that include tents, flashlights, first aid kits must be physically present in your car, especially if your tour is all around the country. Even just a few miles away from home, you must always be prepared by bringing those helpful tools
But most of the time you’ll just need to check the following items before you head out on the road:

Car Documents and Identifications

It is very well known to have all of the documents needed inside your vehicle. Also, do not forget to bring your ID’s, especially your driver’s license and your passport (if you’re a tourist).

These papers must be checked first before any other else. Also, bring a list of your contacts in case of emergency.


If your battery is over two years old, you’ll need to check that the terminals are free of corrosion and that the leads are still connected tightly.
You’ll know something is up if your starter sounds off – this either spells death for your battery or a corrosion problem. Loose battery leads can cause significant problems on a long journey such as the instant death of your alternator, so ensure your cables are tight and there’s no white, gray battery gunk on them.
Most cars use maintenance-free batteries that can last up for years with proper care. People mostly use a Motolite brand battery in the Philippines as they tend to last longer compared to the other brands. In Canada, you may check out Motomaster, AutoCraft or DieHard for a powerful performance in a budget.
On the other hand, larger vehicles for a family getaway tends to use up to 4SM serviceable battery that requires battery liquid to be poured from time to time. This is very crucial because once these liquids have been depleted, you might experience problems when starting.

Brake System

Some would say the most important part of your car is the brake system, and it needs care and attention from time to time.
Your brake fluid is designed to absorb moisture, and if you leave it without changing it for too long, it will cause your brake components to corrode.
Get a brake fluid flush before you head off on your trip if you haven’t had one for more than two years, and make sure the fluid is topped up to the ‘full’ mark before leaving.

Engine Coolant

If your car has engine coolant, do a quick check to ensure the bottle is topped up with the right coolant. Remember to continue to use the same coolant as your car is currently using – green and orange coolants are the two main categories from which to choose.
But in the Philippines, naahh, people use tap water as coolants. “Because, dang! Engine coolants are very very expensive!”.
But be reminded that it is improper to use just pure water as coolants, why? Because of the probability of accumulated rusts in the system will dramatically increase! So no. Just plain NO to this idea.



Engine belts should be checked by hand. If at any place they are torn or ragged it’s time for a replacement. Also, check if the belts have become loose or stretched – something that results in a screeching noise when you take off. You’ll usually not need to replace an engine belt before 50,000 miles.


Car Hoses have to deal with excessive temperatures close to boiling point, and as they get weaker, they harden and makes them prone to cracks and splitting.
Check all of your engine hoses for cracks or splits, including the radiator hoses and heater hoses. You can also bring along a hose-patch kit to be on the safe side.

Engine Oil

Check your oil levels and consider how long it’s been since you’ve had an engine oil change. If you’re getting close to the recommended engine oil change interval, it’s smarter to put your car in early rather than risk excessive damage to your engine running on old, gunky oil.
Remember that oils have the job of lubrication, engine cooling, engine cleaning and prevents corrosion. Without a proper level, or clean oil in the system, the engine might just fall when you are happy in your travel getaway.

Transmission Fluids

Often overlooked, your drive axle and transmission both also have lubricants that need replacing from time to time. Again, check your owner’s manual to see whether this interval is coming up, and get the fluids replaced before you go on your cross country road trip so that you can be free of worry.

Tire Pressure and Tread

Tires are where your car comes into contact with the road, so the tread of your tires is of the utmost importance if you want to keep your car safe throughout the road trip for a cross-country. Worn or unevenly worn tires are dangerous, and you also need to ensure your tire air pressure is at the right level. Low tire pressure makes for poorer fuel economy, and the tires will be hotter due to increased friction.
But be reminded that weather might also come into play when you need a certain amount of psi in your front or back tires. Hotter environment temperatures must come into consideration because the air expands more in higher temperatures, making your tires prone to bursting. Just imagine a that the tire must get thought the friction from the ground, its heat generated plus the melting hot temperature of the environment.

On the other hand, in colder weather, you may want to increase your tire’s pressure a little higher. Or remember to change to snow tires for added safety. It’ll be really hard to drive with snow or ice on the road, right?

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Safety Kits

“One does not travel without “safety”. When we say safety, your car must be equipped with safety measures that might happen along the way. What are these?

Car Tools and Accessories

If you own a car, then you must own at least a tool box in your compartment that is fully loaded with proper tools that will surely help you in times of emergency. You must have at least the following:
  • Pliers and Side Cutters
  • A complete set of Combination Wrenches
  • Proper sized tire wrench
  • Jack
  • Chocks
  • Reflector triangles
  • Flashlight
  • Extra Tire
Other tools that might help you in your cross country travel would be:
  • Tow Rope
  • Duct Tapes
  • Sealants
  • Rags
  • Multi Purpose Tools
  • Rain Repellent
  • Knives

First Aid Kits

If you, or someone in your group had some minor or major accidents, a complete first aid safety kit would help them get over it. A set of band aids will surely come into good use for small wounds.
Do not forget disinfectants such as alcohols or wipes. Antibiotics might also play its role, as well as gauze, cottons and peroxide.
Other notable medical goods to bring are:
  • Aspirin
  • Pain Relievers
  • Antihistamines
  • Insect Repellents
  • Sunscreen
  • Cold and Hot Packs
  • Saline Solution
  • Vinegar

Snacks and Road-trip Foods

A road trip would be very tiring if you and your group wont even sip a few bottled cola while under a 100 degree noon. It would be wise to bring at lease a few bottles of water, cola or juice that can be kept inside a cooler.
The cooler must be easy-accessed from inside the car, or if not allowed just at the back of the compartment. As long as you bring a few liquids to dehydrate, as well as snack so your kids wont be sad while en-route.
Notable foods to bring are:
  • A jug of cooled water
  • A few bottles of cola or juice
  • Dried fruits
  • Breads
  • Peanuts and Peanut butters

Travel Tech and Gears

You are on a road trip to go on a very nice vacation, and of course you must have those lovely gears that will make your memories etched into your family history.

In order to do so, you must also check your travel gears before leaving.


Cellphones as a means of communication is a must. If ever someone gets lost, you can just call each other. Tablets or tablet PCs can also be a good addition to your arsenal.

Cameras or Dash Cams

In the age of action cameras, our cars must also be equipped with reliable video capturing devices such as dash cams. It is to help us protect or defend ourselves if something bad happens in front of our beloved vehicles.

Power Banks

These items are very helpful because they can store a couple of energy to power up your cellphones and other gadgets. Since you are going away from your home, and electricity access is a bit scarce, a power bank will come to its aid.
One time that I forgot my power-bank when I got into one of my journey, I could not use my phone after a few hours because I could not charge it anywhere.

Portable GPS, Compass and or Printed Maps

Most of the brand new cars nowadays has an equipped GPS. Just a few clicks and it till show you the right way. But what if it experienced some problems while you are en-route?
A portable GPS or a GPS inside your phone might come handy. It can act as a substitute when everything goes sideways. The same with a printed map that can help you in the middle of the road on a dark night.

Portable Wi-Fi Hotspot

Internet is love and internet is life. Without internet, maybe our lives today would be so boring as ever. But if you are to bring a portable Wi-Fi hotspot while you are on a road trip, it can drastically increase your energy when you gets bored.
You can access Facebook in an instant. Play music in YouTube in a few clicks and read articles or travel itineraries that might be encountered while you are on the road. There are broad information that can be accessed while you’re at it.

Miscellaneous Items

Items that does not fall from the above specified can just be labeled as “Miscellaneous”. We have thought a few items such as:

Pillows and Blankets

I love pillows, blankets and everything that can help me sleep while a car is moving. I have loved it since I was a kiddo. And now, I’m gonna recommend this to you for a relaxing road trip.
While in a car, it is very boring or painful or tiring for our body to just sit and sit and sit for hours! So why not bring a full pack of inflatable pillows and a few blanket so that you can at least lie at the back of the car while it is moving? You can even sleep if you don’t mind the “moving” feeling.

Tent and Sleeping Bag

A very long and tiring journey that may cost you days on the road will surely be a big pain in your body. When night comes, and you are still on an inhabited community, then I think pitching a tent would be nice so you can sleep properly.
Some travel vans and vehicles has already been transformed to accommodate a traveling mind. But for those people with just a normal car, then I think bringing these items as a form of shelter will be a good investment. For example you have a road trip from Chicago down to the Mexico. They are a bit far, so be sure while on the road, bring a tent and worry less!

Books, Magazines and Card Games

Sometimes books and magazines are just the things that you need to relax you mind. Since they don’t need a power source, except a light when it is dark, it is surely a best to bring these.

Bring your favorite books and read them while on the road (as a passenger) and when resting (if you’re the driver).

Other Items

  • Crayons and coloring materials for kids
  • Game consoles such as PSVita, 3DS, Switch for games
  • Coins for toll gates
  • Pen and Paper
  • Lap trays for snacks
  • Extra clothes and towels
  • Biodegradable garbage bags

Final Notes: Check Everything and Bring What are Needed

Finally, just take your car for a quick spin and pay attention to any tell-tale signs of a potential problem. You might drive your car all the time but unconsciously ignore the moaning from the wheels or pull to the side. It’s best to recognize these problems when you’re at home rather than breaking down in the middle of the Rockies. Check the lights, the mirrors, and the windshield wipers. Make sure you have a solid spare tire, jack, and wheel wrench. It’s also a smart idea to include a basic emergency kits in your car that will let you handle any unexpected issues out in your cross country road trip. It is best to have a complete packing list for a vacation than a half-ready tour.


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