How to Prepare for a Road Trip
Here are some tips before you hit the open road for your next
What you need to know before hitting the open road
Get Your Vehicle Serviced
Before I took off on the road trip, I took my car in to get an oil change, tire balance and rotation, and an
alignment – all of which are good for improving mileage per gallon, reducing wear and tear, and
extending the life of your tires and vehicle. I do most of my service at national chains (in this case,
FirseStone) because that is where I bought my tires – which is good for free balancing and rotation for
the life of the tires. I also bought a lifetime alignment there, which was a great deal and something I
rec0mmend looking into. A few years ago my car slid on some ice and bumped into a curb. I was only
traveling around 5 mph as I was accelerating from a stop sign, so there was no damage to my car.
However, it did knock my alignment out of balance. The cost for a lifetime alignment was roughly double
the cost of a one time alignment, so it was a no-brainer to buy the lifetime alignment (I’ve used it about
once per year since I bought it).
I also use FireStone because they perform an inspection each time I get my oil changed, top up fluids,
make sure the tire pressure is good, etc. All of these things are good to do before hitting the road on a
MPG Claims Aren’t Always as Advertised
Sometimes they are better! There has been a lot of talk about how many cars don’t get the miles per
gallon average that manufacturers claim on the window sticker (part of this has to do with car
manufacturer’s engineering their vehicles for the testing standards set forth by the EPA). So depending
on your driving habits, you may experience a better or worse MPG than what is stated on your window
I bought my Mazda 3 new over 6 years ago and the stated mileage was 26 town, and 31 highway. Thats
not bad mileage for the year the vehicle was manufactured (the Mazda 3 now gets around 40 mpg on
the highway). During the trip we had several stretches where we exceeded the highway MPG, with tanks
of gas averaging 34 and 35 mpg. I was impressed to beat the stated highway MPG by 10%, especially for
a 6 year old car.
We didn’t do anything special on the trip either – other than use cruise control at 75 mph for most of
the stretches where we got the excellent mpg (the stated speed limit was 70; I often drive five over and
set the cruise control when driving on the highways if the weather is clear, which it was). Limiting your
speed to only five over the limit is usually enough to avoid a speeding ticket.
Related: How to improve your gas mileage.
Book Lodging Early
My brother and I went to a college graduation, which meant there were hundreds of more people in
town that weekend. We planned early and booked our hotel room well in advance, and we got good
rates for the area and the hotel class we stayed in. While we were checking in I overheard the hotel
receptionist tell someone on the phone that almost all hotels in the area sell out during the spring
through fall months. I never would have guessed that for a city the size of Erie, but then again, you don’t
always think about those things when you plan a trip. Plan early, and make sure you get a hotel that fits
your dates, is conveniently located, and fits your budget.
Related: How to get a good deal at Priceline.
Paying for Everything
It’s always a good idea to notify your credit card company if you are planning a trip – this will help
prevent your card from being frozen by accident. Some companies are good about notifying you if they
suspect something, which is cool, while others may just shut off your card without warning. It’s also
good to discuss splitting the tab if you are sharing the road trip with someone. My brother and I
switched off on buying gas and snacks on the road, which worked out well. I have no idea if either one of
us paid more or less than the other person, but it felt right, so in the end, that’s all that matters.