The Road Trip Season Essentials You Need to Know for Car Maintenance

Today, I have a very special guest, Rae Steinbach, who has offered to write a guest post about how to best prepare for a road trip. Given that summer is coming up quickly, it's important to keep these tips in mind to keep you and other drivers safe while you are on the road! Hope you enjoy!

Nothing says vacation in the U.S. quite like the iconic American road trip. Pack up the car, hit the road, and enjoy the highways and byways you’ve always dreamed of seeing. Before you go, take some time to plan and prepare to make for the best experience possible and minimize the chances of disappointment.

TuneUp Time

If you’re not thinking about getting your car checked before you go, change your mind. Road trips make for a lot of wear and tear on any vehicle. What might not be an issue for short jaunts to the store can be a major problem during a long-term trip. Even just a basic tune-up can eliminate unnecessary worry. Make sure your windshield wipers are in good shape, that fluid levels are up where they should be, and an oil change is not due anytime soon. Ask a mechanic to check out your battery, too. It’s a simple thing, but you can’t have a road trip if your car won’t start. Tires get tired, too. You can check the treads yourself with the classic penny test. Slip a penny head-down into the tread, and if you can see the top of Lincoln’s head, it’s time to get new tires! If they’re in good shape, ask a mechanic if they need rotating to ensure even wear. Brake pads also wear out, so put that on the checklist, too. The last thing you would want to deal with during your big road trip is an injury after a car accident because your tires couldn’t properly grip the road. Many late model cars have tire pressure indicators built into the navigation system. Alternatively, a simple pressure gauge can tell you in seconds. Your car care manual should list what the optimal pressure should be. The numbers also appear on a sticker on the inside jamb of the driver side door.

Plan For Emergencies

You’re on the road, far from home. Problems happen. Make things go a little more smoothly by packing some emergency supplies: the bare basics should include a flashlight with fresh batteries, an updated first aid kit, and an extra blanket or two.

These provisions can make a world of difference. Also, make sure that your spare tire is fully inflated and the tire jack is in the trunk. A few basic tools, like a hammer, crowbar, and screwdriver, can come in handy.

While the U.S. is accessible, the country is vast with long empty stretches across deserts, prairies, and mountains. Be sure you have plenty of water and snacks to tide you over until the next rest stop or in case you get stuck on the side of the road waiting for assistance. Candy’s great, of course, but also include something a little heartier.

Map It

You might have a great sense of direction, but that won’t help if you’re stuck on the highway to nowhere. Most newer cars have built-in navigation systems to help you along. If your car doesn’t have one, you can always purchase a portable one. Better yet, in today’s mobile-dependent world, download your travel route on your phone using Google Maps for easy access. Speaking of mobile devices, bring your charger, but also have a back-up. A charger with an adapter for your car should be a must. Travel eats up battery time, so keep an eye on its charge.

Think Ahead

When you jump in the car for your great adventure, you leave the work world behind. Remember, though, that not everyone on the road does. If you’re using highways, you will in all likelihood pass through major cities. Try to time your travel around morning and evening rush hours when you can. Leaving late at night or the early morning are tried and true methods to avoid traffic jams. Whether you are booking rooms or campgrounds in advance or simply winging it, you probably have an idea of where you would like to spend the night. Don’t forget to locate rest stops, restaurants, and stores along the way, especially when traveling through rural areas. If you can, check local areas for opening and closing times of gas stations and restaurants. Even when visiting popular tourist spots, the local businesses might close earlier than you expect. With a few simple precautions and some common-sense planning, you can make your road trip a vacation to remember for the good times and not for the easily-avoidable problems that popped up.

Rae Steinbach is a graduate of Tufts University with a combined International Relations and Chinese degree. After spending time living and working abroad in China, she returned to NYC to pursue her career and continue curating quality content. Rae is passionate about travel, food, and writing, of course.

Quick PCH update

Waking up next to a vineyard seems like a good idea to me!

I can hardly believe how fast April is approaching!

Here's what I've been doing for our PCH trip:

Trying Wine.

Frank Family Vineyards ★★★★
Rodney Strong ★★☆☆
Silverado ★★☆☆
Sterling ★★☆☆
Save Me San Francisco ★★★☆

Noble Vines ★★★★
William Hill ★★☆☆

Chandon ★★★☆

We just bought a bottle of Gloria Ferrer sparkling rosé, a bottle of Domaine Carneros brut, a bottle of Schramsberg sparkling wine, and a bottle of Federalist red wine. We also found wine from several other wineries on my list, but the $30/bottle cost was a bit prohibitive for buying on this particular trip to the liquor store.

I should mention that we've tried a few other wines, but I haven't liked any of them, so I don't remember their names/vineyards. It's been really hard to find wine from vineyards on my list.

Unfortunately, I don't think we will have time to try all of the wine from the vineyards I'm interested in visiting. In those cases, I will just have to make an educated guess, see if the vineyard looks "pretty" and try my luck with the wine. This is the moment when I really feel like I don't know much about wine or my tastes. If you find yourself in a similar situation, visiting Napa, I recommend reading Robert Holmes' A Traveller's Wine Guide to California and doing like I'm doing … trying wine. How else will you learn?

As for vineyard hopping, I have also heard that it's best to look for coupons, use the app Napa Valley Winery Finder, and sign up to be part of vineyard clubs if you know you like the wine from a particular vineyard to help you save money on tastings. And as for me and my husband, we are looking into having a private driver to help us plan our time in Napa so that we can get the most out of our trip without having to worry.

Exploring YipIt.

I had mentioned scouring Groupon and Living Social for discounts, but did you know that YipIt will check both of those sites and more for discounts? I didn't! So now I'm trying to make sure I search YipIt before completing any payments for activities. It hasn't been incredibly useful so far, but I definitely appreciate having an easier time researching.

Watching Prices and Googling.

All of my refundable hotels are currently pulled up with Tripadvisor and in their own tabs, so that all I have to do every day is press refresh to get an update on the current prices making it easier to confirm and rebook as necessary.

And along with checking YipIt, I've been spending a lot of time googling to discover lower prices for my chosen activities and looking at the Go Card, seeing what does and doesn't work for me given the discounts I'm finding on Google.

All of this planning has me stressed out. 

I sincerely hope my time in California is worth the time I've spent planning it.

Can you believe how fast March is going by? Wasn't it just January a few days ago?

The 8 Trips in 12 Months Plan
PCH Roadtrip: Why I Chose Los Angeles Over Portland
PCH: Planning the Details
PCH: Timing Is Everything


At the beginning of every month, as part of the Insecure Writer's Support Group, I take a look at my successes (not just in writing), share the ways I hope to improve in the next month, answer the IWSG question of the month, and provide inspiration (if I have any).

Start preparing for April A-Z.
Report car repairman to BBB. (Googled and couldn't find him.)
• Plan for SIX trips
   – April – California?
   – April – Washington DC
    May – Clearwater Beach, FL
   – June – NYC
   July – ?
   December – ?
Continue cleaning. Ideally, get rid of at least five things. 
   1. (broken) tripod 
   2. (broken) charging cables 
   3. a picture
   4. I posted a few things on Poshmark and Ebay, if that counts. And put a few things in my Goodwill pile.
✓ Try to implement some of my 101 in 1001 goals into my travel plans. (Very minimally but still.)
• Complete my January goals
   Finish 2017 financial review.
   Come up with resolutions.
   Update my laptop IOS. (Tried but failed.)
Make sure the backup drive is backed up.

Other Successes:
✓ Edited/deleted over 2000 images.
✓ Posted 5 items on Poshmark.
✓ Added to the trips we will take and started booking hotels/rental cars/etc for them. (Sep – Jekyll Island and NYC)
✓ Researched possibilities for July.
✓ Prepared enough Wordless Wednesday posts to get me through the end of May!
✓ Tried more than 5 different wine varieties in preparation for our April trip to California.
✓  Got through a book!

March Goals:
• Finish 50% or more of April A-Z. (13 posts, edit or delete 4,000 images)
• Finish planning both April trips: California, Washington D.C.
• Rest.

IWSG Question: How do you celebrate when you achieve a writing goal/ finish a story?

Wine? Sleep?

For the most part, I'm just happy to finally be done. I don't do anything particularly special. When I do something special, it's typically a one-time thing.

How do you celebrate when you achieve a goal? Is there anything you do that helps you maintain your focus until you have reached your goal?

PCH: Timing Is Everything

If you've ever tried to balance ten+ hotels, a rental car, a flight, and so many days worth of vacation planning, you know what I mean.

Within the past week, I have made two timing mistakes.

1. I also have a hotel stay coming up in DC. When re-researching rates, I discovered a lower rate. As I was headed out the door, I clicked on it, booked it, and then noticed it was nonrefundable. Immediately I got on the phone with the hotel, a Hilton chain hotel. Over the next half hour, I was sent from Hilton customer service to the Advanced Purchase desk, to the actual hotel's customer service, and finally told I would need to speak with a manager. Then, when I finally got in touch with the manager I was told I needed to speak with the Advanced Purchase desk again. She gave me her name, said she would cancel the stay but couldn't guarantee a refund unless I spoke with Advanced Purchase again, and put a note on my reservation. When I called Advanced Purchase, they attached a file to my confirmation. *sigh* It was a mess. Just as I was starting to get aggravated, the hotel manager canceled my reservation and told me to let her know if I got charged.

In the end, it wouldn't have been a big deal if we hadn't been able to cancel since we needed a room for this particular night anyway. I was just frustrated that I had booked a nonrefundable room.

2. Then, as if that wasn't enough of a scare, I decided to book a tour of Catalina Island. I believe the tour could be canceled within 48 hours of your trip, but I booked it for the next day. On a weekend. When the company's office was closed. At 9AM, right at the opening time following the weekend. Can you feel my pain? I don't even know how I made that mistake! I immediately called the emergency number (they run a taxi service too), but the dispatcher was unable to help me. I have emailed. I facebook messaged. At the time of the writing of this post, all there is left to do is cry. I now have to wait until lunchtime, my time (9am theirs), to call and, hopefully, change my reservation.*

So, let that be a lesson to you all: check dates. And then re-check them. Confirm and re-confirm times. This stress is NOT worth it.

Other ways timing is everything:

1. I recently found out a museum (The BROAD) I want to see is smack dab next to the Walt Disney Concert Hall where my husband and I will be attending a concert. Went to reserve the free tickets and … they were "sold out". 😞 If I had realized The BROAD was a close as it is to the concert hall before today, maybe it wouldn't have been sold out.

2. Timing has also worked in my favor. Apparently, a food truck park thing called Smorgasbord only happens on Sundays, and I will be in LA on a Sunday! Sooo woot!

In other news, I've been breaking down my schedule, researching sunrise and sunset times, seeing which beaches look worth a visit and which will have to wait until next time, cutting out anything I deem to be "excess". One more mission? Or wait to see another further down PCH when I have more time?

And then there is luggage.

I'm currently in the process of emptying out all of my camera memory cards, and I just ordered a new camera bag yesterday. a Lowepro Flipside 400 AW II. My old Costco camera bag was breaking and hella uncomfortable. Hopefully, the new bag will fit my needs better.

As for other details:

• I've started looking at restaurants and made OpenTable reservations at a few.
• I have not gotten through the last book and two magazines yet that I bought for PCH research purposes.
• My husband has notified his friend we would be in town during this trip.
• All of our hotels have been booked and I have found lower prices since on a few of them! Yay!

Now to get ready for April A-Z.

Oh, and also I'm only on day three of breaking down my trip by cost and time. So I have another seven days of intricate research to do. Anyone want to make a few decisions for me? Five weekends of research and I thought for sure I would be finished by now!

How did you spend your weekend? Is the weather nice where you are? Or are you dealing with the bomb cyclone in the north? (And for those of you that did deal with the bomb cyclone this weekend, I pray that your community did not suffer much if at all. Those storms seem absolutely terrifying.)

The 8 Trips in 12 Months Plan
PCH Roadtrip: Why I Chose Los Angeles Over Portland
PCH: Planning the Details

* About three hours after I put this post together, Journey Catalina called regarding my messed up reservation. Without hesitating, they fixed it for me, sent me the correct receipt (with the correct date), and reassured me that a simple mistake like that was nothing to get upset over. I was so entirely grateful that they were able to fix my issue over the weekend when their office is closed! It means that I have one less thing to worry about when I close my eyes tonight. 🙂