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Planning the perfect summer road trip

August 16, 2016
Take the time to plan out your road trip for a carefree adventure.

The days of late sunsets and warm nights are almost over, which makes the end of summer the perfect time to embark on a road trip. Not only that, but the cost of hitting the highway is currently at its lowest point in years throughout America. According to gas price tracking service GasBuddy, the average cost of a gallon of gasoline as of August 10 was just $2.13. In some states, the average price is less than $2. Experts don't expect these low prices to trend much higher anytime soon, either.

Before you rush out to fill up and drive off to your dream destination, be sure to get a few things in order first.

Check your insurance

Traveling by car is still a very safe way to get around, but you still need auto insurance before getting behind the wheel. Take the time to review your insurance coverage before setting off on a long-distance drive. Check key items such as:

  • Policy expiration
  • Monthly payments
  • Deductibles
  • Extras

"Roadside assistance can be useful for minor breakdowns on your trip.”

Auto insurance coverage will help you pay for an accident, but might not always cover more minor issues like a flat tire or mechanical problems. And if you happen to run into trouble in the middle of nowhere, it can be difficult to know who to call to get help. That's why USA Today recommended road trippers look into adding roadside assistance to their insurance plan. For only a small addition to regular payments, roadside assistance providers can help drivers get in touch with a tow service or mechanic if their car breaks down en route. Having this extra protection can prove extremely valuable.

Check your ride

To prevent an unfortunate breakdown from happening in the first place, drivers should ensure they are up to date with their car's regular service schedule. Even with a recent check-up, though, it doesn't hurt to run through the basics before leaving for a long drive.

One of the easiest ways to check a car's health is by looking at the engine oil. Consumer Reports provided a helpful guide explaining this basic automotive maintenance task. In short, an oil check comes down to level and color.

  • After pulling out the dipstick, examine the tip to check oil level. Most cars will indicate a minimum or maximum level in notches on the tip. If the oil is below the minimum level, you probably need to add some.
  • Pay attention to the color of the oil. Normally, the liquid will appear brown or black. But if it looks “milky" or has small metal pieces mixed in, there could be a problem with the engine.

Drivers should also check their tires to verify they are at the proper pressure level. This will require a handheld pressure gauge and a way to inflate the tires if needed. The recommended pressure level for a tire varies, but can usually be found printed on the driver's side door frame or in the glove compartment.

If you're unsure about any part of your car's performance, it's better to be safe and consult a professional before heading out on your road trip.

Plan, pack and go

With your ride in good condition, all you need to do is plan smart and pack light. Take a look at your route before embarking and get familiar with it. Although GPS units are reliable, they may not always work perfectly, so bring a paper map with driving directions just in case. And finally, don't pack more than needed. Make a list of the essentials that you'll need while you're away and stick to it.

After all this preparation, you're in great shape for an exciting road trip. Drive safe and have fun!