1. Pick the car. It’s probably one of the two you have in your garage, but if you happen to be car shopping, keep road trips in mind as you’re making your selection. For family travel, size up the car’s storage space, the cupholder count (16 in the redesigned Honda Pilot). Be aware of range (for both gasoline-powered and electric cars). Some vehicles, such as the Ford Flex and Honda Odyssey, offer built-in cool boxes that will keep a few bottles or cans cold during your trip.
If your road trippers are going to be family — and maybe even the grandparents — think big, using ourminivan or SUV buying guide. If you are two-for-the-road types, test-drive coupes, convertibles or, for a change of pace and room for hauling sports gear, check out a wagon.
2. Do a safety check. No one wants to deal with a breakdown, particularly if your road trip includes little kids. Be sure your tires (including the spare, if you have one) are properly inflated and in good shape, and thateverything from the windshield wipers to the air-conditioning system, is in working order.
3. Settle the shotgun question. If it’s adults or teens who want the coveted seat, a quick rock-paper-scissors is all you need. But remember that children under 13 should ride in the backseat, properly belted in. Airbags can be fatal for young children riding in the front seat. And never place a rear-facing car seat in the front seat or in front of an airbag. If your kids tend to squabble and you’re traveling in a vehicle that will permit it, put the kids in separate rows. It’s your vacation, too.
4. Map your route. Use your car’s built-in navigation, Google, Apple, MapQuest or Waze — it doesn’t really matter. Pick your favorite and plot your course. Try the “avoid highways” option to find more interesting routes. Check attractions or points of interest to discover side trips. Or go old school and get some paper maps. Then pick the roads less traveled.
5. Make your playlist. Whatever the vintage of your car, you have the means to play music that will make the miles fly by. Make a cassette mix tape, burn some CDs, or load up your smartphone with road trip music and summer classic songs. If you’re short of time or uninspired, check out the road trip playlists on Spotify or other music sites.