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Old Man Winter has finally packed his bags and taken his cold weather show on the road, and that usually means many of us are ready to pack our own bags and hit the road as well. While some of us like to plan a trip down to the last detail, others prefer to point their vehicles in no particular direction with little more than an inclination. The method isn’t nearly as important as the results. And for best results, whether driving or flying, be sure you take care of pre-trip business before setting off. It can save you time and headaches down the line.

If you’re driving, act like a Scout and “Be prepared.” Be sure your vehicle is in good running order. There’s nothing worse than waiting on a tow truck 100 miles short of your destination.

  • Proper tire inflation is critical in maintaining optimum contact between road and rubber, a big safety factor when driving. Because the average tire loses one pound of pressure per month, be sure to check tire pressure often. Also be sure your tires are in good shape. Emptying luggage on the side of the road to fix a flat should not be part of your vacation plans.
  • Your vehicle has a number of fluids that keep it running smoothly. If you haven’t lately, change your oil before hitting the road. In addition, check your coolant (always let the vehicle cool down before removing the radiator cap). The ideal ratio of coolant to water is 50-50. Your local auto parts store will have an inexpensive antifreeze tester to check this ratio. Also check your windshield washer reservoir. It goes without saying a clean windshield is imperative to a safe drive.
  • Inspect the rest of your vehicle. Check hoses and belts for obvious wear. Have them inspected by a trusted mechanic. While you’re at the mechanic’s, have him check the battery and brakes as well. You’ve already checked the wiper fluid, now check the wipers themselves to make sure they’re doing their job properly.
  • Nobody expects an emergency, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t plan for one. Prepare an emergency kit to carry in your cargo area.

               1.  Flashlight, flare, first-aid kit
               2.  Jumper cables
               3.  Extra gloves/gloves
               4.  Paper towels
               5.  Nonperishable food
               6.  Jug of water
               7.  Basic tools (adjustable wrench, ratchet/socket set, screwdrivers,
                    pliers, hammer)

  • Load smart. Keep items you need while traveling accessible; don’t bury them. Try to load items so weight is distributed evenly. Also, don’t pack items so high that your vision is limited.

Are you forgoing the highways for the flyways? There are a number of things you can do to make your flight as stress-free as possible.

  • Consider consulting a travel agent. They know the ins and outs of not only traveling, but destinations as well.
  • Arriving early at the airport helps reduce stress. If you give yourself plenty of time, parking, long security checkpoint lines and being bumped aren’t quite as aggravating. In addition, those who arrive earliest are least likely to get bumped on an overbooked flight.
  • Keep a close eye on personal belongings. Crowded airports are profitable playgrounds for thieves. Keep watch on tickets, wallets, purses, carry-ons and other valuables.
  • Know your limits. Some airlines now charge extra for overweight bags and/or too many bags, whether checked or carry-on. Check your airline’s website for baggage limit rules.
  • Keep in mind the 3-1-1 rule. New regulations limit the amount of gels/liquids passengers can take through security in carry-on luggage. You may take travel-size toiletries of 3 ounces or less that fit comfortably into a 1-quart, clear plastic zip-top bag. One bag per passenger. This rule does not apply to checked luggage.

One last reminder before you leave on your big trip: it’s always a good idea to call your credit card company to let them know you’ll be using your credit card away from home. If you don’t, they may put a block on your card thinking your identity has been stolen and someone is using your good name and credit on a shopping spree out of town.

Don’t forget Vantage when planning your travel
If you’re planning a road trip but aren’t sure your vehicle is up to the challenge, maybe it’s time to shop for a new one. Right now, qualified Vantage members can get up to 90 days with NO PAYMENTS when they finance their new vehicle at Vantage. Check out our rates here.

Don’t want to put all those miles on your vehicle? Vantage members get special discounts when they rent a car with Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Click here for more information.

Traveling abroad? Don’t forget Vantage can help you with foreign currency exchange.