Trip Planner

Get your vehicle checked out.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Or, put another way, do you want to risk passing through the digestive system of wolves because of a loose hose clamp?

We didn't think so.

Include in your trip plan, time to get your vehicle thoroughly serviced. If you need a good mechanic, you can check our Mechan-X Files. If you're traveling in the blazing heat of mid-summer or headed to Mount Frostbite in January, you might also want to check our Summer or Winter driving tips.

Build in rest days.

Are you going on a vacation, or an odyssey? Give yourself a break!

When you plan your road trip schedule, add a few extra rest days. You'll enjoy the trip more. And you'll have time for that unplanned stop to see the World Famous Ear Wax Collection.

Tell someone in your family where you're going.

If you're the kind of person who feels uncomfortable knowing that friends and family members might not able to reach you all the time, e-mail your itinerary to them. They'll probably feel better knowing they can reach you.

Or, better yet, don't tell anyone in your family where you're going.

If your family is anything like ours, there are serious risks to disclosing your travel plans. Just ask Ray - who soon after arriving at a Montreal hotel, got a call about a fire in the parking garage from a very French sounding Tommy: "Messeur? Deed you use to own a gren Fode Al Tee Dee?"

Bring a cell phone and a basic repair kit.

If you're headed into the remote Netherlands, consider a more powerful, external antenna for your cell phone - and don't forget to bring the charger. Although be aware that cell phones tend not to work where we need them the most - in the middle of nowhere.

Bring along a basic repair kit for your vehicle, for those fixes you might be able to take care of yourself. At the very least, bring screwdrivers, vice grips, and a hunk of duct tape.

Print out a few of the recommended mechanics along your route.

It's bad enough to be broken down on the same road the Joads took out of Oklahoma. Do you really need the extra hassle of Vern and the funny looking old man he calls "Cousin Sue" charging you for repairs you don't need?

Join a Travel Club

If you're not already a member of a travel club, join one now. It'll save you a hassle when you least need another migraine. There's always AAA. But if you don't agree with their anti-environmental stances, check out the Better World Club, which supports RVs.

Why do we like Better World? It's not that their service is any better than AAA (in fact, it's basically the same), but they don't funnel their profits into lobbying against public transportation and drafting dubious research. Better World also offers discounts on hybrid car rentals, and they spend a few of their dollars helping offset the environmental mess created by cars.