Getting ready for a trip
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For a trouble-free car trip, one needs to plan its journey way ahead of time. One must make sure that absolutely everything is organized accordingly.
One should check the following points at least two months before the departure date:
Check the validity of ID cards and passports (have xerox copies made of them and kept separately from the originals).
Be sure of the availability of the car title and of an accident report form (keep a copy of the car title in a separate place).
Make sure that you have the car maintenance log, its driver's handbook and the spare ignition key.
Check the validity of the car insurance for the entire journey (clip to it your insurance's 24 hours phone number).
Get the car's warranty assistance 24 hours phone number (manufacturer's or dealer's warrantee and travel insurance).
Check the car warranty and make sure of the availibility free of charges of a replacement car if your car is out of service for a long time.
Check that the car has a valid vehicle inspection certificate.
Make sure the car has been recently serviced by a dealer or an accredited manufacturer's agent.
One should carry out a full service of your vehicle at least three or four weeks before your trip:
Set an appointment well in advance (especially during the holiday season) with a trustworthy garage, dealer or accredited agent.
Have the battery checked (especially in winter) and changed if it is over four years old.
Make sure to have the car's tyres checked as well as tyres pressure, tyres balance and geometry.
Have the car's braking system, its brakes, brake pads and brake liquid level fully checked (give the trip mileage).
If the engine oil has not been changed recently, have it changed and ask for an oil viscosity suited to local temperatures.
Make sure the windshield wipers are in perfect conditions (have them replaced if they have any cracks).
Have the car's engine and gearbox oil, coolant, air conditioning liquid, windshield washer checked and filled up.
Make sure to have all air, fuel, vents and air conditioning filters cleaned up or replaced if necessary.
Check that the air conditioning system, electric windows, central locking, car alarm, radio, headlights and blinkers are working.
Road test drive the vehicle by checking its clutch and gearbox, its shock absorbers and its road handling ability.
Bring a box of bulbs and fuses, a windshield scraper, a torch, two reflective jackets and a warning triangle.
If necessary, bring chains (in winter), gloves, a rag, an oil can, a bottle of water, jump leads and a first aid kit (in Europe).
One should collect all the informations needed for a safe trip:
Choose the best day for a pleasant journey as well as the best departure time to avoid traffic jams.
Check the weather forecasts for your trip as well as for your destination (three days and up to seven days forecasts).
Select the best route (beware of traffic jams) and a back-up route in case of problems such as road blocks.
List the service stations that offer the most competitive fuel prices (see also Zagaz and Carbeo).
Organize all stop overs (meals and hotels) and plan for breaks every two hours for a safe driving.
Make a real estimation of how long your trip will be (breaks included) and forecast real time traffic conditions.
Identify the best radio station for traffic news. This is generally 107.7 FM on motorways in France.
Print out a map of your final destination.
On D day, do not forget to bring all the vital items:
All the necessary papers (passport, driving license, car title, insurance, assistance contract, maps, hotel reservations, etc).
Car spare key (kept in a separate place), car maintenance log and driver's handbook, box of bulbs and fuses, accident report.
GPS and radar warning device, although the latter is forbidden in many European countries.
Mobile phone (and charger) and hands free car phone kit.
Food and drinks (for the breaks), a first aid kit, usual medicines and the family doctor's phone number.