Car with roof luggage



Vacation Travel

With warmer weather and (hopefully) sunny skies ahead, more and more of us will be taking trips to various locations throughout the State of Maine. While we tend to remember items such as sunscreen, bug repellent and rainy weather gear we often neglect an emergency kit for our vehicle.

Imagine you and your family getting ready for a week long trip and all the preparation which goes along with it. You’ve packed all your clothes, snacks, maps, cameras, etc. You feel quite confident nothing will go wrong. But, as the saying goes “Anything that can go wrong, will”. As you make your way to your beautiful lake side destination (using back roads to experience a little more adventure), you hear a terrible noise and feel a thump, thump, thump. After you’ve carefully pulled off the road you discover you have a flat tire. To get to the spare tire and jack you need to unload all your suitcases and various gear. Once you actually get to the spare tire you discover it is flat and…the jack is nowhere to be found. Not to worry because you have a cell phone, right? Well the battery is just about dead and the cell phone reception is lousy because you "wanted to get away from it all”.

What are some ways to help avoid a situation such as this? First, inspect your vehicle to make sure the tires are in good shape, all the lights are operational and all the fluids are at the proper levels. You can easily do this with the help of your vehicle owner’s manual. If you feel uncomfortable performing this task, take it to your auto mechanic. Most garages will do a “pre-trip inspection” at minimal cost. Secondly, locate your spare tire and jack. Make sure the spare tire has plenty of air and the jack is operational.  Lastly, prepare a basic roadside emergency kit and store it in your vehicle.

What should you put in your kit
You can assemble these items yourself at an auto supply store, or department store, or purchase a pre-assembled kit online. The American Red Cross ( offers an emergency kit. The website Outdoor Lodge recommends the following list of items:

  • Flashlights and extra batteries.
  • First aid kit.
  • Fire extinguisher.
  • Road flares.
  • Bright cloth or emergency road sign to display in your window in case of trouble.
  • Knife.
  • Set of tire chains (for winter travel). (You should know how to install these beforehand.)
  • Gloves, wool socks, and a pair of boots.
  • Wool blanket.
  • A folding camping (Army) shovel.
  • Jumper cables (8-12 feet long).
  • Fuses. There are several types, so make sure you have the right ones for your car.
  • Tools: pliers, flat and Phillips-head screwdrivers, and an adjustable wrench.
  • Electrical and duct tape.
  • Spray lubricant like WD-40.
  • All the necessary fluids applicable to your car including some motor oil, premixed antifreeze; brake, power-steering, and automatic transmission fluids. Also, include a funnel and keep a few rags handy in case of spills.

Other items you might consider are:

  • Non-perishable food items and a can opener
  • Rain gear.
  • Extra clothes
  • Folding chair(s)
  • Pillows
  • Sleeping bags
  • Snacks
  • Books and games
  • Toilet paper

As the example above illustrated, it is important to keep your cell phone charged. Having a car charger and cord is a wonderful idea even for short distances. Packing a small manual on how to do basic roadside repairs is also a good idea if you haven't done such things in the past. Make sure you are familiar with your vehicle owner’s manual and review the steps for changing a tire. Familiarizing yourself with this procedure can help if you are called on to perform this task on the side of the road.

Refresh your kit when the seasons change. Keeping seasonally appropriate emergency items in your car will give you and your passengers peace of mind when you travel and this will make for a more enjoyable vacation!

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