It’s time to move to your new duty station and you’re planning out your route. Maybe you’re looking to get there as fast as possible. Or perhaps you’re looking to take in the sights as you go.

No matter your intention or destination, there are a few things that you should do before you leave.

Get your vehicle serviced

Make sure your car is in tip-top shape for driving. You want to prevent anything major from happening on the road and it’s always a good idea to make sure preventive maintenance is up to date and that no foreseeable problems exist. 

Plan out your route

We have young kids, so it’s important for us to keep our driving days short to about six hours.  To do this, we use an online mapping function like MapQuest so we can get an idea of the distance between A and B.

As you drive along, there may be things that you want to see.  Stops with pools and parks are always engaging for younger kids while those with older kids, or without kids, should look into museums and historical landmarks.

Book your hotel in advance

Always book in advance when possible so you have a room waiting after a long day’s drive. Keep an eye out for hotels and inns that give a military discount. Sometimes we have to get creative and forgo the military discount if we’re staying in a big city.

Check the route for traffic and construction

If you have a smartphone, you’ll find that ‘Google Now’ has a great local traffic map.  It shows the roads moving, slowed down, or completely congested in real time so you can change your course to avoid these areas.  It can often shave hours of sitting in unnecessary traffic off your trip.

Check the weather

On our most recent PCS, we neglected this very important step.  I’m not sure it would have helped, but we ended up going through a massive storm from Chicago to Sioux Falls, South Dakota.  Two F5 Tornados hit a couple hundred miles from us in and we were caught in 60+ mile-per-hour winds from the outset of that storm.  We had no idea this thing was coming and had to  pull over and wait out the storm with several other drivers.  Our car rocked back and forth while we were pummeled with rain and hail, surrounded by thunder and lightning. After 30 minutes or so, we passed five semi-trucks that the wind had blown over and several cars in ditches.

As we drove, my handy ‘Red Cross Tornado’ app would automatically notify us when a Tornado Watch was present in the county we were driving in or when it changed to a Tornado Warning, meaning that a tornado had been spotted in the area.  When a Tornado is near, a very loud warning tone goes off, similar to Amber Alert warnings, so you can be prepared.  This app also alerts flash flooding and severe thunderstorms.

Better safe than sorry

When traveling across the country, always play it safe. On our trip, we watched several trucks scream by us. The rain had been heavy for several hours and we could see the land flooding around the freeway.  We wanted to make sure the cars in front of us could get through the dips in the road.  If they slowed down, we slowed down.

It ended up saving our vehicle.  Over a hill, I saw a semi slow down and brake before going down a dip in the road. I too slowed down and saw several vehicles floating and stuck in the middle of a flooded area on the freeway.  We were able to turn around quickly before we got caught up in the congestion of vehicles getting stuck on the bridge because we allowed a delay between us and the car in front.

Keep these tips in mind and your next PCS should be as smooth as possible.