During the holidays, many families take road trips to see extended family. Driving is generally less expensive than flying, and there are no long waits at airports. But when traveling by car during the holiday season, it’s crucial to make sure you and your car are well prepared.

Winter weather and driving conditions are hard on any vehicle. And if you run into snow or ice, there’s the possibility that you could be stranded for a while. Here are some tips to help ensure that you and your car are ready for the road this winter.

  • Make sure you’re current on your oil changes. Oil should be ideally be changed every 3,000 to 5,000 miles. Even if you’ve had an oil change in the last couple thousand miles, it’s a good idea to check your oil level and consistency. Add some if needed, and if it looks dirty, go ahead and change it again.
  • Check your radiator. If it hasn’t been flushed out in the past two years, it will probably need it. Look for leaks and damage, and make sure it’s full of a 50/50 mix of antifreeze and water. Bring along an extra jug in case you need it, too.
  • Check all other fluids, including power steering, transmission, brake and windshield washer fluid, and add some if needed.
  • Check your tires. If they’re worn out or improperly balanced, they could cause an accident. Check the air pressure as well, because underinflated or overinflated tires are more prone to damage than those that are properly inflated. Be sure to check your spare, too, in case you need it.
  • Test your wiper blades. When you’re driving down the highway and a sudden rain or snow storm hits, it’s not a good time to find out that they need to be replaced.
  • Make sure your brakes are in good shape. If they don’t appear to work as they should, have them checked out right away.
  • Stock the trunk with items you might need in an emergency. Carry some jumper cables, flares, a jack and lug wrench, extra blankets, first aid kit, and some food and water. You probably won’t need these things, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
  • If there’s any chance of snowy or icy conditions, you’ll need some supplies to use in case you get stuck. Sand and kitty litter are both great for gaining traction on slippery surfaces. It’s also wise to keep a shovel in the trunk in case you need to dig out, and a rope or chain to use in the event that your car needs to be pulled by another vehicle.

Winter driving can be hazardous, so it’s important to be prepared. This is especially true when you’re going on a long trip. These simple precautions could make the difference between a safe and happy trip and a disastrous one.