Trip Planner: How to load your car for road trips this summer

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If you're like most people, you look forward to road trips, but dread packing for them....

If you're like most people, you look forward to road trips, but dread packing for them. This trip planner will help you load your car safely and comfortably with less stress. Try these six tips:

1. Know your payload

Be realistic about how much you need to take and how much your car can haul. Most cars have a maximum payload weight printed on a sticker on the driver's door frame, or you can check with a trusted auto mechanic in the Atlanta area. Take note, that number includes the weight of passengers!

Now that you know how much your car can carry, stick to that limit. Make a packing list, or try assigning each family member a limited space, a bag or two or a maximum number of items.

2. Keep it low and centered

Keep the weight low and near the center of the car. Top-heavy cars are more likely to roll over, and lots of weight over the wheels may make you car handle poorly. To avoid these problems, load your largest, heaviest items first; put them on the floor and store them as far forward as possible in your trunk or cargo space. Pack smaller, lighter items around them. If your car has a rooftop rack, use it only as a last resort. Put only one low layer of very light items on the rack, and secure them well.

3. Secure everything

Even if you load your car perfectly, things can move around when you stop, accelerate or turn. Shifting weight can make your car handle less well, and loose items can be tossed around the cabin with deadly force in an accident. Make sure that everything in your car is tied or strapped down to prevent an accident.

4. Keep your view clear

Make sure you can see. Never stack items high enough to block your view of the rear windshield or windows. Additionally, if you have to stop short, anything stacked that high might slide forward and injure you or your passengers. If you find yourself piling luggage high in your car, you need to reconsider some of the things on your packing list.

5. Plan for your pets

Just like all of your human passengers should wear seat belts at all times, your pet should be in a crate or carrier secured with a seat belt. Make sure the carrier is comfortable and well ventilated; avoid burying it under the rest of your luggage. Position it so you can get your pet in and out easily at rest stops, and keep your pet's leash close by.

6. Don't pack everything

Decide which items you might need on the road or right after you arrive; this might include medication, snacks, drinks, books or games for the kids, or food and water for your pet. Don't bury these items in a bag or under other items; keep them on top, within easy reach from the passenger seat.

Follow the tips in this trip planner to set out from Atlanta on a safe, comfortable road trip this summer.

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