Summer is just around the corner and for many of us that means it’s time to plan our summer getaways. Road trips are the most popular method of travel in America, so you’ll be in good company when you hit the road this summer. Whether it’s a long weekend or a week away, here are a few things you should do to ensure a fun, safe and successful road trip.
Before You Go
Give your car a good once over. Are the tires good? Here’s how to check. When was the last time you had the oil changed? The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends that you have your tires, battery, belts, fluids, and air conditioner checked by a qualified mechanic. Make sure all your fluids are properly topped up and consider packing extra washer fluid, motor oil and radiator fluid for emergencies. A road trip is a lot more fun when you aren’t worried about a breakdown along the way. And always start with a full tank of gas. Here’s a helpful infographic from AAA that shows you how to prepare. (Scroll below the info graphic for more road trip tips).
Check with your auto insurer to see if your policy includes roadside assistance. If so, make sure you have all the details and contact phone numbers. If not, consider becoming a AAA member. Knowing you won’t be stranded on the road or incur a huge towing bill is well worth the peace of mind.
Plan your trip in advance. Know where you’re going and the route you plan to take. Check road conditions before you go, especially if you’re in an area where weather changes quickly. And always leave a copy of your itinerary with someone at home, who will know when it’s time to worry if you don’t arrive at your destination.
When packing your car, be sure to pack an emergency kit. At the very least, your kit should include the following:
- Warm blankets
- A flashlight
- Jumper cables
- Tools to change a tire
- A fully charged cell phone
- A first-aid kit
- Essential auto fluids such as radiator fluid, motor oil & windshield washer fluid.
- Change for tolls
The best of GPS units can make mistakes, like in this recent story, so be sure to bring a detailed road map or atlas along, and print out a copy of your directions. Having a navigational app on your smart phone is also useful, especially when traveling in foreign territory where street signs may not be obvious—or in your language.
Speaking of cell phones, familiarize yourself with the laws regarding cell phone use while driving. They vary from one place to another, and ignorance is rarely an excuse for violating them. For your reference, here’s a chart with the latest laws. Even if it’s legal to use a cell phone, a hands-free device (or better yet, having a passenger make/take calls) is the safest way to go.
Be aware that traffic laws can vary from country to country or state to state. Take the time to review them before you go to avoid tickets or accidents.
On the Road
Start out well-rested. Get a good night’s sleep and eat a healthy meal before you go. Don’t rely on caffeine to keep you alert. If you tire, switch off driving with your traveling companions, or stop for the night. Having a second driver will not only allow you to get some rest on a long road trip, it will also enable you to enjoy the scenery a bit. If you’re traveling alone, make sure to bring along some good music and open the window a bit for constant fresh air.
Stop regularly. It’s good to stop for a snack and restroom break, but even better to stop for some fun. Make plans to do some sightseeing along your route, whether it’s scheduled stops or spontaneous ones. Breaking up the trip will make it more enjoyable and will help you stay alert and enthusiastic.
Pack some healthy snacks and drinks for your trip. Choosing snacks from the grocery store ahead of time will give you more choices at better prices than picking up whatever they might have at a gas station or convenience store along your route.
Keep an eye on the weather and road conditions as you travel. If you have advance warning you may be able to reroute around bad weather, road construction or accidents, saving you time and stress. Have your passenger check the web for traffic updates and, when traveling in large urban areas, listen to local traffic radio updates.
Don’t wait to fill up until your gas gauge is on empty. When traveling in rural or unfamiliar areas, you never know how far it might be to the next gas station. Once you’ve dropped close to a quarter tank, it’s a good idea to start looking for a filling station. Smart phone apps that will show you nearby gas stations and price comparisons are useful for traveling.
And finally, always remember to buckle up. Make sure child and infant safety seats are properly installed and know how to use them. Seat belts really do save lives.
Are you planning a road trip this summer? What’s your best tip for a successful road trip?