The summer road trip is right up there with baseball and apple pie.
It’s an iconic American undertaking that’s been memorialized in countless movies and songs, but it also probably has special associations for each one of us who remembers family car trips or hitting the road with friends as soon as we had the freedom to drive.
As we gear up for summer, many are planning their routes and checking their tires in preparation to head out on the open road. What’s important to remember is that safety and fun go hand in hand, so use this list to help you get ready for the perfect summer road trip.
Tune-Up & Tunes
Safety Tip #1: Tune Up
You should never, ever start a car trip before visiting your trusted mechanic first. Your car may very well seem like it’s in tip-top condition, but there could be serious problems lurking that only a professional will be able to detect. It’s a lot more pleasant to pay for a repair at home than it is to break down on a rural highway and get waylaid for hours or days while a mechanic you don’t know tinkers with your car.
Fun Tip #1: Tunes
A road trip just isn’t a road trip without excellent tunes blaring out of the speakers. Of course the definition of excellent is entirely up to you and your traveling companions, but you should think ahead when it comes to music. Keep in mind that your streaming services might not work if you don’t pick up internet on your jurney, so plan for offline music listening in the form of MP3 players or go old school and have a couple of mix CDs on hand.
Pack & Snack
Safety Tip #2: Pack
Before you pull out of the driveway, make sure you have a roadside emergency kit stowed somewhere you can reach without getting out of the car. You can purchase a ready-made kit or create your own with these items:
• First aid supplies
• Fire extinguisher
• Reflective triangles
• Tire gauge & foam tire sealant
• Jumper cables
• Flashlight & batteries
• Duct tape
• Poncho & blanket
• Water & non-perishable snacks
• Multi-purpose tool (Swiss Army knife for example)
Fun Tip #2: Snack
The night before you leave or on your way out of town, stop at a grocery store and stock up on some convenient and healthy road snacks. You’ll be much less tempted to snag a soda and bag of Fritos from a gas station if you know you’ve got a cooler full of fruit-infused water, granola bars and homemade sandwiches in the car.
Plan & Improvise
Safety Tip #3: Plan
Whether you have one destination or several, it’s important to sit down, study the maps and make a travel plan in advance. Think about departure & arrival times, traffic, routes, road tolls, gas, weather and anything else that may impact travel.
Fun Tip #3: Improvise
As they say, you can’t break the rules until you know them. So, you should put a plan in place but it shouldn’t be so rigid that you can’t take that exit to go see the world’s biggest pistachio or ball of yarn if you so choose. After all, half the fun of a road trip is the unexpected fun you have along the way.
Just in Case…
Safety Tip #4: Just in Case…
Plan for the worst and hope for the best! Here are some “just in case” items you should have: phone chargers, paper maps, necessary contacts written down (in case your phone dies and you realize you don’t remember anyone’s number), roadside emergency phone numbers and auto club cards, and tons of spare change for tolls and pay phones.
Fun Tip #4: Just in Case…
Just as you need to plan for possible safety crises, you need to plan for potential fun crises. While you might go the whole time on conversation and music, it’s quite likely that there will come a time when everyone in the car is just plain bored. That’s why you need to have some back-up entertainment ready: trivia cards, license plate game, Never Have I Ever, Dump/Marry/Date, 2 Truths & a Lie, etc.
Stop & Shop
Safety Tip #5: Stop
Leave yourself enough travel time so that you can stop whenever you need to. No one should be driving with heavy eyes or a full bladder. If you know you’ll be driving through a desolate area, be sure to find out the best stopping points ahead of time. In addition to gas stations and restaurants, truck stops are a good bet because they’re well monitored and always open. The only time you shouldn’t stop is on the side of the road – instead of stopping to help a stranded driver, call 911 and tell them the location.
Fun Tip #5: Shop
It isn’t really a road trip unless you buy at least one tacky thing from a roadside stop somewhere along the journey. Get a cheesy pair of sunglasses that never see the light of day after this trip, a funny keychain, or one of those state license plates with your name on it. Hey, I don’t make the rules, I just enforce them.
You’ve thought of everything and now it’s time to pack the car, cue up your first playlist and skip town! As long as you keep your dual priorities of fun and safety at the forefront, you’ll be just fine.