Time for a Road Trip

Road trip time! Whether cruising across country, heading to sandy shores for needed beach time or the cool, clear mountains for some hiking, the open road is calling you. And you’re not alone. Three-quarters of Americans plan to take a road trip in 2017. If you plan to be among the road-trippers, start your trip with some careful prevention and planning.

While I can’t rescue you from any “Are we there yet?” requests, I do have a few tips to save you stress, time, and money later on down the road. 

1. Prep Your Ride.

Imagine this scenario: You make it all the way to the middle of nowhere when your engine starts making a funny noise. Just before you make it to civilization again, the engine quits completely. Now what? How will you ever make check in time at this rate?

Do your best to prevent this scenario by keeping your vehicle’s maintenance up to date. If needed, schedule a tune-up to adjust oil, fluid levels, battery, belts, hoses, lights, air conditioning, and windshield wiper blades. Check tire treads and proper inflation. Inspect the spare tire’s air pressure; it won’t do you any good if it’s flat when you need it the most.

Make sure there aren’t any show-stopping delays on your road trip.

2. Keep Roadside Rescue on Speed Dial.road trip safety

Make the wise investment in a roadside assistance service. There’s nothing more reassuring, than having a 1-800 on hand to immediately connect you to approved local tow services and mechanics. Not only will it give you peace of mind, but it will protect you from any unwelcome roadside dangers.

Sure, you can change your own tire. But do you really want to hike twelve miles to the next service station with the kids and no gas can to get gas and hike back? Roadside service is worth it.

Another stress-reducing investment is a GPS navigation system, which you may want to consider. In the event you do encounter issues with your vehicle, safely maneuver off the highway, if possible. The shoulder of a freeway, no matter how wide, is not a safe place for repair work.

3. Be Prepared and Plan Ahead.

Planning a trip is half the fun, be it with your family or just your honey. Do your homework and invite them to join in the research. Together you can visit destination websites for value packages, discount tickets, and downloadable coupons. Know where you are going and where you will stop along the way. Research road conditions, traffic and construction delays. Take into consideration daily rush hour traffic in and around major metropolitan areas. Adjust your morning departure, rest or meal breaks, and maybe take in a roadside attraction rather than waste time or increase stress by sitting in bumper to bumper traffic on a Friday afternoon.

4. Anticipate the Unexpected.

We take road trips to see something different. With new and different comes new and different things and potential challenges.

Pay attention to weather forecasts along your route. Always pack warm clothing, extra food and water, along with your roadside safety kit. Your kit should include flashlights, batteries, jumper cables, tools for fixing a flat tire, a first-aid kit, blanket, and an old-school Rand McNally Road Atlas, it’s always nice to have a hard copy backup if your electronics fail.

Let someone know your destination, route, and itinerary in case there’s a hiccup. Your trusted agent will be better able to send help along your prearranged route if you miss a checkpoint.

Once you’ve packed up, double-check that you can clearly see mirrors and out all of the windows before pulling out of the driveway.

5. Make Sure Your Apps are Riding “Shotgun.”

Before getting into the car, be sure your smartphone is loaded with useful and fun apps to make your vacation safer, less complicated and more enjoyable. From finding the best route, locating the cheapest gas, making sure you don’t miss a quirky, offbeat roadside attraction or killer hamburger. Many apps are free too.

Roadtrippers, a route-planning app, marks the starting and end points of the trip, where to eat and drink, stay, closest cultural attractions, all the fun sights and sounds in between. Bonus feature it compiles suggestions from other travelers. Comes with a handy downloadable PDF itinerary in case you encounter a stretch of roadway without cellphone coverage.

At Waze, drivers help other drivers steer clear of real-time traffic congestion, send alerts about accidents, and show the fastest route.

Roadside America points out all the must-sees along your route. Like the world’s only Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota or Bailey, Colorado’s hot-dog shaped Coney Island diner.

Google Trips helps you plot your itinerary, calculating travel time to each location. If you lose Wi-Fi, the itinerary is saved along with other pertinent information like directions to your hotel or the hotel phone number. It also has the ability to tap into emergency services near you such as the closest hospital.

RepairPal is a lifesaver when car trouble rears its ugly head. Just type in the make of your vehicle and problem, and it will give you area mechanics and estimates.

iExit helps plan pit stops and tells what’s ahead at upcoming exits from restaurants, gas stations to hotels.

GasBuddy gets you to the cheapest, nearby gas pump when you are running low.

PlugShare for those who have gone the environmentally friendly route and own an electric vehicle. This app features a map database of more than 90,000 public charging stations.

6. Entertained Passengers = Happy, Safe Driver.

Nothing diminishes the excitement of a road trip more than bored kids. Download digital versions of games, most are inexpensive and many are free. Keep all your devices up and running by bringing chargers, adapters, plug splitters, DVD players, audiobooks, tablets, and ear buds. Stock an activity bag with books and toys to keep the kids occupied and the driver focused.

Empty stomachs lead to hangry passengers so pack healthy snacks and beverages to minimize fast food stops, keeping spirits high, and cranky moods at bay.

Can’t help you with the bathroom breaks, though. Although there might be something on the internet about using composting toilets on road trips if you’re brave enough to search and desperate enough to use one.

7. Focus on Safety and Basic Rules of the Road.

It goes without saying—don’t speed, don’t tailgate. Don’t text or talk on your cell phone while driving, even hands-free. If you need to make a call, check road or weather conditions or respond to a text, wait until you stop in safe place, such as a rest stop or parking lot. Don’t program your mobile GPS while you are driving.

Ensure all passengers are buckled in correctly. Even if your companions want to take a quick snooze, remind them to keep their seat belt fastened. Come have us check out your child safety seats before you set off on your adventure. Eight out of ten car seats and booster seats aren’t installed properly, therefore putting infants and young children at serious risk. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends keeping infants, toddlers and older children in car seats for as long as possible, if the child fits within the manufacturer’s height and weight requirements. Keep children twelve and under in the back seat, it’s the safest place.

8. Not Even for a Minute.

Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle, even with the window slightly open. An outside temperature of 101 degrees can rise to an interior temperature of 140 degrees. Always lock your car and ensure children do not have access to keys or remote entry devices. Teach your children that vehicles are never to be used as play areas.

Even in cool areas, there are other dangers to consider.

9. Rest, Breathe—You’re on Vacation.road trip vacation

While it is a road trip, make an effort to not drive more than eight hours a day. Allow time to make plenty of stops every couple hours to stretch and to get some much needed fresh air. Research shows that drivers behind the wheel for more than eight hours have nearly twice the risk of accidents when compared to those on the road for less than two hours. If you have a co-pilot, switch off driving with them when you need a break.

Great adventures and awesome photos are just waiting for you through epic road trips and vacations. However, arriving at your destination and back home safely should be your number one priority by making sure you are well prepared you can enjoy it fully and safely. Take in some fresh air, amazing scenery, and create some priceless memories along the way.

Have fun!