If you’ve never done it, you should! The open road, stops at highway diners, motels with blinking neon signs just off the interstate. Road trips are a staple in the American culture from cross country family vacations, to college freshman making their way home for the holidays.
While a road trip can be the foundation for lifelong memories of fun and adventure, without the proper preparation, they can also be, well, a nightmare. Here are some tips to keep in mind if you have fantasies of road tripping on the brain:
Plan your trip and know where you’re going. Call ahead for proper and safe directions to get you to your destination safely and have maps of the area on hand to help you navigate once you are off the main road. You’re more likely to make good decisions, even in dangerous situations, if you’re clearheaded and know where you’re going.
Take a map. Even if you know where you’re going and even if your vehicle has GPS, take a tangible paper map or Thomas Guide with you. Why? There may be occasions where a road is closed due to an accident, weather, or construction and you may have to get out and ask a local which alternative route is best. Global Positioning Systems are great, but they aren’t always completely up to date, and can, at times, have incorrect information. A back up map will provide you with the security you need just in case you get lost or something happens and the vehicle is rendered out of commission.
Take precaution with a cell phone. Cell phones can be a lifesaver when you need immediate access to emergency services after an accident. Keep your phone within easy reach and get to know its features. However, use it prudently. Reports suggest that driving while talking on the phone increases accident rates.
Filling the car with gasoline can be the most costly expense of your trip this year. With sky-high gas prices, the gas pump is definitely the place to try to save money. When filling use a credit card that offers rebates on the amount of gas purchased. Typically, nationwide gas station chains such as Mobil or Shell offer credit card rebates to frequent customers. Keep in mind if you are using Mobil you will have to find and only use Mobil stations on the road in order to use your rebate.
If you’re in an accident. Taking immediate steps if you’ve been in an accident can protect your family and your car from further damage. Stop immediately and make sure your car is not blocking traffic. Turn off your car to keep it from overheating or catching fire. Warn oncoming cars using road flares or orange triangle reflectors. After you have protected yourself and your family, call your insurance company immediately.
When traveling by car in the winter always have your car checked out before you leave. This is one of the most important driving tips for winter. It would be very unfortunate to get stuck in the cold winter weather due to car trouble. Have your local auto shop give your car a quick look over to make sure it is safe for winter travel.
Make sure your auto insurance is up to date. Before you even leave the driveway, you want to be sure you’re protected when you’re on the road and far from home. An independent insurance agent or broker can provide the personal service and advice you need to travel in confidence.
Now that you’ve read the above travel tips, you’re more prepared to meet your travel destiny with the fearlessness of thorough preparation. Keeping these few simple things in mind whenever you leave home on a trip will give you more peace of mind and make sure you bring home more stories about great experiences rather than about stressful learning experiences.