Road tripping with a couple friends or your significant other can be a lot of fun. To maximize safety and enjoyment, you need to do a little planning before you depart on your first long road trip. No matter where you’re going, follow these helpful tips to have a memorable trip.
Of course, you should have an overall plan about where you are headed, how to get there, and what you want to see along the way. However, you should also leave enough time in your schedule for extra pit stops and sidetracking. If you spot something cool along the way, you don’t want to pass it up just because you need to stick to your very rigid schedule. Also, keep in mind, there may be accidents, detours, road construction, and other things that slow your progress. Therefore, build in a little more wiggle room into your schedule so you’ll be prepared for anything. Don’t get frustrated by delays — just enjoy the experience.
Get a Tune-Up
The freedom and flexibility of traveling across the country by car are very satisfying. One thing that could really put a damper on your experience, however, is if your vehicle breaks down. Before leaving home, get a tune-up that checks all your fluid levels, belts, filters, and hoses, as well as inspects brakes and tires. Tire blowouts can be deadly; according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 738 motor vehicle traffic fatalities in 2017 were caused by tire-related crashes. So, be sure your tires don’t just have enough tread but are also inflated to the proper pressure level. Additionally, check that your auto insurance is up to date and valid in any state where you’ll be driving.
Be Smart About Your Smartphone
A reliable phone is an absolute must for any road trip. We aren’t suggesting you ever text or talk on the phone while driving, but you’ll definitely need a phone in case of an emergency. Also, if you want to take photos during your trip, look into something like the iPhone 11 Pro, which has a triple-camera system capable of snapping some great high-definition shots. (If you prefer Android phones, Android Central has an informative list of devices you should check out.)
Additionally, you can use your smartphone for navigating with GPS, playing music, answering texts with voice-to-text, web searches and more. Although the system works with touchscreen or buttons, it's best to use voice commands for hands-free operation while on the road. When your phone is connected and running Android Auto, the phone’s screen is locked. For iPhones, you can use a similar application in Apple CarPlay.
Be Prepared for Emergencies
Speaking of emergencies, you should always have jumper cables, water, antifreeze, flashlight, basic tool kit, and tire inflater in your car. For long road trips, however, it’s wise to also bring along a first aid kit, fire extinguisher, compass, gas can, duct tape, flares, road maps, blankets, rags, and snacks. Remember to take advantage of roadside assistance service that’s offered through your credit card company, insurance company, or AAA.
Eat Local Food
When you want to get a bite to eat, don't head to a fast-food restaurant or a national chain you know. Instead, stop at a small diner or an interesting roadside cafe, even if it’s a little bit out of the way. Stopping at a small mom-and-pop restaurant is a great opportunity to eat where the locals eat, learn about regional cuisine, and enjoy a delicious meal.
Take Turns Driving
Instead of one person doing all the driving, switch off whenever possible. This will allow each traveler the opportunity to enjoy the sights or get some much-needed shut-eye. Drowsy driving is a serious risk factor for car crashes. According to the National Safety Council, you are three times more likely to be in an automobile accident if you are fatigued. The drowsier you get, the worse your reaction times and awareness of hazards become. About 100,000 police-reported crashes involve a drowsy driver each year.
Now, it’s time to get behind the wheel and hit the road! When you are road tripping across America, there’s plenty to see, whether you are interested in beachside towns, busy cities, mountain communities, or farming areas. If you are embarking on a road trip for the first time, a little preparation will help you to have a memorable and safe trip.
Keith Jacobs is the creator of CarUpkeep.info. He enjoys writing about car maintenance and safety.