Because summer is “getaway” season, and more than one third of all Americans typically take to the highways for trips of 50 miles or more during the season, it’s wise to know the basics of staying safe while on the road. The numbers have remained relatively stable for a number of years, even with the rise and fall of gas prices, lodging and food. In fact, in 2017, a nearly 30 percent reported plans to take three or more family vacations
It’s not all about the vehicle, although having a checklist for basics like a serviceable spare tire, a proper jack, engine and transmission lubricants and windshield washer fluid, working wiper blades and turn signals, is a vital part of preparation. You might also want to have the air conditioning system serviced to maintain comfort and family harmony.
The Logistics of Road Tripping
When planning a road trip, especially if the plan is to stray off the interstate highways, it’s also important to consider the need for redundancy. A back-up plan can be essential to well-being and enjoyment, and having duplicate supplies and emergency equipment can spell the difference between a good tale and disaster.
There is no advice that will cover all contingencies, but at the very least, consider the following:
- A paper road map or atlas in addition to a GPS or smart phone (but don’t forget the mobile charger, either!)
- A supply of water and appropriate snacks
- Warm jackets, rain gear, sturdy hiking boots, and a magnetic compass
- Flares, a heavy-duty flashlight, and a strong whistle or battery-powered air horn
- A reasonably well-stocked first-aid kit
- A “stash fund” of cash in the event of no available ATMs or running into cash-only businesses
- A list of emergency contacts that that includes names, addresses, phone numbers and relationships. Keep a copy in the vehicle and another in a bag or in your wallet.
Although there is normally little to worry about other than minor annoyances on road trips in the United States, there are instances when all of the above items can be life savers, contributing to a happy ending in what might otherwise become an emergency situation.
Common Sense for all Travel
There are some other common sense rules that every seasoned traveler follows: Always have in your possession a supply of prescription drugs, a spare pair of eyeglasses or contacts, the names and phone numbers of doctors and dentists, and contact information for next of kin.
The abundance of ATM machines in the continental United States has lessened the need for cash. And cell towers make communication much easier; some people no longer share travel plans with relatives and friends. However, it’s best to err on the side of caution and safety by having some cash readily available and sharing the basic travel itinerary—including expected departure and return times—with responsible adult relatives or neighbors who will take action if you do not return on schedule.
It’s not necessary or even advisable to over-choreograph a trip. Leave some time for changing plans, following a whim or spending an extra day at an especially enticing lakeside cabin, or in a city that offers too many attractions to forego. Finally, no matter how much fun the trip is, be a bit discreet about sharing details on social media. By broadcasting to the world that you’re away from home, you put your home at risk. Returning to a home that has been vandalized or burgled is not a perfect end to a good vacation.