Driving long distances with the radio on is my “happy place” so a road trip planned properly is my idea of a perfect vacation!
Take a look at our tips below and hopefully you can avoid a few of the issues we’ve encountered!
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Road Trip Safety
1. Always have your car serviced by a mechanic at least a few weeks prior to your trip.
I took mine in one week before a business trip to have all of my regular maintenance done and there was a safety recall. I ended up having to use their loaner to drive from Greenville, SC to Nashville, TN. It was fine but on a long trip I am much more comfortable in my own vehicle.
2. Be prepared for emergencies.
Emergencies can happen anytime so always be prepared for whatever situation you may find yourself in. I have a trunk organizer in the back of my SUV that is loaded up with supplies before we leave. It always has a roadside emergency kit in it as well as emergency food and water supplies. Take non-perishable snacks from home and if you’re a prepper like my husband then you can throw in a Lifestraw just in case you run out of water and have a lake or stream near by!
I pack the rest of the organizer depending on the season. In Summer I make sure to have plenty of sunscreen and a hat for everyone. In the Winter I make sure to have warm blankets and plenty of Hot Hands warming packets.
In January of 2014 there was a storm system that hit Atlanta, GA and left thousands of people stranded on interstates. That is what I always think of when I am planning a road trip during the Winter. People like to make fun of southerners saying that we can’t drive in the snow but they don’t seem to understand that we don’t really get snow…we get ice most of the time. This kind of situation could happen anywhere so it is better to be prepared.
If you are looking for a winter road trip check out this post on Stone Mountain Park in Atlanta, GA and plan a trip to take your kids tubing at Snow Mountain!
3. Have a cell phone and extra battery power.
There is usually no way to know how long you will be stranded if something does happen. It could be a minor fender bender on the freeway or a blizzard. Be sure to have a battery pack with you. We use this one that also has the option to be recharged using solar power and it works great!
4. Keep an extra set of car keys.
If you have never lost your keys or locked them in your car…good for you! If you have then you know that it can ruin a day very quickly. Waiting for a roadside maintenance crew to unlock your car could take hours. I now keep an extra set at home as well as a key in a magnetic lock box underneath my car. Not in the wheel well…pick somewhere that everyone doesn’t think of!
5. Identification and Documentation
Be sure to have your drivers license and insurance cards with you on any trip. Also, if you have any roadside assistance with your insurance company be sure to have the phone number programmed in your cell phone or written down and easily accessible.
Make a list of phone numbers for family and friends to keep in your glove compartment as well as on you if possible. I also recommend keeping the information for your destination with you as well as giving it to all family members.
6. Cash and Credit Card
I always have at least an extra $50 cash and an emergency credit card locked in the glove compartment on road trips. You never know when you are going to have a flat tire or other emergency vehicle issues. While I don’t recommend running up a credit card bill you can’t afford, this is a safer way to travel with extra funds. If for any reason it is lost or stolen it can be cancelled. You do not have that luxury if you lose cash.
7. Fuel up often.
I never let our gas get lower than one quarter tank. We have been on long stretches of road with no gas station for many, many miles. We have cut it very close before. Never again! We try to stop at travel centers where we can fill up, everyone can have a bathroom break, stretch their legs and grab a snack if need be.
Use apps like GasBuddy to help you find the closest gas station or the most affordable one if there are plenty to choose from. You can also sign up for their free “Pay with GasBuddy” service and receive a discount every time you purchase gas!
8. Make hotel reservations.
If you are on a long road trip and know you will need to stop for the night, decide where and make a reservation. I never thought this was important until recently. I’ve made many trips and never had an issue but the one time I did it was awful.
I had a business trip planned where I would be spending 2 weeks alone in Connecticut (my least favorite place ever by the way). I drove up so I would have my own car and be able to leave the hotel if I wanted to. I was miserable for the first week. By Thursday night I had bought plane tickets for my husband and daughter and they arrived late Friday night. We had a great week and left the following Friday after my training. I was so ready to get home that I wanted to drive as far as I could. We drove all the way to Virginia and started looking for somewhere to stop. We finally found somewhere with availability an hour later but by that time we were all exhausted and miserable.
I wish we had made a definite plan! We now use Booking.com to make even our last minute reservations!
9. Never completely trust GPS.
I always use the map on my iPad to map out our trip and take screenshots of all areas we will be in that are not major highways. GPS units are not always correct and completely up to date. It is better to have an image of an accurate map that you can access without internet access if necessary.
10. Take entertainment for children.
A road trip can be great fun for kids with the right tools. Without them, it can seem like the longest car ride of your life. Children can be very distracting which is unsafe for driving. Our daughter loves things like scavenger hunts and mad libs. The Everything Kids’ Travel Activity Book is the perfect place to start for keeping the little ones entertained.
I would love to hear about any tips you have for road trips!
Favorite tips for occupying children? Supplies you never leave home without?
Let me know!