4 Tips for a Memorable and Safe Road Trip

Posted in July 10th, 2015
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Despite air travel getting cheaper and safer every year, Americans still prefer hitting the road for vacations. Memorable road trips require a balance of spontaneity and due diligence before departure. You don’t want the excursion to be so mapped out that you’re following a daily schedule while on vacation, but potential issues to an extended road trip are preventable with a little effort and planning. Here are four tips to maximize your summertime fun:

Vehicle Inspection

A great road trip can quickly morph into a nightmarish disaster when mechanical issues strike. Minimize the chance of breaking down on the road by using a little common sense before take off.

Change or check your oil, air filter, spark plugs and radiator coolant before you leave, no matter how long it has been since they were last serviced. These are particularly important steps if you’re taking your vehicle to mountainous, desert or climates and terrains it normally does not encounter. If these parts are working well, the temperature under the hood should remain cool, which dramatically decreases the chances of a thermal breakdown.

Do the penny test on your tires. Place a one cent piece upside down into your tire treads. If Abraham Lincoln’s head is completely blocked from view by the tread, your tires are OK. Otherwise, purchase a new set or at least replace the worst two tires and rotate the others. Also make certain the air pressure is at or near the manufacturer’s suggested level.

Dash Camera

If you’re heading for the Pacific Coast Highway, the mountains of Wyoming or some other scenic area for the first time, it can be hard to keep your eyes on the road. Reaction times are already measured in seconds while driving, which means the driver needs to find a way to pay close attention to the road and not the scenery. A dash cam is the perfect way to record your memories forever and keep you safe while creating them.

A $15 to $20 dash mount instantly turns your smartphone into a dash cam. Smartphones like the HTC One M9 come with 20-megapixel cameras, which are sure to provide high-quality moving and still images. And there are plenty of apps, such as DailyRoads Voyager, that give you complete control of your recording experience.

However, running a camera constantly (particularly with the battery charger connected and the sun beaming through the windshield) can heat your phone up quickly and run the risk of a malfunction. A 12v dashboard fan pointed directly at your phone can mitigate the high temperatures enough for smooth, uninterrupted recording.

Road Atlas

A 2015 survey by Adobe and Keynote found that 81 percent of smartphone owners said they use GPS and map apps regularly. Although you may be used to these guides, road trips are much more fun and engaging when you navigate the old-fashioned way. Pick up a few road atlases before heading out. Kids especially appreciate being able to see exactly where they are going. Road maps help children develop a sense of direction and also make geography fun to learn. Plus, there are still many scenic and less-traveled routes that do not register on even the most up-to-date GPS apps.

Emergency Preparation

Traveling cross country means unfamiliar roads, abrupt weather changes and even acute injuries and illnesses. Never let your gas tank drop below one-quarter under any circumstances. Make certain to pack jumper cables, flares, first-aid kit and a gallon of water for each person, or purchase a pre-made road safety kit. Check in with a friend or family member via phone or email at least once per day so someone knows you are safe and not stranded somewhere.

Road trips are as American as apple pie and baseball. A little preparation allows you to enjoy the freedom and liberty of cross-country vacations with minimal stress and worry.