Expert Tips for Summer Road Trips

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Written by Alice Stevens | Last Updated October 30th, 2019
Alice Stevens has managed the health and life insurance content for Best Company since 2018. She’s passionate about conducting good research and understanding the details you need to know about insurance. When she's not writing and researching, she enjoys good food and travel.
Topics: Safety

The last shreds of winter have faded. Spring is here. Summer is just around the corner. For many, summer means hitting the road for a break and vacation time.

Road trips can be both adventurous and exhausting. To ensure the success of your trip, it’s important to plan, prepare, and pack well. Here are some expert tips to help you make this summer’s road trip one to remember:

Planning your trip

Grainne Kelly, Inventor of BubbleBum

“Although a fun summer car trip sounds like it should be a last minute, “wing it” kind of outing, it requires almost the same level of planning and forethought as any other trip — especially during the busy summer travel times. A carefully planned summer car trip is a plan for success. Do your research on the destination of choice, try to choose less hectic times, and make sure lodging is available at the destination and on the way if the trip is longer.

Also confirm that you don’t need tickets in advance. Mapping out your journey is important and you'll want to avoid congested roadways around busy holiday travel days and investigate what events are taking place at each stop along the way so you can allow some extra time.”

Oliver Browne, Credit Industry Analyst for Credit Card Insider

“For any type of trip, budgeting is a necessity. Unless you drive an electric car, gas is likely to be one of your more significant expenses on a summer road trip.

There are several credit cards that have rewards specifically catering to purchases at gas stations, giving you cash back or points every time you’re at the gas pump or stocking up on supplies. There are several gas cards without annual fees, allowing you to earn rewards at no cost, as long as you pay your balance in full and on time.

Rewards are either a cash percentage of your overall purchase or a specific number of points for every dollar you spend on gas. This means if gas prices increase, your rewards will increase.”

Jose Bone, from The Passport Office

“For those planning summer road trips that may leave the states, we'd recommend checking their passports. While sometimes lax border conditions allow this, if someone's passport is within three months of expiring they cannot use it for international travel anywhere. Some attempting to return with a soon to be expiring passport may not be able to reenter the country if the border is strict on that day.”

Preparing your car

Jake McKenzie, Content Manager for Auto Accessories Garage

“Before you leave on your road trip, it’s a great idea to check all of the standard maintenance points of your vehicle. Check that your tires have ample tread on them. Check to see if your air filter, oil filter, and fuel filters need replacing. And possibly most importantly, make sure your tires are properly inflated. Properly inflated tires will save you tons of gas money throughout the course of your road trip.”

Laura Gonzales, Marketing Manager for Mercedes-Benz of Pembroke Pines

“The best way to prevent a break down on a road trip is by taking off in a car that is in good condition. This means you've taken your car in to get checked and get any serious repairs done before you leave. You should also bring an emergency kit in case something does happen. This includes jumper cables, spare tire, fire extinguisher, a tire-pressure gauge, cell phone charger, water, and food.”

Lauren Fix, Automotive analyst

“When the engine is cool, check some of the fluids — engine oil, radiator coolant and windshield washer fluid — and refill or replace them as needed. A certified technician can do this if you don’t want to do it yourself. Follow the service manual if you are unsure about service intervals, don’t just do a change because you are being upsold.

Check the hoses and belts that can become cracked, brittle, frayed and loose, or show signs of excessive wear. These are critical to the proper functioning of the electrical system, air conditioning, power steering, and the cooling system.
   
Check the wipers and lighting so that you can see and be seen. Check that all interior and exterior lighting is working properly and inspect and replace worn wiper blades so you can see clearly when driving during precipitation.”

Packing for your trip

Sam Maizlech, Outdoors and Travel Expert for Glacier Wellness

“Before you head out on your big summer road trip, be sure you're prepared for any emergencies. The first thing to pack is a first-aid kit. Be it a prepackaged kit or a DIY one, make sure you have enough supplies to handle basic first-aid needs, such as gauze, bandages, antibiotic cream, cotton swabs, disposable gloves, and alcohol pads.

Next, be sure to pack an emergency supply of water. Besides for drinking, this water can come in handy if your car overheats. You'll also want to pack a blanket, flashlight, basic tire changing tool kit, jumper cables, and a spare tire. Additionally, it's worth bringing reflectors, reflective rainwear, emergency flares, backup fluids, and some snacks too.”

Mallory Mercer, Lifestyle and Travel Expert at Grapevine Gossip

“You don't want to cram the car with luggage, so if you are going to be on the road for a week take one large suitcase.  Make sure to check the weather of your destination, if you are going somewhere like San Francisco, it can get as low as 40 degrees in the summer. 

Make sure you have enough snacks and road trip games to keep you occupied. And don't forget a garbage bag! Nobody wants to sit in garbage for hours.”

Grainne Kelly, Inventor of BubbleBum

“Make sure you’ve got your car registration and insurance information, car manual, and an extra car key (not on the same ring). Also pack a car charger for your cell phone, maps, first aid kit, extra bottled water, Swiss Army Knife, jumper cables, flashlight, matches/lighter, necessary tools to change a flat tire, and emergency flares. It’s also smart to include travel blankets and plenty of snacks, especially if traveling to remote areas. It's better to be safe than sorry.”

Enjoying the trip

Laura Gonzales, Marketing Manager for Mercedes-Benz of Pembroke Pines

“The first thing you should do when a breakdown occurs is turn your hazard lights on and pull onto the side of the road safely. Call roadside assistance and keep in mind you need to know exactly where your car is located, take a look at the nearest cross street or the exit number if you're on the freeway or interstate.

If you're on a road trip, it's a good idea to ask for the estimated time of arrival. If you're feeling unsafe you can let the operator know or even call 911. If you don't have roadside assistance, you can always look up the nearest towing company or contact the non-emergency number of the local police department.”

Grainne Kelly, Inventor of BubbleBum

“Excitement and anticipation makes heroes of us all sometimes. Acknowledge it, and plan for it. There is nothing worse than arriving at your dream vacation exhausted and grumpy. Include breaks in your plan and arrive ready to enjoy the trip you’ve worked hard for. Rest stops are a good option for a picnic break, but so are smaller towns along the way that are easy to get in and out of, but usually have a local park with a playground for the kids. Pack a frisbee or ball for the family to work off any potential wiggles.

Stopping every three or so hours is a good rule of thumb.  If you have a child (or parent) that suffers from motion sickness, you might want to consider a stop every two hours to get some fresh air.”

Mallory Mercer, Lifestyle and Travel Expert at Grapevine Gossip

“Use a portable essential oil diffuser that plugs into the USB to keep the air smelling amazing and your mood uplifted. Essential oils are proven to have therapeutic benefits. Diffuse citrus oils to keep you energized for your long drive.

Create a killer playlist. You'll need hours upon hours of good tunes so everyone should get to create their own playlists and you can take turns controlling the music.”

Playing it safe

Roadside assistance can be helpful, especially if you’re traveling through more remote areas. If you have an extended warranty, check to see if your policy includes 24/7 roadside assistance.

For more road trip advice, check out Your Parking Space's article about road trips. 

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