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Summer Travel: 5 Tips for a Safe and Smart Road Trip

It’s time for a road trip. For most of us, it’s probably past time. Wanderlust is likely an understatement after a year of lockdowns and quarantines, so what are you waiting for? 

Many people are flying again, but there’s nothing like a good road trip, and it’s a great option if you’re still worried about COVID, too. Plus, you don’t have to go to the usual busy tourist traps. You can make your own map and find some hidden gems that you can enjoy without all the hustle and bustle of the post-pandemic crowds.

Well, before you go driving off into the great unknown, you should probably do a little planning. Spontaneity is great until you find yourself on the road, looking in vain for a “vacancy” sign because you forgot to make reservations. Or until you take a wrong turn and find yourself out in the middle of nowhere with a flat tire because you hit a pothole you didn’t see until it was too late.

The point is, a little preparation can go a long way, and it’s important to stay safe when you’re away from home. How do you do that? Read on for five ways to do just that.

Take The Weather Into Account

You might think that bad weather’s mostly a wintertime thing, but you shouldn’t discount the kind of problems that can occur in the summer. Summer thunderstorms and flash floods aren’t uncommon in Arizona and across the Southwest. 

Plus, it’s hot out there. Did you know Death Valley reached 130 degrees Fahrenheit in early July? You may not be headed there, but temperatures frequently hit triple digits across the desert Southwest, so it’s good to be prepared. (This is especially true as high temperatures are breaking records across the country in 2021.)

Start by downloading a reliable weather app that can let you know what to expect 10 to 14 days beforehand. The forecast won’t be perfect, but it will give you a rough idea of what it’ll be like where you’re going. 

Keep Your Cool — Literally

To combat the heat, take along plenty of water so you can stay hydrated: Aim for two to four glasses an hour. Avoid alcohol and drinks with high sugar content, and it should go without saying, but choose a sandwich or salad over a hot meal. If you’re staying at a motel overnight, pop some water in the freezer to keep it cold as long as possible once you hit the road again.

If you’re going to be out in the sun, wear sunscreen and light-colored clothing that reflects the sun, and cotton that breathes. Sunglasses, too. For headgear, a wide-brimmed hat that shields your head and is made from straw or a breathable fabric. A heavy hat can trap heat and lead to overheating and exhaustion. The risk of heatstroke isn’t something to take lightly.

For your car, bring some extra coolant just in case you need it.

Prepare Your Ride For The Road

Speaking of your car (or truck, or SUV, or whatever you’re driving), give it a full once-over before you leave. 

Have the oil changed, even if it’s not quite due. It’s no fun having the “check oil” light start flashing in the middle of a trip, especially when it’s hot or humid out. No one wants to face the prospect of wasting a few hours finding an oil-change business and then waiting around. That’s not how anyone should spend a vacation. It’s better to have your own mechanic (whom you trust) back home check it before you leave.

In addition to the oil, check the tires for worn tread, bulging sidewalls, and uneven wear. Do this far enough in advance that, if you need new ones, you can have them put on. The same goes for your brakes. Even if you don’t need new tires, have them rotated before you go.

Be Ready For Emergencies

Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst — so the saying goes. It’s good advice for any road trip. Go expecting to have fun, but don’t ignore the possibility that things can go wrong, even if Murphy’s Law isn’t fully in effect.

Even if you’ve had your vehicle checked and serviced, things can still go wrong, so be sure to have a car emergency kit on hand just in case. A spare tire with a jack and lug wrench to change it are musts. So are jumper cables, a flashlight, and a tow strap in case you get stuck. 

It’s not a bad idea to have roadside assistance, either, in case something happens that’s beyond your abilities. It’s available through insurance companies and RV clubs.

Know what to do, too, if you’re in an accident, especially if it involves another motorist. Be sure to take pictures, exchange information, and know what to tell your insurance company.

Protect Your Health

Even though vaccines had helped ease the COVID crisis, disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizers can reduce the risk of other easily transmissible germs, too. If you’re planning to drive winding mountain roads, motion sickness pills can help prevent queasiness. A full first-aid kit is a good idea, too. It should include the following:

  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Aspirin
  • Bandages
  • Gauze
  • Oral thermometer
  • Scissors
  • Tweezers

Check with the Red Cross for a complete list.

Bonus Tip! Don’t Forget The Odds and Ends

A few other things you might want to consider taking include:

Getting back on the road can be a safe, fun way to start traveling again. In fact, a lot of what we’ve learned over the past year about safety and preparedness can pay off big time when it comes to planning our next adventure. 

Are you planning to take a road trip this summer or fall? Let us know in the comments at the bottom of this page! We’d love to hear about your travels.

About the author: Molly Barnes is a full-time digital nomad, exploring and working remotely in different cities in the US. She and her boyfriend Jacob created the website Digital Nomad Life to share their journey and help others to pursue a nomadic lifestyle.

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