There’s no vacation quite as romanticized as the cross-country road trip. Windows down, sun shining, music blasting … now it’s your turn to hit the open road, just like they do in the movies.
Unfortunately, not all vacations play out like they do on the silver screen. You never know just what will happen while you’re behind the wheel, but you can do your best to inform yourself and prepare for any hiccups along the way. Of course, that’s a pretty broad range of scenarios, which is why we’ve gathered the following five tips to help you should something go awry on your next road trip.
1. Plan For: Your Car Breaking Down
The best way to prevent a car malfunction is to take your ride in for a preventative check-up before you hit the road. Mechanics might find you need a quick tune-up or fluid refresh … or they might find something that will sidetrack your entire trip. Either way, you’ll be glad you went to them instead of having them come to save you from the side of the road.
Of course, not all car breakdowns can be prevented, so be prepared for this, too. Pack an emergency kit for your car and make sure your phone is charged so that you can call said mechanics, AAA or a tow truck, should you need one.
2. Plan For: Loss of GPS Signal
Your road trip will take you to new places, some of which might be so remote that cell service doesn’t reach. This is great if you plan on using your road trip as a way to unplug, but not so great if you plan to use your phone’s GPS to guide you along the way. Always have a backup travel map with your route marked just in case you get lost. Check in with it from time to time, too, just so you know where you are just in case something goes awry.
3. Plan For: Getting Pulled Over
The dreaminess of the open road can cause you to get carried away and push the pedal to the metal without even realizing it, until you see blue lights in your rearview mirror. The best way to prepare for being pulled over is to double-check you have your license and registration on you before you get going.
It’s also advisable to invest in auto insurance. In fact, some states require you have it. If you get in an accident, driving without car insurance could result in fines of up to $1,000.
4. Plan For: A Plan B Schedule
You’ve spent so much time planning your dream road trip route … but then real life came into play. Perhaps you got stuck in traffic, or your car broke down, or you stopped a few too many times to go to the bathroom. No matter what it was that got you off track, you’re not quite up to speed on the schedule you have planned.
Depending on the amount of detail on your itinerary, you might have to erase a few planned stops in order to make up for lost time. You might have to update your lodging plans, too. There are apps that can help you find a last-minute hotel, or you can simply rely on lodging options as marked on highway exit signs.
5. Plan For: An Accident
This is great practice for all drivers, not just road trippers — know what to do in case of an accident before it happens. Aside from the emergency kit and insurance information that we’ve already suggested you have, it’s also imperative you know exactly the information you’ll need from the other driver(s) involved.
Keep a cheat sheet in your glove box with blanks for all of the information, such as their name, license number, insurance information, etc. You should also gather witness testimony, have a phone or camera ready to take pictures, and read up on traffic laws so you’re not an offender yourself.
With all of this information in mind, it’s time to hit the road — safely. Preventative and preparative steps will only make your getaway that much more relaxing, so get out there and enjoy. Happy trails!