There’s nothing like a good road trip: the thrill of the open road, the anticipation of new sights, sounds and adventures, the joy of meeting locals and fellow travelers along the way.
In all that excitement, it’s easy to forget the cardinal road rules. Here, we give you five simple tips to make sure you get the most of your road trip—and return home in one piece.
Go with the Flow…But Have a Plan
Before you head out, take a bit to think about what you want out of your trip: Are you looking for solitude or is this a group trip? Do you want to see natural beauty, or are you in the mood for nightlife or culture? Perhaps you’re traveling for food, a hobby, or a sports event…or you may simply want to go where the wind blows you.
Having at least some idea of what you want to do will help determine your route, which will help determine how to pack and what to bring. Even if you don’t have a specific destination, it’s smart to share your getaway plans with at least one trusted person. These days, it is easy to share your location via your mobile phone settings or by using apps that allow loved ones to track each others’ locations.
You’ll also need to determine roughly how long you’ll be traveling so you can budget accordingly. Don’t forget to factor in gas (including an extra tank or two for sightseeing, traffic delays, or detours), tolls, lodging, food, and entertainment. If someone is hosting you along the way, it’s also polite to bring a small gift.
Do Your Research
We totally get that part of the fun of road trips is the ability to be spontaneous. But hear us out: taking the time to do even a little research can help maximize fun time, as you never know what wacky roadside attractions or iconic landscapes you may encounter along your route. It’s also important to be at least somewhat familiar with the geopolitical landscape of your destination, especially if you plan to cross international borders. In some areas, out-of-state license plates are a magnet for traffic stops or worse yet, crime. Particularly for female and solo travelers, it is wise to take the time to ask locals and other visitors about the vibe and any areas of town you may want to avoid. Social media groups and message boards for specific towns are a great way to keep up with this.
Get Your Ride Street Ready
Nothing takes the fun out of a road trip quicker than getting pulled over by the cops. Before you roll out, make sure your vehicle registration, inspection, and license plates are up-to-date. You should also swing through the mechanic to get your oil, lights, brakes, tire pressure, and fluids checked.
Wear Your Seatbelt
Once you know you’re definitely street legal, stay that way! You don’t want to be pulled over for not wearing your seatbelt, but more importantly, seatbelts can save your life (or the lives of your passengers). According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 15,000 lives are saved every year in the United States by wearing seatbelts. Wearing your seatbelt as a front-seat passenger can also limit your chances of moderate to fatal injury by 50% and of your chances of dying by 45%.
Finally, you’re on the open road—time to kick back, set the cruise control, and enjoy the ride. And that’s exactly what you should do—enjoy this time—because when it comes to road tripping it’s all about the journey, not necessarily the destination. Program your GPS, get your playlist ready, and place refreshments within easy grabbing distance. Make sure pets are secured in crates or with their own seat belts. Set a notification on your phone that you’re driving and will check messages periodically. And for goodness’ sake, don’t speed or zip in and out of traffic just to gain a few carlengths—you don’t want to be that person.
If the worst does happen and you get in an accident, put your health first and get checked by a doctor immediately. To learn more about how to handle car accidents if they do happen, visit AttorneyGuss.com.