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How to Stay Safe and Sane on Your Next Road Trip

This time of year, you might be trying to combat the freezing temperatures by picturing an upcoming getaway. That’s no surprise, as 37% of families say that vacations make them happy — and taking a trip is a comforting thought when everything is cold and gray. Arguably, there’s no better way to see the sights than an old fashioned road trip. But if you want to make sure you really enjoy the experience and stay safe throughout its duration, you might want to keep the following tips in mind.

Pack a Backup Way to Navigate

Most of us take both transportation and technology for granted. Driving a car probably feels second-nature to you, but our over-reliance on our GPS might make navigating without a device more difficult. Considering that the U.S. is one of the busiest countries in terms of road traffic, with 218 million drivers holding valid licenses, you’ll want to keep distractions to a minimum — and have a plan B in case your phone stops working or you forget the GPS at home. You might not be used to reading a map anymore (or at all, if you grew up in the digital age), but you might want to practice prior to leaving. That way, in case you end up with no cell service or you neglect to pack a car charger, you’ll still be able to figure out where you are and where you need to go.

Bring Some Commonly Overlooked Essentials

When making your checklist of must-brings for your road trip, you might put snacks and great music right at the top. But those definitely aren’t the only necessities you’ll want to keep in mind. Make sure to include some more practical items, including spare jackets, a collapsible cooler, plenty of water, and cash (including change for toll booths). For emergencies, you’ll want to bring along a first aid kit, blankets, and an extra key for your vehicle — just in case you happen to get locked out. You should go ahead and program your roadside assistance number into your phone so you don’t have to sift through everything in your glove compartment. Don’t forget the flares, jumper cables, empty gas can, car fluids, and sunshade. Baby wipes, sunscreen, hand sanitizer, towels, and sunglasses are also good to bring along and will help you be prepared for any situation.

Take Care When Traveling With Pets

If you’re planning on bringing the family dog with you on your trip, you’ll need to take some extra steps to ensure their comfort and safety. You might love the thought of letting your pup roam around in the car, soaking in the fresh air. But on a long car ride, it’s not a good idea. If they get too excited or you’re involved in an accident, they’re more likely to get hurt if they aren’t properly secured. Consider using a hard-sided dog crate or a harness and dog seat belt to ensure your furry friend won’t slide around. Your dog will need to take a break every couple of hours to stretch and to do his business, so you’ll want to plan your route carefully and ensure your dog remains on its leash at all times. You’ll want to provide access to water and food during the journey, as well as bring along medications, vaccination records, blankets, toys, and bags for clean-up. And if your dog isn’t totally comfortable in the car, you’ll need to make an effort to help your pooch practice beforehand. Use your best judgment here, too; if you have doubts about how well your dog might do on a road trip, you might want to consider a less stressful alternative for both humans and canines.

Get an Inspection Before You Set Out

When you plan on driving longer distances, you’ll need to prepare for the worst. Once you’ve scheduled your road trip, get a vehicle inspection to ensure you’ll be in tip-top shape. You might know a thing or two about cars, but it’s probably better to let the professionals handle this one. Have your brakes, coolant levels, windshield wipers, tires (and spare tire), battery, and other essential components looked at before you head out on the open road. The last thing you’ll want is to be stranded in some unfamiliar place on a weekend, with no access to a mechanic. If you’re worried about your car handling the journey, you may want to consider renting a vehicle for your trip to take some of the pressure off and ensure you get to your destination (and back) safe and sound.

Make the Drive Part of the Adventure

Part of the appeal of taking a road trip is the chance to see all the beauty (and weirdness) the country has to offer. Planning to take in roadside attractions, unique eateries, and landmarks along the way can help everyone look forward to the trip and make an otherwise boring ride a lot more exciting. Since 84% of couples who travel together are more likely to communicate well with their partners, take this opportunity to discuss your route with your loved ones or friends. That way, you’ll all get to experience something special and can make incredible memories before you ever arrive at your endpoint. Whether you’re traveling with your partner, a bunch of friends, or the entire family, there’s arguably no better way to take in the sights than on the open highway. Now that you’re armed with these tips, you’ll be able to make your next road trip a healthy and happy one.

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