The summer travel season is just around the corner and you’ll be planning a road trip soon if you haven’t started already. With any “luck” your road trip will go off without a hitch and everyone will come back wishing that it would never end and wanting more.
But sometimes, the end to an epic summer road trip comes earlier than expected because of car problems, weather events beyond our control, or just plain ol’ bad luck.
Prepare for the worst and expect the best. Didn’t your mother ever tell you that?
Here are a few road trip tips to help you prepare for that first summer road trip and ensure that it’s a great experience.
Do an auto insurance audit
Most car owners have no idea what their auto insurance policy covers. The truth is, once you find the best policy for your needs you rarely think about it after the policy is in place.
Of course, when disaster strikes – or just a bout of bad luck – the first thing that crosses your mind is likely “I wonder if this covered?”
So take the uncertainty out of the equation for your summer road trip and ask your agent for an auto insurance audit so that you know what is covered, what is not, and how to best protect yourself before you hit the road.
Here are a few key questions to get you started:
- Do you have Comprehensive coverage? If you do not, the damage from a mid-summer hail storm may not be covered. Ouch!
- Are all drivers covered by your policy? What if the kids or a friend might be driving, will they be covered?
- If you break down, are towing and a rental car covered? Car repairs AND a loaner for a few days could really hurt that fun budget!
- What about flat tires or running out of gas? Does your policy provide for those circumstances? If not, you better know your way around a lug nut.
If you’ve always been the trip planner in your family, why not elevate your game by preparing for the unknown. Just think how impressed everyone will be when you have an answer for anything that pops up. An ounce of prevention, as the saying goes.
Do a vehicle check before you leave
It’s not just your coverages that need a closer look. Your car is often an after-thought because she just “runs so damn well” but it’s better to be prepared and give the ol’ girl a little TLC before you put her to a 1,200 mile test.
Give your mechanic a call and schedule a wellness check for your vehicle. Most garages and dealerships offer the service as a courtesy if you get an oil change or other standard service.
Here are some of the things you should ask them to check:
- Check the spare tire for wear and pressure. Nothing worse that getting a flat only to discover that the little Mickey Mouse spare is low on air as well.
- Check hoses and belts for wear as well as the brakes, fluids, and tire pressure. It’s better to make easy repairs before they become expensive ones.
- Check the performance of your windshield wipers. If you live in the dry desert southwest it may have been nearly a year since you’ve used them. You don’t want to discover that they’ve dry rotted rendering them useless as you follow a big rig up the windy section of the mountain in a rainstorm just before midnight. That would be a real bummer and it happens.
- Be sure to pack the essentials so that you can make basic repairs on the road yourself or tough it out while you wait for service. These items can come in handy if you break down in the boonies.
- Fix a Flat – It’s like a miracle in a can if you have one handy.
- Pocket Knife – A multi-tool is even better but both can help solve a ton of small challenges.
- Water – Never thought about carrying extra? You should, because it takes up little space and will be vital in hotter climates if you’re waiting for help to arrive.
- Blankets – You may not think of cold weather trips in the summer but many of the best vacation spots are at higher elevations and the nights can be bitter cold above 10,000 feet. So be prepared with a blanket or two.
- Flash Light – It is always wise to carry a flash light and with the new LED lights available, the brightest light can be provided by a small enough flash light that fits in a pocket or driver’s side panel. Always make sure that your battery(ies) are fresh before leaving the house.
- Car chargers for phone, tablet, laptop – Most people will leave home without their children before they forget that cell charger, but it warrants a reminder anyway. Charging on the go can save you time and make the trip move along more smoothly.
- Portable power supply – Never considered a portable power source? There are a number of options available on the market that not only provide portable power but also include small compressors, built in lights, and some can even be used to jump-start a dead battery.
- Flares – It is always a good idea to carry either a few road flares or even reflective triangles, to put along side your car should you need to be parked on the shoulder for any length of time. This little bit of added safety protection allows other drivers on the road to clearly see that you are parked and possibly disabled.
- GPS – There are many options today with the availability of dedicated GPS systems, smart phones, and even, dare we mention, the old school, paper folded maps. Having your trip mapped out in advance can better ensure a safe and sane experience. Both logistics and safety can be prepared for, with respects to gas, lodging, and current road conditions. For those with electric cars, having knowledge as to where charger stations are is absolutely paramount to getting to your desired destination.
- AAA – Being a card carrying member for over 15 years, I can, with first hand experience provide a living testament to the value of roadside service. When speaking with a representative of AAA, be sure to ask what is included in your coverage, and if affordable, always upgrade your membership to include the up to 100 tow service. Towing services can be quite expensive, and, invariably, a breakdown can leave you in very remote areas.
If you want your summer road trip to be an epic adventure that the entire family remembers and talks about until the next one, you need to plan for it. A little thought before you leave can help you avoid what would otherwise be the “disastrous trudge of 2014”.
And no one wants that.