It’s that time of year again. The kids are out of school, and that lakeside cabin two states away beckons. You and the family are eager to hit the road – but are you really ready for the unexpected?
When most Americans take to the highways for a driving vacation, they take along extra clothing, some bottles of water, and perhaps a few sandwiches. They might use a map or a GPS device, or perhaps neither. If something unanticipated occurs, they figure they can just pull off the road at the next gas station or fast food restaurant and the problem is solved. If major troubles occur, though, this level of planning can prove tragically inadequate.
Before You Leave
Take time to do some basic travel planning before you set out, so you can be prepared for whatever happens. Here are some tips to help you be prepared.
-Check the weather forecast for the length of your trip. Online weather websites can be a big help in this regard. This step is especially important if you will be traveling during either the winter or the spring/summer tornado season, depending on your location, route, and destination.
-Get a decent road-map for all portions of your route. Don’t be totally dependent on a GPS device as these can malfunction, leaving you lost and confused. If you don’t understand how to read a map, learn how. In a crisis, your life could depend on it.
-Tell a friend or family member where you are going, when you are leaving, and when you expect to return. Leave word of who to contact in case you do not return on time. This is particularly important if you are traveling alone. Bring your cell phones and chargers along, and charge up before you go.
Prepare Your Car, Keep your Family Safe
Make sure your car is in good running order before you leave.
-Check your tires for signs of wear, and add air if the pressure is low.
-Check your oil and coolant levels, and if your car is older, bring along containers of both in case you develop a leak far from a service station.
-It’s a good idea to have your mechanic look things over if your car is very old or has had any major problems in the past – and tell him of your plans so he can evaluate the car in proper context.
-Check the door latches and locks to ensure they are working properly, as well as seat belt buckles.
-If your trip involves travel to rural areas, pack a first aid kit.
-Consider purchasing a portable, rechargeable power supply with jump starting and air compressor capabilities. Prices have come down a lot on these and they store well in your trunk. Most come with emergency lights and jumper cables, and could save you a costly tow.
-It’s a good idea to bring along plenty of drinking water, especially if you will be on the road during hot weather. For winter trips, extra layers of clothing could prove vital, as could warm blankets, a portable emergency stove, and a few days’ worth of freeze-dried instant meals.
Your Family’s Comfort
Pillows and blankets can make for a much more comfortable trip if your will be on the road for long stretches of time. If you will have children with you, be sure to provide various forms of entertainment of the sort that won’t distract your driving, such as books and individual handheld electronic devices with games. Bring plenty of snacks and favorite beverages to avoid excessive requests to stop at every exit.
Don’t Stop for Zombies
It’s fairly unlikely that your vacation will be interrupted by a zombie apocalypse or complete collapse of civilization or comet strike, but the more run-of-the-mill nuisance emergencies are quite common, it is never hurts to be well prepared.
I can personally vouch for the pandemonium which can hypothetically occur – on a cross-country trip when I was a teen, as our family was relocating to another state, one of our two cars lost a tire. I was with my dad, and my mom and sister were in the disabled car. When they rolled to a stop, we didn’t see because we were too far ahead and the sun was just setting.
We waited over an hour at our rendezvous point and finally drove back along the freeway, looking for them (this was long before cell phones existed). We found them, got the tire changed, and finally got back to town where we ate a hasty dinner and collapsed into our motel beds. I was pretty upset by the whole thing, but my parents took it in stride. That whole mess would never happen today, what with cell phone technology. But opportunities for similar fiascoes abound.
Plan ahead, and try to envision potential trouble areas before you leave. Be prepared even for your vacation, and you’ll probably have a smooth trip and fun memories to last a lifetime!