Are you one of those people who feel that half the fun of going on a road trip is researching all about it and making the plans?
Then don’t let all of your best-laid plans go to waste with a mishap with your vehicle. We’ll share the best ways to guarantee a safer road trip — including what to pack in your car trip emergency kit — and which tips can actually lower your car insurance.
By the way, for those still unsure of where to go on a road trip, you can begin by using the Discover Bit travel directory to find tourist attractions near you. Here is how best to use the travel directory.
How to Prepare Your Car for a Road Trip
If the covid-19 pandemic has caused you to be at home or work from home, you may need to do some extra TLC to prep your vehicle for a road trip.
Whatever the degree of checking out your car needs, it should be done at least a few weeks before your road trip in case any major problems need to be repaired.
Getting Road Trip Ready Post-COVID
While you may be able to take care of car concerns yourself, it’s best to have your road trip vehicle checked thoroughly by a professional.
Also, if it has been all quiet on the car-driving front during quarantine, we’ll point what to pay special attention to among the items that should always be checked before a road trip:
Air Conditioning: A malfunctioning A/C can not only make a road trip miserable, but it could lead to safety issues if you’re distracted by having to constantly wipe away perspiration or having it drip into your eyes. Have your mechanic check for the possibility of a clogged air filter, a blown fuse, bad clutch, or a leak, and repair as soon as possible.
Air Filter: Ask your mechanic to check and clean the filter if necessary, since a clogged filter can’t keep particles and debris from entering your engine.
Battery: Have a mechanic check for corrosion, leaks, and a swollen battery case. If your battery is older than three years, or you’ve had any problems starting your car, it’s best to get a new battery.
And If your car has been in COVID mode — i.e., if you haven’t driven at least 15 minutes every two weeks or so — you may need a jumpstart, a charge, or even a new battery. That’s a vehicle’s “exercise” schedule to help maintain the battery’s charge and keep all the components properly lubricated so they’ll run smoothly.
Brakes: Have your mechanic check the brake pads, especially if you’ve noticed any issues such as funny noises. Worn brake pads can make braking dangerous. Brake pad replacement is called for anywhere between 25,000 to 70,000 miles, determined by factors including your make and model as well as your driving style.
Cleanliness (Inside): If you haven’t used your car in a while, it’s time to wipe away all that dust and grime so you’re not squinting through a grimy windshield or breathing in dust particles when you turn on your vents.
Cleanliness (Outside): If your car has been sitting around for a while, it’s time for a serious car wash, especially if you don’t have a garage or use a car cover. In addition to your windows and mirrors needing to be clear, water stains or debris, such as bird droppings, left on your vehicle can work their way into the paint and damage your exterior.
Fluids: Get the proper levels of brake fluid, coolant, power steering fluid, radiator coolant, transmission fluid, and windshield washer fluid to help you avoid mechanical problems.
Fuel: Top off your tank with fresh fuel or add a fuel stabilizer additive to keep the existing fuel in your tank from going bad and affecting your car’s performance.
Lights: Have the mechanic check that your headlights and taillights are fully functioning, as driving in the evening with dim headlights is not only illegal but also dangerous.
Tires: Since a tire blowout is one of the most common car problems on a road trip, have a mechanic check for tears and punctures that could cause your tire to lose air.
Also, have them check on tire tread. Consider replacing your tires if the treads have a depth of 4/32 inches or less for wet road conditions and 5/32 for snow-covered roads. If the treads have a depth of 2/32 or lower, they are legally bald and you need to replace those tires immediately.
And if you haven’t taken your car out for semi-regular spins, check the pressure and condition of your tires. A car parked in the same spot for a long time can cause tires to lose air pressure and the weight of the car pressing down on the tires causes flat spots on the segments sitting on the ground.
Hopefully, your car hasn’t been idle for such an extended period that the underinflated tires caused permanent flat spots, as driving the car and adding air usually makes the tires round again. Otherwise, your smooth ride will be riddled with bumps, thumbs, and vibration due to ineffective tires, and you’ll have to incur the cost of replacing them.
Wipers: Have your wiper blades replaced if they make noise or streak so you won’t have visibility issues.
What to Pack for a Road Trip
Just as with your car vehicle prep, there will be extra items on your checklist to help you more safely deal with this inching-toward-post-COVID time. We’ll list those as well as what to have in your car on any road trip to stay safe.
Road Trip Supplies Post-COVID
Retain the lessons you learned on how to keep your car coronavirus-free.
Reduce your chances of getting any infection by continuing to be mindful of cleaning frequently touched car surfaces: door handles, wiper and turn signal stalks, grab handles, armrests, cup holders, seat adjusters, steering wheel, shift lever, touch screens, and any buttons.
Luckily, the COVID-related items you’ll want to take with you don’t take up a lot of space:
b) Sanitizing wipes
c) Hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol
You may also want to bring your own soap (a liquid dispenser is most convenient) in case a restroom you use on the road isn’t properly supplied. When you use the restroom, sanitize your hands before touching your car keys or door handles after leaving the facilities.
When you’re refilling at a gas station, wipe down the handles and buttons at the pumps before you touch them, or sanitize your hands immediately after.
You’ll also want sanitizing wipes to wipe down hotel surfaces or seats and facilities before using them.
Pack Car Kits for your Road Trip
While no one can plan for every eventuality, packing a few car kits can increase your chances of having a safer and more successful road trip.
Feel free to print or copy this chart to your phone as a handy reference.
Pack the Right Snacks
When you pack for a road trip, bring more snacks and beverages than you think you will need. Bring a cooler for cold items. You’ll save the hassle of getting off and back on the road when you want a snack, and you’ll also save money.
Staying well-hydrated and eating healthy snacks will also help keep you alert so you’ll drive safer.
The best healthy snacks for a road trip are whole or dried fruit, protein bars, rice cakes, almonds, cashews, carrots, celery, crackers, popcorn, string cheese, and trail mix.
Eat these in place of fast food, candy, chips, and spicy fare, which don’t make for good driving. These foods can make you feel sluggish; offer a temporary energy burst followed by an energy crash, cause bloating and leave a greasy mess on your steering wheel, and raise your temperature and lead to too many detours to find a restroom.
The best healthy beverages? In addition to regular water, try seltzer, 100% vegetable juice, and 100% fruit juice. Drink boxes are most convenient.
Steer clear of fizzy drinks like sodas and sparkling water, as the bubbles can lead to symptoms like upset stomach, nausea, and gas, which can distract your focus from driving.
While you might think high-calorie energy drinks are a good idea, they’re not: The quick energy spike will lead to an energy crash, and the outrageous amounts of sugar won’t make you feel your best, either.
And do we even need to say it? No alcohol when driving. More on that later.
Other Items to Pack
People are usually pretty good about packing clothes and toiletries, but road trip essentials that people always forget are the very unexciting but very useful ones involving your clothes.
Since you don’t have your entire closet at your disposal, pack a stain remover stick to blot up messes so you can wear your limited wardrobe more than once. Also, bring a laundry bag to keep your soiled clothes separate from your clean ones.
The safety factor comes into play here if you have to divert from your plans and enter unfamiliar areas or crowded places to resupply due to wardrobe malfunctions.
Another road trip essential that most people forget nowadays is having a paper map as a backup. We’re a connected society, but there are still a surprising amount of areas in which you can’t get a connection, making your GPS and your cellphone useless.
You don’t want to be out in the middle of nowhere with no cell service and no idea of where you’re going.
Other items that many people also forget to bring that can impact their safety are prescription medications, sunglasses, and a UV sunshade.
Car Insurance for a Road Trip
So, you think you’re all set? What if something happens to your car on your road trip?
Do you have proper car insurance coverage for a road trip?
Planning for emergencies is an essential part of preparing for a road trip, so make sure you’re properly protected when it comes to your car insurance.
While there’s no specific “road trip insurance”, make sure your insurance is up to date and you should have a good idea of what type of coverage you have.
For example, liability insurance is in every basic auto insurance policy, and that will cover damages made to another vehicle during an at-fault accident.
If you also have collision insurance, you’ll be covered if you damage your vehicle. And if you have comprehensive insurance, you’ll be covered for problems caused outside of a collision, such as falling objects, fire, flood, hitting an animal, theft, and vandalism.
If you have a car loan or lease, you don’t need to worry about additional coverage, since collision and comprehensive insurance is a lender requirement.
But if you want to take advantage of the option to add them, it doesn’t have to be permanent. You can temporarily add coverage for the length of your road trip. Talk to your insurance agent about your timeline and the states you’re traveling to so they can advise you on the right amount of coverage.
Whatever your coverage, be sure you have your car insurance contact information with you in case you run into any trouble.
Purchase a Roadside Assistance Plan
Your car toolkit can be a great help, but there’s no guarantee you won’t run into a repair that’s more than minor, like changing a tire, or more than what you’re capable of taking care of.
A roadside assistance plan is great for peace of mind, and it can be a lifesaver. If you don’t have roadside assistance coverage, get it squared away before you leave. Otherwise, you’ll be susceptible to being taken advantage of and charged exorbitant prices if you need a tow and repairs.
The optimal program you’re looking for would include towing, battery services, flat tire replacements, fuel deliveries, lockout services, on-site repairs, and winching.
Roadside Assistance Options for Your Road Trip
Although AAA may be the most well-known regarding roadside assistance, there are many such programs from which to choose — including your car insurance company, which can provide roadside assistance as an add-on and is usually very affordable.
The best roadside assistance programs from major auto insurers are Allstate, Geico, Nationwide, Progressive, State Farm, and USAA.
And other than AAA, standalone roadside assistance programs are also offered by AARP, Better World Club, CARCHEX, OnStar, and Paragon Motor Club, as well as by some companies that may surprise you, such as American Express and Verizon.
Each program offers not only different pricing but also different coverages and restrictions. Check what your own insurance provides and compare their quote and coverage with other programs to pick what best suits your needs.
If your roadside assistance plan isn’t with your insurer, have that contact information with you as well.
How to Behave on a Road Trip
It’s road trip time! You want to let your hair down, let it all hang out, forget your troubles . . . all of which is understandable. But for you and your vehicle to stay safe, you can have fun — within some limits of responsibility and etiquette.
Keep Your Vehicle Safe
Who wants to file a claim for items stolen from your car, or even worse, a stolen car, while you’re out of your element away from home on a road trip?
Make your vehicle as theft-deterrent and uninteresting as possible. Remember those common-sense tips: Keep your doors locked and your windows closed. Keep anything you leave in the car well stowed and hidden. Park in well-lit, easily-seen areas. Keep your car neat.
Also, there are several great anti-theft devices such as steering wheel locks or LoJacks. One considered among the best devices is a GPS tracker that alerts you or the police as to your vehicle’s position after it’s stolen. Installing that in your car can also lead to a discount with your insurance company.
Be extra vigilant in the top 10 states for vehicle theft: Washington D.C, California, New Mexico, Nevada, Washington, Hawaii, Alaska, Utah, Colorado, and Oregon.
Combat Drowsy Driving
Breaks from the road are important for your own safety, health, and level of alertness. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), a driver is three times more likely to be involved in an accident if they are fatigued.
So taking breaks is also important for keeping your car insurance rate low. Causing an accident while falling asleep at the wheel can cause a drastic increase in your auto insurance rates. Someone with a clean driving record paying an average of $260 a month for car insurance could have that raised to $342 a month with just one accident.
And if you fall asleep at the wheel due to the influence of alcohol or other substances, then your insurance probably won’t pay for the damages. That $260 average a month for a clean driving record would spike to $410 a month with one DUI conviction.
So don’t risk driving tired. A good rule of thumb to help your endurance and reaction time is to stop every two hours for at least 15 minutes. Get out of the car to stretch your legs and to keep on top of engine, tires, and fluid checks.
Other tips for avoiding highway hypnosis include getting a good night’s rest, heading out early in the day, keeping the car temperature on the cool side, playing your own version of carpool karaoke with your favorite tunes, and adjusting your seat, headrest, and any lumbar support so you’re sitting up straight in that driver’s seat.
Combat Distracted Driving
You’ll also stay safer on the road by decreasing distractions. As the Auto Alliance, a manufacturers’ trade group notes, the odds of a crash double if your eyes are off the road for more than two seconds.
The main culprit? Your cellphone.
Note that text messaging for all drivers is banned in 48 states. In 25 states, drivers are prohibited from using handheld cellphones while driving.
Penalties for using your cellphone while driving vary from state to state. Expect at least a fine if you’re caught sending a text while driving. It’s considered a moving traffic violation and may be a criminal misdemeanor in certain jurisdictions.
A ticket for distracted driving on your motor vehicle report will most likely cause your insurance rate to rise when you renew. You’ll pay for that lapse in judgment for as long as that ticket stays on your driving record, usually three years.
So put your phone on silent or do not disturb mode, or use safety apps to help you keep from paying attention to your phone.
Text your heart out — and take care of other driving distractions like eating and drinking — when you take your driving breaks, helping yourself from taking your focus off of the road.
Have Patience and Have Fun
A safe and successful road trip is also achieved by having the right frame of mind.
You’ll have a better and safer road trip the faster you realize that all of those appealing, dreamily-lit, open-road car commercials are distanced from reality — especially this year.
Post-pandemic road travel is skyrocketing. That open road is going to be filled with more cars and especially more RVs, according to responses from a survey conducted by Harvest Host. The RV membership program has declared 2021 “The Year of the Road Trip,” as 60% of the respondents plan to travel by road more this year than they did pre-pandemic.
So keep that road rage in check, which will be easier to do when you follow the tips on what to bring with you and how to stay alert.
And take a few more calming breaths and make a few more extra stops in these top 5 states known for having the worst traffic: California, Texas, Florida, New York, and Ohio.
You’ll want to prep even more for patience mode if you’re road-tripping in the top 10 states with the worst drivers: Alaska, New Mexico, Montana, Texas, Colorado, Nevada, Hawaii, South Carolina, Delaware, and Arkansas.
Now that you’ve done all you can to have the most trouble-free and worry-free road trip possible, get out there and enjoy as many interesting American tourist attractions as you can fit into your schedule.Tags: Car checklist for a road trip How to get your car road trip ready Road trip road trip essentials travel tips