Whether you’re planning a day trip from Colorado Springs, a brief journey across Colorado or a nationwide expedition, these five summer road trip safety tips will help make sure you actually have fun. Summer time is full of events, trips and things to do that may require you to travel. With airline fares always fluctuating, not to mention the hassle of navigating crowded airports and dealing with constant flight cancellations and delays, a road tip just might be your best bet.
However, nothing will ruin your summer road trip faster than an unexpected breakdown. Sitting out in the middle of nowhere with no idea when or if you will get to finish your vacation is definitely not fun. Fortunately, we can help you improve your adventure outcomes! There’s no way to guarantee your vehicle will be trouble-free. However, you can minimize the chances of a breakdown ruining your vacation. We’re sharing our best road trip tips for safe car travel on your summer vacation.
1. Perform Preventative Maintenance Before Your Summer Road Trip
Honest Accurate Auto Service always emphasizes the importance of performing preventative maintenance. Consistent maintenance is critical to having a safe drive every time you get in the car. It is as important as your seat belts. This rule applies throughout the year, be it a summer car ride, a long daily commute or a brief winter drive.
The fluids in your vehicle breakdown over time. This can cause premature wear to the parts they are designed to protect. Engine coolant will become corrosive and can start to eat away at the plastic and metal components in your coolant system. Brake fluid absorbs water and dirt from the air which can swell seals and cause internal and external leaks. Engine oil and transmission fluid lose their viscosity over time and lose the ability to lubricate and cool effectively.
Before heading on your summer road trip, make an appointment for service. We recommend that you schedule your service at least a few weeks before you leave. That way, you will have time to make adjustments if there is a larger issue that needs to be addressed. Road trips are also a good reason to check out your fuel efficiency, tire pressure and overall tire health and vehicle alignment. Traveling at high speeds requires all of these systems to perform at their best.
In the summer, it’s also important to test your air conditioning system before you leave. Just because your AC worked last summer doesn’t mean it still does. You don’t want to find out it doesn’t while traveling in Colorado hot spots like Pueblo, the Great Sand Dunes, Mesa Verde National Park or pretty much anywhere in the state east or south of Colorado Springs. It goes without saying that you won’t want to even enter states like Arizona or Florida without AC.
2. Create a Road Trip Plan to Prepare for Any Challenges
Creating a road trip plan is about more than simply stockpiling your favorite snacks (which is also important). Trip planning helps reduce stress and prevent minor obstacles from becoming major roadblocks. Here are our top points to consider in your planning.
Know Your Road Trip Route
Most of the time you will know where you are starting and stopping from day to day. However, you should also take a few minutes to study the surrounding areas on a map. Construction, accidents, and detours are going to happen so having some knowledge of the route could come in handy. Plan out your fuel stops based on mileage so you don’t get caught between gas stations with an empty tank. Never take the gamble that the next stop will have gas if your car is running low. You may discover the station is closed, out of business or even out of fuel.
Tell Someone Where You Are Going
Always make sure someone knows where you are going and will know to call for help if you don’t show up or check in. Provide an estimated time of arrival to your destination and remember to inform your contact if you decide to stop and spend three hours checking out the World’s Largest Ball of Yarn or some other roadside attraction. Consideration of your emergency safety contact is just one of those good road trip rules.
Have a Plan for Exhaustion
Road trips seem to bring out the urge to push yourself to the limit. That’s not the best idea when you are driving. If you are driving for long periods of time or taking a night road trip, you need to be rested! One of the top driving tips for long road trips is to know when to quit. Note rest stops along your route and while you are driving. If you get tired, pull over safely in one of these locations. It is against the law to sleep in your car on highways or city streets. If you absolutely must park along the highway, remove your key from the ignition and park where your car is highly visible to avoid being hit. Options for safer stops include:
- Rest stops
- Walmart parking lot (may need to ask permission)
- Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land and dispersed camping sites
- Welcome centers or gas station travel centers
Create Alternative Options for Routes and Accommodations
If you’ve ever had the misfortune to show up to a destination and find that your hotel is overbooked, you know just how important it is to plan for that contingency. Similarly, you may be cruising along to your final stop, only to discover an unexpected road closure. In Colorado, your trip could be re-routed by floods, rock slides and mud slides, not to mention traffic or accidents. Have more than one route ready to go. You can track it in the atlas we’re recommending in the next tip.
3. Bring an Atlas or Map on Your Road Trip
We know that advising you to bring an atlas or map on your road trip may sound a little old-fashioned. After all, everyone has cell phones these days. However, having a phone doesn’t mean you have service. If you’ve ever accidentally canceled your route while driving in a dead zone, you probably understand why we have included this tip.
Even a high-end GPS can lose power, have outdated maps or simply provide the wrong route. We’ve had customers directed to drive through lakes or provided routes that go nowhere. If we could make one top tip for long road trips (or life in general) it’s never to rely completely on technology. Always have one of those old-fashioned options available to save the day in the event that your tech malfunctions.
An atlas or map of your destination can help you find alternate routes in an emergency. Living in Colorado, you may find yourself stuck on I-70 or I-25 in major traffic, especially in the summer. An atlas may be able to help you find a faster route to avoid the chaos.
4. Create a Road Trip Emergency Kit
Everyone should have an emergency kit in their vehicle that has some basics.
No matter what you do there are no guarantees that things will go smoothly. Take some additional steps to protect yourself just in case. Always have a good amount of water in your car. Not only for the passengers, but you can also use water in your radiator in place of antifreeze in a pinch.
Ask any mechanic how to be safe on a road trip and minimize challenges. They’ll tell you that you absolutely need to make sure you have all the tools needed to put on your spare tire. This includes a usable spare tire. Don’t assume it’s in the trunk. Take the time to check or ask about it when you have the vehicle serviced.
KEEP IN YOUR CAR:
- Cell phone charger
- Pen and paper
- Spare tire, jack, and lug wrench
- Durable canvas bag for your kit
- Jumper cables
- First aid kit
- Duct tape/bungee cords/twine
- Latex gloves and/or work gloves
- Number or card for roadside assistance
GOOD TO HAVE:
- Safety triangles
- Toiletries and sanitation items
- Paper towels, rags
- Bottled water
- Small tool kit
- Trash bags
- Tow strap or chain
- Emergency battery jumper/charger
- Oil, coolant (water will work), washer fluid
- Flat tire inflation canister (this will make the tire unrepairable, only use if needed)
- Road maps
- Granola, protein bars, energy bars, etc.
- Gas can
- Change of clothes
- Fire extinguisher
- Car escape tool
- Foldable shovel
- Waterproof matches
- Bag of kitty litter or sand
- Tarp or sunshade
Every trip will be different, so customize your kit based on your needs at the time. For more in-depth tips on packing for an emergency, we’ve created a free roadside car emergency kit that you can download online, or pickup in our shop. You can also check out how to travel safely by car in the summer in our handy guide.
5. Have a Great Time on Your Summer Road Trip
Don’t forget to have a great time on your summer road trip. Do not feel intimidated by all of the preparation for your trip or these detailed driving reminders. Managing these details before you go will ensure that you can actually enjoy your drive. Imagine if a flat tire was only a minor inconvenience because you have all the tools you need to change it fast. Or, imagine how easily you can continue to navigate by atlas if your GPS stops working in one of our Colorado mountain passes. By planning ahead, you’re taking worry off of your road trip list and focusing on the fun.
Road trips are a timeless tradition. We’ve got thousands of miles of interstate highways, lonely country roads and exciting downtown districts just waiting to be explored. Allow yourself to enjoy the experience! Stop at those unusual tourist attractions. Buy all those souvenirs you think you don’t need. Visit local restaurants and try new foods.
One of the best reasons to forego other forms of traveling vs. driving is to immerse yourself in your surroundings. Traveling in a car allows you to have control over your adventure. You can stop when you want, where you want and do whatever you choose when you get there. Your favorite airline is not going to be keen on letting you out 35,000 miles above the ground to meet the world’s largest (metal) beetle, nor will they have a killer road trip playlist and all your favorite snacks.
Have a Great Trip!
With all of these summer driving safety tips in your vacation arsenal, it’s time to get in your car and drive! By following our road trip advice and safe driving tips, you will ensure that your vacation is memorable for all the right reasons. Feel free to schedule a pre-trip vehicle inspection, oil change or fuel efficiency check with Honest Accurate before you hit the road. We’ll help you get there safely.