On any road trip, nobody expects bad things to happen. Eventually, though, there’s a good chance one will happen to you. It’s always a good idea to be prepared for emergencies. It doesn’t take much to lessen the chance that a road trip car problem will derail your entire journey. Throwing a few handy things into your trunk can turn a potential bad luck crisis into a not-such-a-big deal. And, like any good financial planner will tell you, auto (and financial) problems are only a matter of if, not when.
Make An Auto Emergency Kit
Make like a Boy Scout and be prepared. Here are some things to take with you on your road trip:
Coolant – you can’t always count on there being a service station at regular intervals, especially if you’re traveling out west. Something as simple as a jug of coolant can be a real auto life-saver.
Oil (2 quarts) – to keep your engine from blowing up if you have an unforeseen leak (is there any other kind?). Having two quarts of oil will usually be enough for you to get someplace where you can have the problem resolved without killing your vehicle.
Maps and/or an Atlas – you also can’t count on there always being cell service everywhere, even if you do have a smartphone. I know I've been places on the Interstate where cell service drops out (isn't it like a national law or something, that you always have to have a cell signal on an interstate?) Don’t let the phone be smarter than you. Bring something that resembles an actual map. On paper.
Duct Tape – for repairing leaky hoses (not for strapping stuff to your roof). It will buy you time to get to someplace where you can replace it.
A Real Spare Tire – you can get a used tire at the local junkyard. You may say “I’ve already got the spare donut”. Those aren’t recommended for more than 50 miles of driving and you can’t go very fast on them. Having a full-sized spare will keep a flat tire from cramping your style, especially if you’re on a tight schedule.
Assorted Tools – simple stuff like a screwdriver, pliers, and even a coat hanger. You never know what handy use you can find for a simple thing like a coat hanger. Until you really need something like that and you don’t have it.
Other Handy Tips For A Smooth Trip
Enough emergency talk, we're supposed to be thinking about fun here. One of the great things about a road trip is the potential. You can really do whatever you want - if you allow yourself to consider that. Here are some handy tips that you might not have thought of with respect to any road trip you’re planning to make your road trip great beyond the simple (but important) emergency planning. Depending on who you’re going with (and where you're going), some of these might be more relevant than others.
Make sure you pack for hot weather
This seems obvious but sometimes we forget the obvious if we’re going to new places. Don’t forget to pack sunscreen, light clothes, and bug repellent. It’s the little things in life, you know?
Take a swimsuit
If you like being spontaneous, don’t forget your swimsuit. You never know when the opportunity might present itself for a quick dip in a place you’ll remember. Just don’t do it in Florida, okay? Too many alligators.
Limit your afternoon driving
Hopefully, your schedule isn’t so tightly packed that you feel you have to chew up the miles during every spare moment of downtime. Afternoon driving is, of course, hot, and is the time you get the most traffic. If you drive at night or during dusk/dawn, you also save gas because it takes less gas to cool your car when it’s not as hot outside.
Three words: Truck. Stop. Showers.
When you’ve been driving for hours on end, think outside of the box and hit the showers at a big truck stop. They’re typically very clean and will perk you right up. You’ll feel great instead of grungy. So pack your shampoo and conditioner, and bring rubber sandals, too. If there are no good truck stops where you’re going, just bring a jug of water and wash your hair in a parking lot. You’ll be amazed at how good you feel when you’ve cleaned up a bit.
Get enough sleep
This seems obvious, but many of us have the bad habit of packing so much into our trips that we end up driving 14 hours at a time. This is supposed to be fun. You’re supposed to enjoy a road trip. Get your rest.
Choose your electronics wisely
By this, we mean a couple of things. Turn your phone off or limit yourself to checking email only a couple of times a day. The business world won’t implode if you make family time a priority by disconnecting for a day. Do have a camera ready to go and store some fun tunes on your phone (or, if you’re really old school, your mp3 player) to have at the ready.
Get off the well-traveled road and go someplace you’ve never been (and might never be again)
Everyone takes the highways. Try hitting the scenic routes instead. Sure, it might take longer, but you’ll have better memories of getting there.
Eat where the locals eat
This is always fun. You can go to Mcdonald's or Cracker Barrel any time you want at home. You’re not going to remember the Applebees in Metairie, Louisiana. But you will remember the small local hole-in-the-wall joint that’s always packed out by the people who live in the area and know where the good food is.
Eat healthily (somewhat)
We’re not suggesting diets are for road trips. But someone once said that the best way to feel “terrible” on a road trip is to eat “terrible”. Those aren’t the exact phrases they used, so substitute your own appropriate words, there. You want to enjoy yourself on your trip. Just take along some fresh fruit or small things like that, to keep you from having to snack on gas station Bugles. You’ll feel better, plus it will give you an excuse not to hold back from that great local fare you’ll be trying at lunch or dinner.
We know that not everyone is in a position to rough it. But if you have a tent or sleeping bag, go ahead and throw it into the trunk and bring it along. The idea is that it will allow you to be flexible in your options when you’re faced with a choice of where to bed down for the night. And who knows, it could be a lot of fun to say you slept under the stars.
Save your contacts and tell people where you are going
This is a simple one, but something most people forget. We rely on our phones to store information, but what happens if you drop your phone in that lake you’re camping by? Back up important contact information in multiple places – online (send yourself an email?) and write them down in a notebook. PAPER COPIES. Make photocopies of your driver’s license and credit cards too, while you’re at it. And always let someone know where you’re going. Let them know where you’re going and when you plan to be in what area. Simple common sense (which isn’t so common these days).
The Final Secret For A Great Road Trip
So you’ve had your cruiser looked over and everything is good to go. You’ve packed wisely and are prepared for most emergencies likely to happen (alien attacks and the zombie apocalypse do not count). What about how you’re driving during the trip?
Here’s a tip. Don’t be such a slave to schedules that you forget to actually enjoy the journey. We like to get where we’re going and get there fast. So sometimes we try to squeeze too much distance into one day. Try not to do that. On the highway, don’t drive 70, drive 55. Enjoy the view along the way. There’s another reason for this – if you’ve got a big load packed, always driving 70 will stress your engine unduly. So slow down, live in the moment, and enjoy the ride. Plus you’ll save a lot on gas driving 55 instead of 70.
We hope you have a lot of fun this summer and make some great memories! Thanks for taking the time to take Bell Performance along with you.
This post was published on July 26, 2022 and was updated on August 1, 2022.