Road trips are sacred in America. There’s a lot of country to explore, and we’re going to take in as much as we can, one state at a time. While you’re busy packing your suitcase, though, just remember the essentials you should have in your car, too.
Whether you are using a GPS or a Google Maps printout, carry a set of maps or a road atlas with you. A GPS can tell you where you are, but a map can lay out what’s around you. It can also let you plan alternative routes more easily than a GPS, which might keep taking you back to the same blocked off road that you’ve been trying to escape from. Also, a GPS can often be distracting for drivers. Instead of taking in the changing scenery, they focus on how the screen updates, missing the very sights they traveled so far to take in!
Clothes can take up a lot of room, so try to keep your packing list down to a minimum. Put everything in a soft-walled duffel with you instead of a hard suitcase. That way you’ll be able to jam it into tighter places, and it will take up less space.
Water and Food
For the sake of safety and preparedness, it’s a good idea to bring a flat/a couple jugs of water and a couple days’ worth of ready-to-eat meals or energy bars. You may also want to bring a cooler for cold drinks, lunch meat, fruit, etc. Make sure that any ice in the cooler is double- or triple-bagged, or else your perishables may be floating in a few inches of water after a few hours in a hot car. However, unless you’re camping out, extra food may not be a major concern for you. How much food you bring should depend on where you will be going on your road trip and how many grocery stores and restaurants you expect to run into.
First Aid and Safety Gear
Even if you aren’t going on a road trip, you should have a few safety items in your car at all time. Always keep extra gasoline, coolant, and a spare tire in your car. Prepare a first aid kit and keep it under your seat or in the glove compartment for easy access. Any safety kit you bring should include a space blanket for each person present on the trip. Items like a flashlight and pocket knife are handy to keep by it, too.
A Note on Packing
You will never have as much room as you thought you did starting out. Even if you have a gargantuan SUV, you will fill it right to the ceiling if you aren’t careful. Part of the fun of road tripping is living on as little as you can. Why leave home if you’re just going to take it all with you? Parse down what you’re bringing to the bare essentials. After all, you will probably pick up some things along the way, and it would be a shame if you didn’t have room for it in your car.
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Winter can be a festive time with the ground covered in snow, but it’s also one of the most dangerous times of the year to drive. You may well face problems with visibility, traction, heating, and so on during these months. To help keep you and your family safe while navigating the roads, here are a few safety tips for winter driving.
Tires for the Season
To gain solid traction in the snow, the tread of your tires needs to be at least 6/32” deep. You can test this by putting a penny in the grooves of your tread. You will know you have at least a 6/32” tread if the penny is covered up to the Lincoln Memorial. If you live in snowy conditions and often have to drive through snowy weather, you may want to invest in snow tires, which have an even greater tread depth.
Clear Your Windows
Before the season gets too icy, make sure that your windshield wipers are working properly. If they are worn out or can’t handle the abundance of snow, switch them out for something more heavy-duty. Apply a water-shedding solution to your windows and exterior mirrors. This will help prevent snow and ice from sticking to those surfaces. Add in new anti-icing fluid to make sure it is topped off. Finally, keep a good snow brush/ice scraper that you keep accessible in the car.
Take Care of Your Headlights
Make sure your headlights stay clear of snow, and turn them on whenever it is snowing or raining. If your car’s headlights are pitted or foggy, consider replacing them. Obstruction of your headlights could reduce your visibility of road conditions or reduce others’ visibility of you.
Watch for Black Ice
Black ice can be hard to see because it is transparent, but if you see a slick spot or a puddle on the road, you probably have found black ice. This is one of the most dangerous hazards of winter because it is incredibly slippery and very hard to spot. Try to avoid spots you suspect are black ice, but you can test an area by trying to brake on it or slightly turning the wheel.
If your tires lose traction while turning, a common response is to keep turning the wheel. This is very dangerous, though. The moment the car regains traction, it will dart in the direction its wheels are pointing, whether that is into a curb, a ditch, or oncoming traffic. If you feel your car start to slide, the best thing you can do is to stop moving the wheel until you have regained control over the car.
Remember Bad Spots
It’s up to you to keep yourself safe, so make a mental note when you pass by a tricky spot in your daily routine. If you can’t avoid the area entirely, remember to approach it carefully. If you have a slick driveway, make sure to tell any visitors about the problem, too, before they come over and smash through your garage.
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