Getting behind the wheel for the first time on a road trip will no doubt count as one of your most memorable experiences. Make it’s memorable for the right reasons, though. To do that involves preparation, focus, and following traffic rules.
Here are 12 road trip tips to get you ready for your first major adventure behind the wheel:
1. Make sure all the major components of your car are working properly.
You can enlist the help of someone in your family or you can have a mechanic check your car to make sure everything’s in perfect working order (e.g., your tires, brakes, wipers) and that all the fluids are up to the required amount.
Also make sure you have a spare tire. When driving with donut-type spare tire, avoid going over 50 mph and no more than 50 miles.
2. Check your first aid supply.
Make sure there are enough of these items for everyone in the car:
- Sterile gauze dressings
- Adhesive bandages
- Disposable sterile gloves
- General medication (paracetamol, aspirin)
- Personal medication (asthma inhaler, EpiPen)
- Oral thermometers
- Eyewash and eyebath
Be sure to check the expiration dates and replace any expired items.
3. Make sure you have the necessary emergency tools.
Be prepared for road emergencies. Some of them require the skills of the pros, and some of them you can handle yourself—provided you have the necessary emergency tools, including flashlight (with batteries), window/seatbelt escape device, and reflectors. Having a roadside assistance plan is a lifesaver when you encounter car trouble, especially if you’re in a remote area.
4. Know the COVID-19 situation in your destination.
Be sure you know the COVID-19 situation in all the places you want to visit. If you’re fully vaccinated, that can take away some obstacles when it comes to restrictions, especially if you’re traveling interstate, but check for any unique restrictions where you’re going.
5. Have a backup to your GPS.
Glitches are unavoidable with technology, so if you’re using GPS for navigation (whether it’s built into your car or on your phone), make sure you have a backup. An old-school map would not be a bad idea.
6. Know your route and the alternatives.
It pays to know the route you’re taking, especially since you’re a relatively new driver. For example, know where the rest stops, places to eat, and drugstores are. It’s also wise to know in advance what your options are in case your original route is closed for repairs or due to an accident.
7. Take care of anything that can distract you while you’re driving.
Before you hit the road, check your mirrors (rearview, side) to ensure that they are in place. Make sure your seat is where you want it so you are comfortable and able to focus while you’re driving. Also make sure you have a clear view through your rear window, so remove any obstructions (e.g., box of tissues, a stuffed toy or pillow, etc.).
On the road
8. Buckle up.
Put your seat belt on, and make sure everyone does the same. It’s as simple as that, but it’s also as easily ignored.
9. Focus on the road.
There’s nothing like being on the road with your best friends, but such great company can also be a great source of distraction. As the driver, take responsibility for ensuring your friends don’t get too boisterous and distract you. Be sure you’re aware of your surroundings all the time. Look ahead and look out for signs and signals so you can respond in time instead of have to slam on the brakes.
10. Stick to driving during the daytime.
Since you will be driving in unfamiliar territory, it’s better not to drive at night, especially not late at night. The combination of you being a new driver and the place being unfamiliar to you will not be a great help if you encounter some car trouble or have some sort of emergency.
10. Don’t drive drunk.
If you have to drive, don’t drink. Or if you want to drink, don’t overdo it, and let one of your friends who isn’t drinking drive this time.
11. Don’t drive drowsy.
You should be well rested every time you get behind the wheel. Many accidents on the road are caused by drivers who were drowsy at the wheel.
Temper your adventurous spirit with common sense.
A road trip is your cue to be adventurous, to take in new experiences, meet new people, see new places; but the road can also be a dangerous place if you’re not careful and sensible. So agree with your friends to look out for one another to make sure you don’t find yourselves in trouble, or worse, in danger.