The movies and television have done a great job of providing entertainment surrounding the details of a road trip gone wrong… at least a half-dozen come to mind and you probably laughed out loud at all of them.  But to avoid encountering a vacation filled with the likes of “Thelma and Louise” or “Road Trip” there are a few precautions before you set out to make that journey as safe and enjoyable as possible.

Plan ahead

Do a little preplanning.  Your parents may have sat down at the kitchen table, the huge paper map spread out between them on the table, as they carefully marked out a round-trip route which coordinated with the amount of time allotted for the annual vacation with a few spots to entertain the kids as well.  You may scoff at the idea of using a paper map, and prefer to rely on Google maps, or a GPS system on an as-needed basis.  That’s fine, but at least print out hard copies of your proposed route before setting out, because if there is a technical glitch with your GPS or wireless connection, you may end up hopelessly lost.

In conjunction with preplanning your trip, you might want to schedule your hotel visits in advance, especially if you are traveling with trailers and/or pets, or even children, to ensure the hotel will accommodate you and your reservation is guaranteed for whatever time you will arrive.

Before you go

Whether your road trip is just short or sweet, or an extended trek, first and foremost is ensuring that your vehicle is in tip-top condition.  If you’ve followed the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule for your vehicle you should be good to go, but it never hurts to be proactive before a trip for your own peace of mind.  Do whip out that tire gauge and check the tire pressure, and, if necessary head over to the air machine to get those tires properly inflated.  Ensure oil and/or all fluids are at the recommended level.  Ensure your windshield wipers do not need replacing and take along a bottle of windshield wiper fluid and a roll of paper towels to guarantee you can safely see all the street signs, as well as the sights, along the way.

Of course you’ll gas up before you go, but while on the road, never go below a quarter of a tank of gas before refueling.  If you get hopelessly lost from an expected detour, don’t be the traveler who ends up in the boonies without a drop of fuel.

Before embarking on a road trip, most of all be honest with yourself about your vehicle.  If you’ve been somewhat lackadaisical about properly maintaining your vehicle, or, if you feel your vehicle might not be ready for the wear and tear of an extended road trip, consider renting one.  Renting a vehicle guarantees that you know the vehicle has been properly maintained and is safe for you to travel without fear of a breakdown.  Once you’ve procured the rental vehicle, make sure you familiarize yourself with it so you know where any emergency buttons are located, should you need them.  If you live in Jersey City you have many great car rental companies to choose from; a Jersey City car rental company can help you to pick out the best car for your needs, be it a minivan, SUV or compact car.

It’s great if there are one or more people available to swap the driving responsibilities, but, if that is not the case, take it easy and don’t plan for too many driving hours in the course of each day.  If you are driving solo, do take time to get plenty of sleep each night and take adequate breaks to fuel up on healthy snacks to keep you humming along.  Taking a thermos of coffee along is a great idea, but don’t rely on the caffeine’s effects solely to keep you going.  Energy bars or high-protein snacks, like a turkey and cheese sandwich on whole-grain bread, will keep your energy up.  Don’t rely on sugary snacks like donuts or cinnamon rolls because when that sugary high wears off, you will crash and burn and need a nap, or, at the very least you will lose your focus and your mind will start to wander from the driving task at hand.  Be sure to take a few minutes to walk around to stretch your legs when stopping for fuel or food – it will help to re-energize you for the next leg of your journey.

A long road trip is the perfect time to catch up on those bestsellers you never seem to have time to read.  In advance of your trip, purchase a few audio books to listen to along the way.  Satellite radio talk stations will also help to keep your attention and the occasional cellphone chatter is fine, but don’t text and drive – if you must text, pull over to the side of the road.

Pointers for a perfect road trip


  • Cellphone – Most people today have a cellphone. While you might feel pretty smart knowing you just a call away from contacting someone in an emergency, using a cellphone while driving may not be so smart, and texting while driving is always a no-no.  Even if it is legal to talk on the phone while driving, consider using a hands-free device anyway.  Before embarking on your trip.
  • Scope out potential detours in advance – Use the internet to your advantage to check out traffic alerts and impending bad weather for each city you’ll be visiting. Knowledge of construction and/or detours, as well as potentially stormy weather, in advance can make a world of difference in your trip.  Use your phone or just rely on an all-news AM station to glean this valuable info.
  • Discourage theft – Keep your valuables tucked away out of sight to avoid vehicle break-ins.
  • Rules of the road – Familiarize yourself with local traffic laws in advance and remember what you learned in driver’s training: if you must pull over, move your vehicle off the road.  Never park on the shoulder or in the breakdown lane for any reason except an emergency.
  • Personal safety – Mom was right. No matter how badly you feel about the stranger on the side of the road sticking his thumb out in a driving rain, let your concern go and be on your way.  However, if the person is beside a broken-down vehicle, you might pull over, beckon the person to the window and ask if they need assistance.  You should remain in your car, with the doors locked and window cracked open during this exchange, and offer to call for assistance using your cellphone, but don’t just confidently invite a stranger into your car for a ride.  It may not be a ride that he or she is looking for.

So, now that you’re armed with a few pointers for personal safety on the road – happy trails to you.