Everything you need to know to plan a safe (and fun) road trip – Roadtrippers Magazine

Unexpected hurdles don’t have to spoil the fun—here’s what two long-time roadtrippers have learned over the years about staying safe and comfortable on the road
By Karuna Eberl & Steve Alberts
Over the past few decades and more than a million miles, we’ve learned—sometimes the hard way—about the many things that can go wrong on a road trip and how to plan for them. One of us has even slept in our car on the side of an interstate in rural Wyoming after a breakdown. 
Here are some must-have tips to stay safe and comfortable, no matter what the open road throws your way.
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Unexpected delays and breakdowns are part of the game, and if you plan for them, they’re easier to deal with. Here are basic items to pack, as well as some extra things that are helpful to have on hand.
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Before hitting the road, check your tire pressure, wiper blades, and light bulbs, and make sure your fluids are topped off. If you’re not mechanically inclined, have a shop give your car a once-over with special attention to tire wear, belts, and hoses—and don’t forget an oil change. Also, check to make sure your spare tire is inflated and that your lug wrench, jack, and jack handle are all where they’re supposed to be. 
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Whether you’re spontaneous about routes, or a meticulous reservation maker, the Roadtrippers app can help you on just about every level. Beyond that, keep in mind holidays and localized events that can make driving through a city or finding a place to stay difficult. For example, driving through Miami at rush hour, or trying to get from Vegas to Los Angeles at the end of a holiday weekend can be frustrating and is usually avoidable. 
Don’t forget a paper atlas. There are many areas where a phone-based GPS doesn’t work, and other times when you’ll need to find alternate routes. Plus, it’s fun to browse un-traveled sections of a map to plot future adventures.
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Anticipate what sort of weather and other conditions you might encounter—including tornadoes, flash floods, wildfires, dust storms, blizzards, and extreme heat—and research how to get through each situation safely, without panicking. This is when a weather radio is important.
It’s easy enough to figure out what wild animals you might encounter, like bears, and take precautions for them. But also keep in mind nefarious people. If you’re traveling solo in an area that makes you uneasy, set up two camp chairs, or even put a second bicycle on the back of your vehicle, to give the appearance you’ve got backup. 
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You can even run a heavy chain from a tree to under your van and put out a large dog bowl for appearances. Also, if you do not feel safe where you are, then relocate. Trust your instincts.
One of the biggest problems you’re likely to encounter is getting drowsy at the wheel. To stay alert, get plenty of sleep each night, nap when you get tired, take regular breaks and walk around, have spicy snacks and caffeine drinks on hand, and don’t eat a big meal before driving. 
If you do need to pull over for a break, you can do so at a rest area. Here’s a list of states that allow overnight (or extended hours) parking.
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It’s easy to think you won’t get hurt on vacation, but it does happen. While enjoying the sights outside of your vehicle, don’t take a selfie with a yak, avoid swimming in Yellowstone, and look both ways before crossing Bourbon Street—among other things.
Karuna and Steve write about and photograph wildlife, sustainability, nature, history, and travel for magazines, newspapers and websites. Their most recent work, about a Zuni conservation crew at Bears Ears, can be found on the cover of National Parks magazine. They also co-wrote an award-winning guidebook to the Florida Keys and are currently completely renovating an abandoned house in a ghost town.
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