Despite expensive fuel and economic uncertainty, millions of Americans will be hitting the road over the Labor Day holiday. We’ve developed a list of recommendations intended to keep a vacation trip a vacation and not a family disaster story.
1) Take An Extra Key
Not many experiences are more frustrating than to be 300 hundred miles from home and to lock yourself out of your car. New automobiles can be a real challenge to enter, even by pros, when they are locked. Placing or hiding a key somewhere on the exterior of the vehicle will turn a potential nightmare into a minor inconvenience.
2) Your GPS Isn’t Infallible — Buy And Carry A Good Road Map
That new GPS may be addictive, but they are not foolproof in every situation. For example, a bad accident stalls traffic for hours on a major highway and has you stranded in unfamiliar country. A good map may provide a feasible escape route. A good map will often provide an alternative to an official detour route that is much shorter and faster if you are in a standard passenger vehicle (official detour routes have to accommodate large trucks and busses).
3) Pay Special Attention To That Trailer
If you are pulling a boat, camping, or utility trailer it’s a lot easier to maintain and repair the trailer at home than it is in the ditch of an Interstate highway carrying 70 MPH traffic. Make sure the trailer lights are working before you load your car. (Bad ground wires are often the culprit when it comes to faulty trailer lights.) The hitch ball should be of the right size and firmly tightened and safety chains should be present and accounted for, and capable of holding the weight of the loaded trailer. Dry or worn out trailer wheel bearings may hold the record for spoiling vacation trips. Make sure they are well greased an adjusted before you hit the road.
4) Check Your Vehicle’s Weakest Link – Its Belts And Hoses
Modern automobiles are remarkably reliable and they will absorb a lot of neglect and abuse and still get you to your destination. The weakest links in the reliability chain are coolant hoses and the belts that convey power to alternators, water pumps, and other components external to the engine. If you see a vehicle dead along side the road there’s a good chance a belt or hose failed. These too have improved dramatically but they should be checked over periodically by the service facility you do business with.
5) Stay Alert Behind The Wheel — Alternate Drivers If Necessary
Traffic accidents common to vacation travel can often be traced to fatigue and being in unfamiliar travel environments. Stay fresh, trade off driving, take breaks and get some circulation going. If you’re fresh and alert unexpected events or situations will be less likely to cause confusion or dangerous reactions.
6) Be Smart About The Traffic Laws
Traffic laws and traffic signage are supposed to be uniform, but they aren’t. Generally, if you use common sense, move with the flow of traffic, and stay patient you will not run afoul of the law. It pays to be careful though because, according to the National Speedtrap Exchange, there are over 50,000 speed traps listed in the United States.
If you are ticketed, don’t fight your battle on the roadside. If you truly feel exploited, you can challenge your ticket in court by yourself, with help from the National Motorists Association, or through an attorney.
Just don’t let it spoil your vacation!