Budget Travel

Why You - and Your Car - May Not Be Ready for Your Next Road Trip

Millions of Americans will make some colossal mistakes when they hit the road this summer. Here, an easy checklist for preventing breakdowns and other roadside emergencies.

Budget Travelers know that some of the best (and most affordable) vacations are road trips. With the chance to enjoy scenic highways, jaw-dropping national and state parks, cool small towns, and mid-size cities, the “great American road trip” is one of our favorite summer rituals.  

Are you ready?

Not so fast. AAA sure got our attention when it announced that it expects to rescue 7 million American drivers this summer. According to a recent survey, more than 60 percent of American families will hit the road this summer on vacation, and four out of 10 drivers are unprepared for emergency breakdowns.

The top reasons for roadside emergencies are fairly predictable: Are you one of the two-thirds of American drivers who don’t test their car batteries? Are you the one in five who has no idea how to change a tire? Are you one of the four in 10 who don’t carry an emergency kit onboard?

Don’t worry, we won’t tell. And there’s still plenty of time for you to follow AAA’s easy steps to a breakdown-free summer road trip:

Give your car a checkup. You know the drill: Schedule a maintenance checkup in advance of your trip. Check the oil, fluid levels, battery, and tires. Sure, this seems obvious, but chances are you haven't done it yet, right?

Carry an emergency kit. Auto science is not rocket science: Pack a mobile phone and charger that can plug into your car, flashlight (with fresh batteries and backups), a first-aid kit, basic tool kit (including tire-pressure gauge and adjustable wrench), windshield wiper fluid, jumper cables, emergency flares or reflectors, drinking water, and snacks for both humans and pets. Assembling an emergency kit may seem like a hassle. You know what's an even bigger hassle? Being stuck on the side of the road without any of the things on this list.

Don’t get locked out. Carry extra car keys, always take a moment to grab your keys before exiting the car, and check the batteries on keyless-entry remotes and smart keys and keep them protected from water and other hazards. Some drivers find that establishing consistent car-key habits (you might even call them rituals) helps them keep track of their keys. For instance: Always store keys in the same place, say the word "keys" out loud before leaving your vehicle, and change batteries on remotes at the beginning and end of Daylight Saving Time.

Do you have road trip safety tips of your own? We'd love to read them in the comments section below.

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