Even if you are still uneasy about hopping on a plane to travel for the rest of 2020, you don’t necessarily have to let this year go by without a vacation. Whether you’re thinking of taking a tour through the mountains to see the autumn leaves change color or you are planning ahead for quiet holiday visits with beloved family and friends you haven’t seen in months, packing up your car and hitting the road for a cross-country trip may be a safer, more hassle-free option than flying for the remaining months of 2020.

No matter where your travels take you, it’s important to make sure you have everything you need to avoid emergencies, stay safe, and enjoy yourself. We know that spontaneity is one of the best parts of a road trip, but in order to ensure a fun, safe time, a little planning goes a long way. Here are some of the things you should think about prior to packing up the car and hitting the open road.

Keep it Clean

Let’s start with the basics: close your eyes and think about the current state of the car you’ll be using for your road trip. How clean is the interior? Any strange noises or smells that could derail you from enjoying yourself to the fullest? In other words, is this car a place where you will be happy and comfortable for hours on end? If you’re going to be cooped up in this vehicle as you drive from checkpoint to checkpoint on your journey, you and your travel mates probably won’t enjoy being in a car that is littered with assorted food wrappers, junk mail, soda cans, and miscellaneous items from your closet. Make sure your car is clean, tidy, uncluttered, and good-smelling so that you can ensure a more comfortable trip for both you and your passengers.

Pro tip: bring empty trash bags with you so your road trip buddies have a convenient, clean way to stash their snack trash until you get to the next garbage can.

Are You Covered?

Even if your car is relatively new and in the best of health, there’s always a chance something could go wrong when you’re driving for miles and miles each day. Even minor issues like flat tires and batteries in need of a jumpstart can cause a mild annoyance and delay your travel plans for a couple of hours- not to mention the catastrophe you could be facing if a major breakdown leaves you stranded hundreds of miles from home. Signing up for mechanical breakdown coverage gives you peace of mind that help is just a phone call away.

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Get a Check-Up

Speaking of auto repairs, you’re going to want to visit your local auto repair center for scheduled routine maintenance before you hit the road. Your mechanic will change your vehicle’s oil, rotate the tires, check fluid levels and more to ensure that your car has a clean bill of health before the start of your road trip. This is one more way to be prepared against any issues that could spell trouble for you and your passengers while you’re on your adventure.

Pro tip: Take your car in for its check-up at least a week before your trip is scheduled to begin. That way if the mechanic discovers an underlying issue, there’s time to get it fixed without wrecking your itinerary!

Keep a Loose Plan

We’re all for a little unexpected side trip to see the world’s largest waffle, but it’s not a bad idea to make at least a rough sketch of your travel itinerary. Taking time in advance to anticipate trouble spots on the highway can help you plan to hit them at a time when traffic is likely to be on the lighter side. It’s also good to stick to a loose plan so you don’t accidentally make it to a destination that you’ve been dying to see just as they’re closing it up for the night!

Pro tip: With your travel companions and a good old-fashioned paper map, sit down a week or so before embarking on your trip and plan out your basic route based on the things you wish to accomplish on your journey. Not only will this map serve as a rough idea of where you’re headed, but it is also a great way to get pumped for the adventure ahead!

Plan Some Entertainment

We get it. You love driving, and you and your travel companions all get along brilliantly. However, no matter how much fun you always have together, sooner or later there’s going to be a point in your journey when things get downright boring. Try planning ahead and bringing some good road trip entertainment, such as a custom-crafted playlist you’ve put together or a fun trivia game you can play without taking your eyes off the road. This way, you can make sure everyone stays engaged and happy throughout the trip, which can help you avoid any on-the-road squabbles. If you’re a parent planning a road trip with young children, don’t forget to pack fun activities for the kids to do while they’re in the backseat. (And if all else fails, there’s always “Slug Bug!”)

Pro tip: Preserve your sanity- make sure to bring along a few extra pairs of earbuds or headphones for any road trip buddy who forgot to pack theirs. This is an especially important tip for moms and dads of young passengers- you’ll thank us later when you don’t have to spend the entirety of your journey listening to “Baby Shark!”

It’s been a long year, and we’re all getting tired of staring at the inside of our homes. A nice long road trip is an ideal way to stay safe while giving into your wanderlust. By taking a few safety precautions, planning ahead, and being prepared for anything you may encounter, you’ll be on the road to the best time ever!