We’ve all been there: stuck in unfamiliar territory and facing an unexpected challenge. Whether it’s car trouble, a sudden encounter with extreme weather, or finding yourself without a necessary gadget, the last thing you want is to be on a road trip and run into a potential catastrophe. However, with proper preparation, you can avoid these issues or, at least, handle them like a champ.
As an avid adventure-seeker who has traveled all along the eastern coast of the U.S., I’ve learned that the best way to avoid trouble is to plan for it.
Nearly everyone who travels understands the risk of leaving home without the essentials—but how many experienced travelers find themselves in a pickle that could have been avoided by planning? The most often overlooked aspect of planning is research. Before your trip, take some time to get familiar with your destination. This includes the obvious things like checking the long-term weather forecast and reading reviews for restaurants and attractions. But don’t forget to find out if any other details may be helpful, such as local ordinances, licensing, or documentation, and check to see if the local hospital takes your insurance.
If you’re traveling with a group, make sure to discuss possible pitfalls and plans for handling things that may arise. Is someone in your party allergic to bees? Let everyone know where the Epipen is. Will you be visiting a park with the family? Make a plan for where to meet in case of separation. Are you headed to the woods for some camping and adventuring? Compile a list of gear and make sure everyone knows what they’re responsible for bringing. Even something as simple as getting everyone’s contact info into your phone can mean the difference in an emergency.
If you’re planning a trip by car, make sure your vehicle is road-ready and safe to drive. Check to make sure your insurance and registration paperwork is up to date and easy to grab. Familiarize yourself with the vehicle, such as where to find the spare tire and jack, and prepare an emergency kit to keep in the trunk with items like jumper cables, extra oil, an LED flasher, etc.
If you’re planning to camp, test out the gear to ensure everything is in good shape. Does your air mattress have a hole? Does your tent have a broken zipper or missing poles?
One lesson I learned long ago is to list exactly what you’ll need and then designate a staging area like a spare bed or the dining room table where you can lay everything out. Then, when it comes time to pack, you can go through your list and make sure you have everything you need.
Just because you won’t be there doesn’t mean you should skimp on preparations to keep your home safe. Of course, you should lock all of your doors and windows, make sure you’ve turned off the stove, and unplugged the curling iron. But you can also alert someone you trust that you’ll be away and ask them to keep an eye on the place. If you are gone for more than a couple of days, make arrangements with a neighbor or friend to have them pick up your mail and newspapers. Give them a copy of your key so they can get in to check on things if something seems amiss. If you have a security system, alert the monitoring company to your plans and give them any information they may need, like the name and phone number of the person checking on your house. Finally, stash your valuables out of sight from easily accessed exterior doors and windows.
No matter how thoroughly you prepare, unfortunate things can still happen. So even though you can’t prepare for every eventuality, you can do a few things to help in case of emergencies. First, keep your cool. Panicking or fuming does not solve anything, but remaining calm will help you think through things logically and lead to a solution. Make sure you have important numbers programmed into your phone. Keep a day’s worth of any essential medications on hand. Throw some bottled water, non-perishable snacks, and backup chargers in the car or your bag. Take photos of your insurance cards (front and back), driver’s license, and passport and store them on your phone. If you have any medical conditions, be sure to wear your bracelet and let your traveling companions know where to find a list of your medications. And if you are traveling with children, take a photo of them each morning before you head out so that if they get lost, you can show people exactly what they look like and what they are wearing.
Hopefully, you are lucky enough to travel often, even if you only go for overnight trips close to home. As a photographer, not only do I get to travel, but I need to be ready to go, often with little notice. Because of this, I find it’s easiest to keep a travel bag packed and ready. Here is what you can find in my “GO” bag.
● Flashlight / headlamp
● Portable battery charger + charging cords
● Extra cell phone
● Written emergency phone numbers list
● First aid kit
● Ibuprofen / Advil and any regular medications
● Packable, non-perishable snacks
● Reusable water bottle
● Hand sanitizer
● Wet wipes
● Extra masks
● Bug spray
● Quick-dry travel towel
● Rain jacket
● High-traction, closed-toed footwear
● Anti-blister socks
You may need some different items than the ones on my list, but the key is having them handy.
With packed bags and established action plans, you’re finally ready to set off on your adventure. Whether you’re traveling alone or with your best friends, you can now trek into the wilderness or explore local towns feeling safe and prepared. It’s finally time to enjoy what you’ve been looking forward to. Embrace the feeling of freedom on the road and have fun!
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author of this article and may not reflect the view of AAA—The Auto Club Group.