Essential Travel Safety Tips for Your Next Family Reunion
Use these important travel safety tips to ensure your family members arrive safely to your reunion or family gathering
Planning a reunion or large family gathering poses numerous logistical hurdles. Organizers need to wrangle multiple generations of participants, arrange accommodations and ensure that the event schedule is up-to-date. These tasks can be so distracting that it’s easy to overlook a crucial element to any reunion: travel safety.
Your gathering will most likely involve participants from multiple states convening in a single location, and some family members might have little experiences traveling long distances by car. Here are some travel safety tips to ensure your reunion transportation occurs without a hitch.
Planning is Key
After so much planning, the last thing you want as a reunion planner is to have somebody lost on their way because of an accident on an unsafe road or navigation mistake. To prevent his from happening, our first travel safety tip is to study your route ahead of time and print a hard copy from reputable navigation websites such as Google Maps or MapQuest.
You may be tempted to simply rely on your cell phone for directions, but cellular service might be unreliable on your route and result in confusion mid-drive.
If you still prefer a digital display to help with directions, consider investing in a car GPS. These devices provide not only directions but updated traffic conditions, information about local attractions and the ability to become a backup camera on your dashboard. Popular GPS brands include Garmin and TomTom, and they can be easily charged with a USB adapter.
Once you’ve determined your route, create an emergency contact list. Start with information gathered when you sent out initial reunion invitations to create profiles that include cell phone numbers, email and vehicle description before providing each member of your party with the completed list.
This way any member of your reunion can be reached in case there is an accident or delay that could jeopardize someone’s safety. You should also consider establishing a meeting point half-way through your travels. This can serve as an opportunity for drivers to rest (preventing accidents), account for everyone in your party and check that all vehicles are operating properly.
You should also check that each vehicle in your party is properly insured. Check with each driver to make sure their license is valid, their insurance is up-to-date and that they are registered for an emergency assistance service like AAA that can help because of an unforeseen accident.
Stock Up on Proper Equipment
Driving a long distance to a reunion is substantially different than picking your children up from school or stopping by the supermarket. An extended trip could mean miles of open road without easy access to services or supplies. Because of this, another travel safety tip is to ensure that your vehicle is properly inspected before you depart and that you have the necessary equipment for various emergencies.
Schedule a maintenance appointment with your local mechanic or dealer before the reunion. Besides checking that your oil is fresh and your lights are responsive, ask your mechanic to test the air conditioning and ventilation systems. Since this is a reunion, you could be traveling with small children or elderly family members. A child’s temperature can rise five times faster than an adult, and heatstroke can occur if the external temperature is 80 degrees if a vehicle lacks proper airflow.
Make sure each tire is filled to the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended inflation pressure, which is listed in your owner’s manual and on a placard located on the driver’s side door frame. The correct pressure is not the number listed on the tire, but ideally between 30 and 35 PSI.
You can measure this with an inexpensive tire pressure gauge that can be easily stored in your glove compartment. Be sure to check tires when they are cold, which means the car hasn’t been driven for at least three hours. Your spare tire should also be easily accessible and able to travel 100 miles in case of emergencies.
Speaking of emergencies, it’s best to prepare for the worst and consider the safety of your entire party. It’s advisable to prepare an extensive emergency roadside kit that you can place in your vehicle’s trunk. Drivers should pack a cell phone charger, first aid kit, flashlight, jumper cables and jack and extra windshield wiper fluid. If you’re traveling in cold weather, pack additional blankets, stocking caps and gloves to keep warm while help arrives.
Read your vehicle’s manual to familiarize yourself with the features on your vehicle — such as antilock brakes and electronic stability control — and how the features perform in wintry conditions. When renting a car, become familiar with the vehicle before driving it off the lot.
Careful on the Road
You know the rules: Do not text or drive distracted; obey posted speed limits; and always drive sober. Both alcohol and drugs whether legal or illicit can cause impairment. It is illegal to drive impaired by any substance in all states – no exceptions. Alcohol and drugs can impair the skills critical for safe and responsible driving such as coordination, judgment, perception, and reaction time.
Keep your gas tank close to full whenever possible, and, on longer trips, plan enough time to stop to stretch, get something to eat, return calls or text messages, and change drivers or rest if you feel drowsy.
Drowsy driving is a serious risk. Driving while fighting sleep can put you in as much danger as driving under the influence, yet it’s not a risk that’s talked about as often. With longer drives, such a road trips, drowsy driving is even more of a danger.
If you experience any of the above, you should pull over as soon as convenient. Otherwise, your reaction speeds could be much slower than they should be, leaving you at a serious risk of an accident. Not having your focus on the road is one of the greatest risks while driving and the reason this is on of our top road safety tips.
Keep your attention 100% on the road at all times. Trying to multitask can put you in severe danger. Road trips and long drives are often made in groups. If you have people in the car with you, then lay some ground rules before you set off.
Talking can be just fine, but if there is any shouting, jostling, or otherwise distracting activity in the car, be ready to stop the car at the earliest convenience and cut it out. Others in the car can help you avoid distraction, too. For instance, someone can be in charge of the map, another in charge of the music. You want to avoid taking your hands from the wheel and gearstick as much as possible.
Our biggest piece travel safety tip for drivers on a long drive is to stop regularly and stretch. It’s easy to push yourself to keep driving. This leads to more distractions and drowsy driving. Stop every couple of hours to keep yourself refreshed and comfortable during your drive.
The second reason to stop and take a break is a chance to look at your car. Each time you fill up on fuel or stop for a restroom break, take a walk around your vehicle.
Pay special attention to your tires. As Buckhauser mentions, finding a piece of road debris or nail in your tire sooner rather than later gives you a chance to drive to a tire shop. You can get your tire fixed before the damage causes a blowout on the highway.
While the vast and beautiful American landscape will offer plenty of compelling sites for adults on a family road trip, children often need more than a mountain range to stay engaged. One of the greatest challenges parents face while planning a vacation is offering a variety of entertainment options without relying on screens. How do you initiate family bonding in the challenging environment of a moving vehicle with limited flat surfaces?
Classic board games are a great way to connect generations and introduce basic strategy to children, but standard-sized games often prove impractical in a car. One pothole will send all your pieces flying! Fortunately, companies like Kidsthrill and Gamie offer compact, five-inch magnetic board game sets that can easily fold and utilize the same pieces to keep organization and packing space stress at a minimum.
With no risk of sliding pieces, your family can enjoy classic like Checkers, Snakes & Ladders and Backgammon as long as you please. Other multigenerational activities can include road trip bingo, cookie sheet magnet boards and coloring books that encourage creativity.
Want an activity that can include the driver as they keep their hands on the wheel? Audiobooks are a great communal experience and can either be rented from your local library or downloaded onto a phone or tablet. Stories will keep the driver engaged, distractions minimized and your vehicle relatively quiet.
Regarding those breaks—our last travel safety tip is to do some research about which rest stops you’d like to take a breather at and how long you want to spend time there. While gas stations will always work if somebody needs to use the bathroom or load up on snacks, rest stops across the United States are typically larger and offer more diversions for longer breaks.
American rest stops often include brochure stands that promote local attractions, playgrounds for children, water fountains for refills, open spaces for animals in your party and historic markers that explain local events. You can also often find free charging stations if your GPS or cell phone is low on battery and crucial for navigation.
by Miles Dobis