If you’re like me, it just doesn’t feel like summer without a vacation. Whether it’s a weekend away or months of adventure, the allure of that far-off destination is hard to resist. This year, thousands of Americans, including me, will pile into our cars in search of relaxation. But make sure you don’t lose your cool on the way there. Here are seven easy tips to get you to your destination with mind and body intact.
1. Don’t Overpack
We’ve all been there. With the luggage, the coolers, the beach chairs, the inflatable tubes and the camping gear, it’s tough to fit everything into the back of your car. But make sure you don’t pile in so much that you go careening into someone you just couldn’t see out of all those blocked windows. Putting an extra pack on top of your car can help clear up some space in the back, but it carries its own risks: too much on top and you could roll your car. Check out your car’s handbook to see how much you can safely carry.
2. Beware Sneaky Sun Rays
Multiple studies have shown that skin cancer and signs of skin aging, such as dark spots and wrinkles, are more common on the left side of the face and upper body, where drivers are most often exposed to the sun. While windshields usually have a protective coating, side windows let in significant amounts of damaging rays. And beware the sunroof – wear a hat if you want to let in the light from above. Keep sunscreen and sunglasses handy in the car, and wear light-colored protective clothing to protect your arms. You can also buy inexpensive transparent films that fit onto car window s and block UVA and UVB rays.
3. Avoid the Zzzs
As the miles of open road roll past it’s easy for those eyelids to start drooping. Give yourself some extra sleep before and during your trip and try to limit your late-night driving, since people who sleep less than six hours a night are more likely to report drowsy driving. Switching drivers every few hours can also help stave off fatigue.
4. Keep Your Stomach Happy
Fast food restaurants line the highways with their enticing signs and promises of summer deals. Don’t get sucked in to this high-calorie trap. Pack a cooler or lunch bag with healthy snacks like carrots, fruits and nuts. This will help keep your stomach from growling until you can find a healthy dinner stop. Also, skip the soda and have plenty of water on hand to keep you well hydrated.
5. Don’t Get Lost
These days, many of us rely on our trusty GPS systems to guide us. But these machines aren’t infallible, and might be just one spill away from breaking. Keep a map in the car in case you lose your way or get stuck in an area you’d rather escape. And if you’re confused, try not to pull over on the shoulder unless it’s an emergency. Rest stops are usually well-lit and well-populated, a safer place to sort out your next move.
6. Give Your Car a Checkup
If you don’t take care of your car, it might not take care of you, so ensure that your car is in tip top shape before you get out on the road. In addition to checking your engine oil, wiper blades and lights, check your tire tread and tire pressure to make sure you don’t run the risk of skidding or having your tire blow out on you while you’re driving. You can use a quarter to check if your tread is deep enough – just make sure it comes up at least to the top of George Washington’s head.
7. Take Care of Fido
Don’t forget your furry friends. They don’t like being cooped up in a car any more than you do. Be sure to keep plenty of food and water available, and give them bathroom breaks following their usual schedule. If your pet tends to get car sick, try feeding it lighter meals than usual, or pick up some car-sickness medication from your vet. And as much as dogs like it, don’t let your dog ride with his head out the window. Not only could he get hit with something passing by, but dirt and debris can blow into his eyes and ears.