Take your summer road trips to the next level by planning ahead
By Amanda Marten MSN, FNP-C
Summer road trips are one of the best ways to hit the open road and explore destinations throughout the United States. Whether you’re looking for a short weekend getaway or a longer road trip to a new destination, summer is the perfect time for travel enthusiasts.
With the warm weather and longer days, there’s no better way to take in the season’s inspiration than to go on summer road trips. From the beautiful beaches of the Florida Keys or Santa Monica to the majestic mountains of the Pacific Northwest, the possibilities are endless for summer road trips. In this blog post, we’ll be reviewing safety considerations and common health risks during travel. We’ll also be giving you tips for packing, preparation, and what to do if someone gets hurt or falls ill.
What are the most important safety considerations for summer road trips?
Safety is a top concern for summer road trips, especially if you are traveling with your family. Let’s review a few key areas to take into consideration when planning summer road trips.
- Get your car tuned up. Whether taking a short day trip through the picturesque North Georgia Mountains on the Blue Ridge Parkway or driving across the U.S. to the Joshua Tree National Park, always get your car tuned up. Ask about needing an oil change, tire rotation, battery service, and any other items for a long drive. (Editor’s Tip: AAA Washington members can use AAA’s Approved Auto Repair network of more than 100 facilities to find a certified repair shop.)
- Drive well-rested. If you plan to wake up early and start driving, make sure you get enough rest the night before. Instead of scrambling at the last minute in the morning to pack, start packing the car several days ahead of time. Also, avoid driving overnight if possible, as the National Safety Council recommends not driving at night due to additional safety concerns.
- Avoid traffic hours. Plan your road trip to avoid traffic hours in major cities since this can delay your trip. This consideration is crucial in the Northeastern states, like Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts, which have heavy traffic.
- Alternate drivers. Plan to alternate drivers every few hours and take breaks. If you don’t have an alternative driver, plan to take longer breaks or stop overnight in areas with plenty of fun attractions to explore.
- Use directions and have a plan. Don’t rely solely on your GPS for directions; always write out alternative routes. You’ll lose cell phone service in many remote areas, such as Canyonlands National Park or some areas of the Pacific Northwest. Also, research and plan your stops for gas, restaurants, and overnight hotel stays. Book your hotel stays ahead of time with AAA Travel (and get AAA Washington member deals). If your family is more adventurous and likes to camp, reserve your camping spots early. Campsites at national parks fill up early.
Things to Pack for the Road
For summer road trips, there are many quintessential items to include on your packing list; let’s review these below.
- Water: We suggest packing bottled water or using refillable water bottles.
- Snacks/food: You never know when someone may get hungry, and stopping at restaurants and drive-throughs can add up quickly.
- Games/Entertainment: These items are especially important for children and longer road trips.
- First Aid Kit: You never know when someone may get a minor scrape or injury.
- Roadside Emergency Kit: This kit is vital in case your car gets a flat tire, or you need jumper cables. (Editor’s Tip: Emergency roadside assistance, including flat tire changes and battery service, is included in AAA Washington membership.)
- Medications: Bring any prescription and over-the-counter medicines, such as fever reducers and allergy medications.
- Toilet paper: When driving to some destinations, restrooms aren’t readily available, such as on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
- Other items: Hand sanitizer, bug spray, sunscreen, hats, sunglasses, rain gear, and chargers are all essential items to pack.
Common Health Risks During Travel
According to the World Health Organization, there are some common health risks to consider during travel.
- Altitude sickness: This illness occurs at higher elevations and can happen anytime.
- Humidity and overheating: The chances of heat stroke increase when traveling to more humid regions such as southern Mississippi or the Florida Keys.
- Sunburn: Whether exploring the local architecture in Massachusetts or visiting a national park, you can still get sunburned.
- Traveler’s diarrhea: This illness can occur anywhere.
- Animals and Insects: If you’re exploring anywhere with outdoor attractions, such as the Joshua Tree National Park or Columbia National Wildlife Refuge, these encounters are possible.
What to Do If Someone Gets Hurt or Sick in the Family
There are a few things to consider if someone gets hurt or sick on summer road trips. Here are some ideas of what to do:
Purchase Travel Insurance
Purchase travel insurance ahead of time. You never know the future or what could happen, and you wouldn’t want to lose the money you would have spent on hotels, rentals, etc. Also, depending on your medical insurance, sometimes you can’t use the insurance in any other state besides your residence. Purchasing travel medical insurance is especially important for summer road trips outside the country.
Seek Immediate Medical Attention
If you or a loved one gets injured or falls ill, seek immediate medical attention. If you’re staying overnight, always know the location of the nearest hospital or healthcare facility.
Have an Emergency Contact
Before leaving, ensure a family member or friend has your trip itinerary and emergency contact information. Also, know how to notify your travel or car insurance company in case of an emergency or someone getting sick.
Summer road trips are fun for the whole family. Make sure you pack the quintessential items and travel safely!
—Written by Amanda Marten MSN, FNP-C
—Top photo: AdobeStock
Amanda Marten MSN, FNP-C is a freelance nurse writer and a certified family nurse practitioner. With ten years of nursing experience, she has worked in a variety of specialties including urgent care, travel nursing, post-surgical, and intensive care. In her free time, she enjoys gardening, outdoor activities, and spending time with her friends and family.
- National Safety Council. (2023). As we ‘Fall Back’ to Shorter Days, Take Extra Care on the Road.
- Williams, V. (2017, August 23). Mayo Clinic Minute: Stroke and heat concerns. Mayo Clinic.
- World Health Organization. (2020, April 28). Health risks when travelling.
To learn more about traveling with health issues or conditions, click here.
Road Trip Tips
Before you go: Get ready for your road trip with a AAA Membership. Get peace-of-mind on the road plus travel and insurance services and much more.
Save on hotels and rental cars: Unlock savings on hotels with a AAA membership. Plus, AAA members save up to 20% with Hertz.
Save on car insurance: AAA members save up to 8% on car insurance.
Get battery service: AAA Mobile Battery Service uses state-of-the-art technology to accurately diagnose battery-related problems. We’ll even replace your battery with a brand-new one if necessary, at a special member price.
Save with AAA member discounts: AAA membership gives you access to exclusive entertainment discounts nationwide.