7 Safety Tips for Memorial Day Travel

Father and daughter sitting inside the car ready to go on family trip
Father and daughter sitting inside the car ready to go on a family trip.

With Memorial Day just days away, AAA announced its expected travel forecast to reach 36 million travelers. Of those people, 31.8 will use a car. Avoid vehicle hiccups by planning and preparing ahead of time. Here are seven road trip tips we rounded up from AAA, RepairPal, and Safekids.org.

Take a test run: The small things can cause the biggest problems so give your car a thorough check-up before you head out. Check the A/C to make sure it’s working at a full capacity. Test windows, door locks and handles, blinkers, and lights to avoid problems later. Consider taking the car out for a test drive too—ride up and down some hills to warm up those brakes. It’s also a good idea to try out the radio to make sure tunes and navigations are set. When in doubt, visit your mechanic.

Get a check-up: This is important year-round, not just before taking your car out for a vacation. Regular maintenance is key. Not only can it prevent thousands of dollars but it can also identify errors you would have otherwise overlooked.

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Read carefully: You know that manual sitting in your glove compartment collecting dust? Pick it up and become familiar with it before you take off on any long-distance trip. Know what the different dashboard signals mean—especially the ones that identify trouble—and make a game-plan if something does go wrong.

Beat the heat: The U.S. Department of Transportation says excessive heat can wreak havoc on vehicles. Engines can overhead, brakes will wear out, and severe damage can be done to the electrical, cooling, tires, and batteries. Learn to pay attention to temperatures both inside and outside the car and monitor the gauges that indicate overheating. If at any point the car gets too hot, pull over and let it cool down.

Keep kids cool: The Children’s Trust says Memorial Day weekend is the start of the season where children are at the greatest risk for heat-related illnesses and fatalities. Protect your kids from heatstroke. Never leave them unattended in a hot car and always lock the car when it’s not in use. When you do go out for a drive, pack a cooler full of cold water, popsicles, and ice packs just in case they get too warm.

Don’t leave anything behind: Long car rides can be exhausting so arm yourself with a range of entertainment and safety equipment. Create a detailed list before you go and check it over. Make sure passengers have music, games, and videos and don’t forget to bring along some snacks and drinks. Always keep a few chargers handy in case your cell phone dies. It’s also a good idea to prepare for emergencies. Keep a just-in-case kit in the back of the car with a tire jack, first aid kit, blankets, etc.

Plan ahead: Prior to your trip, map out your route and research guidelines, potential rest stops, food, and gas stations. Make copies of your car insurance and/or roadside assistance cards and keep them in your vehicle. It’s also helpful to download various travel apps, including those with roadside assistance features, navigation tools, and itinerary planners.