With summer approaching, I’m reminded of the treats that it has to offer: sunny and cloudless skies coupled with long days. There’s plenty of time to head out to the beach or even take a road trip.
This time of the year reminds me of the first time I sat behind the wheel driving down from San Francisco to Los Angeles. A six and a half hour trip, not including bathroom and gas breaks. I remember waking up around four on that morning to begin setting up my car. The drive would begin at five in the morning so it was essential to have everything I needed along the way. In my case, creating a checklist has become second nature when preparing for a road trip to make sure I don’t miss anything important. I check it twice to be safe: once the night before and again before taking off.
An example of how to plan for a road trip from my road trip checklist:
- A phone with a proper GPS navigation app
- A map or printed directions as a backup
- Water and snacks for the road
- Money/credit cards (essential for emergencies)
- My suitcase with personal belongings and outfits for the weekend.
- A car in good condition with a tank full of gas.
With everything checked off, I was ready to go.
Since this was a family trip and there were six of us (including two kids), we needed to take two cars. I took my car and my brother took his. I shifted my seat for comfort and adjusted any mirrors that needed adjustment, and slowly backed out of the driveway (as should be done). The road was clear, but I kept my eyes peeled for any incoming pedestrians or cars. As soon as I hit the freeway, there was plenty of room in between each lane for me to drive at a comfortable and safe distance. It was a swift and smooth ride for the first two hours as the sun rose along Interstate 5, and it stayed that way for the majority of the drive down to Southern California.
I lasted a total of three and a half hours driving before I had to switch over to the passenger seat and let someone else take control. My legs had become cramped and the exhaustion began to settle in. The break was necessary for me to recuperate and rest before our arrival. We exited around two to three times for gas and food along the way, but we were able to make it to our destination, Disneyland, in 7 hours.
Upon our arrival, I realized how much preparation going on a road trip can require. You need to be well rested the night before if you’re leaving early, and exit any time you need to make a stop. You should ensure that the tire pressure is checked and any car maintenance is taken care of beforehand. Since we were not only driving to Los Angeles, but also back to San Francisco, my car required an oil change as soon as we made it back home (pay attention to the mileage!).
Unfortunately, not everyone creates a checklist, and two hours into our trip, we realized that the kids’ stroller was left back home. This is another reason why it’s good to double check everything. Aside from this mishap, the trip was successful.
Overall, I learned that while road trips can be a great and freeing experience for new or conditioned drivers, they can also carry an incredible responsibility on the driver. The person behind the wheel has to be constantly aware of his or her surroundings, especially when driving to a new city or location. After all, the driver is the one in charge of not only getting the passengers to their destination, but getting them there safely.