Ah, the summer road trip. It’s right up there next to baseball and apple pie – an American classic. If your childhood was anything like mine, you weren’t unfamiliar with phrases like, “Stay on your side,” “You should’ve gone before we left the house” and, my personal favorite, “Are we there yet?” But, my summer road trips had another constant, the mirage. I grew up in south Texas where summer is eternal, November is autumn, December is winter and if we’re lucky, January is a mild spring before diving back into another endless summer.
So if you want tips for traveling in the heat, I’m your girl. This is the blog I was born to write.
Get an early start
As a child, I had big plans of a career as a weather girl. Those dreams fizzled when I discovered you need an education heavy in math and science, but it doesn’t take a meteorologist to know that temperatures are cooler before the sun comes up. You don’t have to drive in the dark for this to work; just make an effort to leave early. It’s much more comfortable for everyone if your trip doesn’t start by climbing into a steamy, 115-degree car.
Whether you load up the car at sunrise or high noon, take a minute or two to blast the air conditioner and open the doors or windows before everyone climbs inside. This is habitual for me whether we’re driving across the state or just driving around the corner.
My car might be powered by gasoline, but this road-tripper runs on caffeine. While caffeinated beverages, like coffee, tea and the occasional soda can offer a quick pick-me-up on the road, it’s important not to ignore our old pal, H20. The appeal of caffeine combined with my personal mission to minimize potty breaks can lead to a little dehydration. To make sure I drink water throughout the day, I generally have caffeine in the car, but I stick to water anytime we stop for food. Find a system that forces you to drink water, and stick to it. And, if you’re traveling with children, remember that they can dehydrate quickly, so maintain or increase their usual water intake (even if that means more frequent pit stops).
Carrying an ice chest with chilled waters, fresh fruits and vegetables or even baby food for little ones can keep everyone hydrated, fueled and refreshed anywhere between point A and point B. Just be sure to refill ice or refreeze ice packs when you stop for the evening.
I once sat in an airplane seat for eight hours from Dallas to Honolulu, which really has nothing to do with driving in the heat, but I mention it to illustrate that it’s a bad idea to sit still that long. Whether you’re traveling alone or with a carload of passengers, you need to take breaks for your health and your sanity. Many traveling tips suggest stopping at parks to let the kids or pets run around, and that’s a cute idea, but what do you do when the heat index is 110 degrees? You get creative.
First of all, when you stop anywhere, find shade. Then, park under said shade. It may be fleeting and it may only cover half of your car, but take what you can get.
Next, and this is by far the most important tip I’ll give you, never, under any circumstances should you leave anyone (four-legged family members included) in a parked car. It doesn’t matter if you crack the windows. It doesn’t matter if you’re only going to be gone for a second. It’s dangerous. Let me hop off of my soapbox and continue.
When stretching your legs out in the sunshine isn’t an option, research some other options on your route and plan your stops accordingly. Here are some fun suggestions:
- Walk around a shopping mall.
- Explore a museum or aquarium.
- Unleash the kids on an indoor playground.
- Splash around a splash park, water park, pool, lake, river or beach. Definitely plan ahead for this option and pack towels, dry clothes and sunscreen for everyone.
- Break for ice cream or smoothies.
- Walk your pets in the shade, and offer plenty of water at stops if you are traveling with animals.
A word on car maintenance
Beyond refilling gas and wiper fluid, car maintenance is out of my realm of expertise, so I’ll just say that regular maintenance is important. Have your tires and fluid levels checked and address any wear and tear or potential problems before you travel.
So, whether your next adventure is a cross-country move or just a summer day trip, stay safe and cool even when it’s “hot tamales” outside – as my son and I say. Find detailed information to help you plan your next cool summer move or vacation on Military OneSource.