Preparing for a Summer Road Trip

The following post is sponsored by Allstate Insurance Co.  As a reminder, this site and its author may be compensated for expressing personal opinions regarding featured products and services.

The thought of flying anywhere these days is most unappealing to me. The long lines, the invasive security, the crowded cabins in coach all combine to make for a pretty miserable experience. I’m much more comfortable in my own vehicle, and assuming I can reach a destination in a day or two’s drive, well, I’d rather just settle in for a drive.

Of course, driving long distances can be fraught with risks as well. Add in the oppressive heat wave gripping much of the country, and the strain on your car may be too much, leading to an inopportune breakdown in the worst possible spot.

I’ve always had a roadside assistance plan, since the days when my wife traveled several hundred miles to visit relatives after our first child was born, and unfortunately, I couldn’t go along. The plan provided some piece of mind that if she were to encounter trouble, help was just a cell phone call away.

One of the things I didn’t like about that plan, and still don’t, is that I have to pay a fee every month whether I take advantage of the plan or not. It’s kind of like having a gym membership and never using the gym!

That’s why I’ve been interested in the Good Hands Roadside Assistance plan offered by Allstate. Here are a few benefits of the plan:

  • You do not need to have Allstate insurance to use this service
  • You only pay when you use it; there are no monthly fees
  • Pre-registering for Good Hands Roadside Assistance provides faster service at time of need on the road. Those that pre-register will also receive a welcome kit in the mail containing a wallet card, key fob and window cling with the phone number for roadside help
  • You can register for up to 5 drivers on your account (perfect for families with teen drivers)

If interested, you can sign up directly below (after signing up, continue reading below for some additional tips for making a summer road trip safe):

In addition to a solid roadside assistance plan, it’s a good idea to stock your car with a few basic survival supplies specifically for the summer. Here’s a short list of things I always carry along:

  • Water. I like to toss a 24-pack of water bottles in the trunk just before leaving. Sure, it adds a little weight to our vehicle, but if stranded in a hot climate, having some water on hand is vitally important.
  • High-calorie snack bars. Again, if you are stranded, or have to wait a long time for help to arrive, it’s a good idea to have some snacks on hand. Avoid things like chocolate bars, which will become a melted mess in the summer heat. Stick to granola and peanut butter flavors.
  • Ramen noodles. I occasionally survived on these in college, so I could do it again if I had to.
  • Mirror. Great for signaling someone from long distances, especially a pilot looking for you from above.
  • Paracord. Every good bug out bag should have some rope.
  • First aid kit. Store everything from pain relievers, gloves, first aid tape, gauze, bandages, insect bite relief, etc.
  • Survival knife/multi-tool. Great for cutting rope, opening cans, etc.
  • Mess kit. Folding pans and pot can help make water safe, heat food, etc.
  • Mylar blanket. Good for hot or cold climates. If you have to hunker down in your vehicle overnight and have no heat source, these blankets will come in handy for trapping body heat and keeping you warm.
  • Flashlight. Don’t forget to toss in a spare set of batteries.
  • Waterproof matches. For starting a small fire  for a heat source to cook food, make water safe, etc.
  • Whistle. Again, great for getting rescuers’ attention if you found yourself in the ditch and not easily visible from the road. If injured, you may not have the energy to scream for help, but a blow on the whistle will travel a long way.
  • Poncho. Nice for changing tires in a downpour – been there, done that.

These car “bug out bags” aren’t designed to live off for weeks, but should provide enough tools to help you stay safe until help arrives. Toss these contents in a spare backpack or small storage crate and safely store in your trunk, along with the usual auto emergency gear – jumper cables, an empty gas can, jack and lug wrench for changing the spare, and an auto fire extinguisher.


  1. All good ideas. You should always have abug out bag. Berkey filters makes a small hiking type water filter you could filter most any water with this carry one. A knife is a must. Toilet paper has many uses. Small first aid kit. It doesn’t have to be an emergency to need or use you’re bag. Just replace what you used and you are good to go. Don’t forget quality storable food, not power bars or junk like that. eFoods Global has a free food trial offer 12 servings the stuff, it lasts decades.

  2. If you’re thinking about traveling somewhere by plane, you should know about this sweepstakes where you can win free plane tickets!! If you donate money upon entering in the sweepstakes, it all goes to Class Wish, a nonprofit site where parents, teachers, and communities easily unite to provide the classroom resources our children need.

  3. If you’ve got kids to haul to and from practice and other activities, it’s a good idea always to keep water bottles and some food (I keep peanut butter crackers and Kashi bars) in the back. They’ve saved countless trips to McDonald’s drive thrus on those nights where there just isn’t time to stop home for some food.

  4. I’ve been told – though fortunately never had to test – that if you keep a lighter/matches and a large jar type candle in your car when you light it enough heat is provided to keep you from freezing to death in your car overnight in winter conditions. Not keep you warm – but keep you alive. I think you’re supposed to also crack the window for fresh air when doing this. I know this is a summer article but – some places we travel by car in summer still have snow.

    • Indeed…we don’t leave the water in the car beyond the trip, as we often drink half of it during our stay (not going to pay $1.50 for a water bottle in the hotel’s vending machine).

      • I actually keep a small cooler in the deck of my van and I switch out the ice packs every morning in the summer. It’s part of my morning routine. We don’t use the water every day, but it’s so nice to have coldish water (I never thought about the carcinogens) when you’re hot and thirsty and replacing the freeze packs is such an easy habit to get into.

  5. Just a couple of other thoughts that are good ideas:

    -Check your cell phone plan to make sure it covers the area. If not, call in advance – many of them have mini plans that you can add for a limited amount of time to cut down on cost. For example, I’m headed to Ontario in 2 weeks, and it was $2.99 for the month to add Ontario to my list of normal priced call areas. And check on data plans and GPS as well before you go – you never know when you might come home to a thousand dollar cell phone bill because you forgot to check first!

    -Call your bank and let them know you will be traveling. Many banks now have security detection that says something is up with your debit/credit card, and automatically shut it off, even when traveling in just across the US (international travel is a MUST to tell them in advance). It’s a pain to get it turned back on, and you’ll be stuck (especially if you travel with little cash!).