10 Ways to Stay Safe and Healthy on a U.S. Road Trip

by: Bree Weidman

If you’re planning an RV-style road trip across the United States, you’ve probably got one thing on your mind- adventure! From the endless deserts and painted skies of the “Wild West” to the coastal plains and rolling seas of the Eastern Seaboard, the U.S. has plenty to offer international visitors.

To help you prepare for your trip, we’ve taken into account both U.S. culture and the rules of the road to devise these 10 health and safety tips:

  1. Don’t advertise yourself as a tourist

When you look like you don’t know where you’re going (or if it’s clear you’re “not from around here”), thieves are more likely to view you as an easy target. Keep the road maps in your car out of plain sight, recommends RoadTripAmerica, and “if your vehicle is laden with luggage, park where you can see it from a restaurant or store.”

Don’t want to dress like a tourist? Learn all about American clothing and style with this free guide.

  1. Make frequent stops

Every few hours, pull over and take a break- even if you don’t think you’re sleepy. Use this time to stretch your legs, revel in the fresh air, and get some nourishment. But don’t park on the shoulder or in the breakdown lane unless you have an emergency, says Independent Traveler.

If you’re traveling in a group, rotating drivers will allow you to nap without wasting valuable time. And if you’re traveling solo, the site recommends listening to music, cracking your window, and refraining from using speed control, since concentrating can help keep you awake. If you’re too tired to drive, certainly pull over for a nap!

  1. Understand distracted-driving laws

Hopefully you already know not to drink and drive (and to always wear your seatbelt). But did you know that using a hand-held cell phone while driving is against primary enforcement law in 14 U.S. states? This means you can be cited even without committing an additional traffic offense.

The U.S. has primary enforcement laws regarding the use of seatbelts, too. For additional info on seatbelt laws, DUI laws, and more, check out this Guide to U.S. Culture and Customs. 

  1. Have an emergency plan in place before severe weather hits

Upon arriving in a new location, take time to devise an emergency plan, suggest Jason and Kristin Snow of Snowmads.com. Be sure to find the nearest storm shelter and evacuation spots- especially in areas prone to floods, hurricanes, or tornadoes.

The “snowmads” also recommend that you react quickly to severe weather threats, value your life (and the lives of law enforcement) above the welfare of your possessions, and gather “the most up-to-date weather data available.”

  1. Prepare your vehicle for long-distance travel

Like cars, RV’s need to be properly serviced and maintained. According to Camping World, oil and filters should be changed at regular intervals, roof seals and seams should be inspected every 6 months, and tire pressure and lug nuts should be inspected before every trip. Before jetting off on your vacation, check with your RV rental company to see what your responsibilities are.

  1. Pack an emergency kit

No traveler really wants to consider the possibility of becoming stranded on the side of the road, but emergencies happen- especially on long-term trips. Having these 6 things in your emergency kit can save you a world of trouble.

  1. Invest in physical maps – and a guidebook

While it’s a good idea to load your smartphone with travel apps (Google Maps, GasBuddy, and iExit will all come in handy), there’s still a chance you’ll run into spotty cell service in the U.S. For those times you can’t get a signal, a fold-out atlas is ideal.

A Dangerous Business travel blog recommends a Rand McNally road atlas and a book like The Next Exit, a complete guide to interstate highway amenities.

  1. Get international travel health insurance

Did you know that a broken leg can cost up to $7,500 to fix in the United States? Before departing your home country, it’s your responsibility as an international traveler to find out whether your standard medical insurance policy covers you outside your home country.

If it doesn’t (and many do not), an international travel medical plan can provide coverage for eligible expenses resulting from unexpected illness or injury. Not only do these plans provide financial protection and access to quality medical care, but some plans include benefits like Medical Evacuation, Natural Disaster, and Personal Liability.

  1. Read up on social etiquette

There’s more to feeling safe and secure on a road trip than simply avoiding injury. In addition to prepping your vehicle for travel, following traffic laws, and acquiring insurance, be sure to read up on social etiquette in the U.S. By understanding behavioral norms, you can bypass uncomfortable (or, in worst-case scenarios, threatening) situations.

This Guide to U.S. Culture and Customs has everything you need to know- from general manners, acceptable gestures, and welcome topics of conversation to dining etiquette and tipping guidelines!

  1. Keep your valuables safe

Get in the habit of locking your RV each time you head out, no matter how safe a campground appears. Lock valuables in either the glove compartment or trunk before you reach your destination, suggests Independent Traveler. If possible, luggage should be stored in the trunk.

Kampgrounds of America recommends also keeping your shades closed and purchasing devices to protect your vehicle while you’re gone, like a safe, trailer-hitch lock, or motion detector.

If you thought these tips were helpful, find these and many more in this free, downloadable Guide to U.S. Culture and Customs! Following these tips and tricks will result in a seamless cultural transition- no matter where you choose to stop along the way. 

Bree Weidman is a Marketing Specialist for Tokio Marine HCC – MIS Group, a full-service insurance organization offering domestic short term and travel medical insurance products to international travelers worldwide.  Though she’s been writing her entire life, Bree has been a contributing author of the MIS Group blog for about a year now, covering topics paramount to global adventurers: health, safety, culture, and insurance, to name a few. When Bree isn’t writing, you’ll likely find her daydreaming about her next international vacation!

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