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Rental car safety tips

5 Tips for Rental Car Safety and Sanity

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We lived in Las Vegas for several years, so I feel qualified to declare the Strip and surrounding areas the “Distracted Driver Capital of the World.” I’m not blaming the locals entirely because I attribute the concentration of poor driving to the fact that half the people on the roads are tourists. They’re driving unfamiliar rental cars while trying to navigate new roads, all while very anxious to get to the Strip and start living it up.

Seeing almost every driver staring at their crotch typing into their phone or trying to drive with one hand while juggling their phone in the other in attempt to ask Siri where to go or yelling at Google Maps is not unique to Vegas, but it seems exponentially worse in Sin City. With that in mind, here are 5 tips to help you drive your rental car safely like a local and not a distracted tourist, no matter where your travels take you around the globe.

1. DECLUTTER

Put all your luggage, carry-ons, and other unneeded travel accessories into the trunk, or at least pile them onto your sweet children in the back seat. Leave the driver’s seat free of distracting clutter like magazines, books, random water bottles, and snacks you collected on the flight to your destination.

At the same time, make sure you grab your phone or GPS for directions, any car chargers, and for heaven’s sake, don’t forget your sunglasses. Many airport parking garages are shaded but as soon as you hit the open road, you don’t want to be fumbling for your Ray Bans or whatever the new vintage sunglass trend is at the time.

2. PLAN YOUR ROUTE

Take the extra time to type your destination into your phone or GPS before pulling out of your parking space. While I know you just want to get off of airport property and get going, you really don’t want to be typing on your tiny keyboard and cutting across multiple lanes of traffic leaving the airport, all while merging onto the wrong highway.

Even those antiquated paper maps from the rental car counter can prove useful. Take a quick peek at the map and see what main road or interstate you need. Many times airport direction signs will point you to the major roads surrounding an airport or the closest cities of interest. It’s never fun to spend precious vacation time driving on the correct interstate, but in the wrong direction. It’s even worse to figure out that gem 20 miles down the road.

3. SET UP YOUR VACATION SOUNDTRACK

Entertainment options didn’t stop the moment you left the airplane. Before you start your car, do a quick internet search to find a radio station you might like in your vacation city. It certainly beats Googling “NPR station listing” while trying to also read street signs.

Don’t forget to also make sure your kiddos are set, too. Leaving their iPad in the trunk can result in the family favorite quiz topic of “Are we there yet?” being repeated ad nauseum. I also recommend traveling with a CD of the National Lampoon’s Vacation soundtrack so you can pop that into the car stereo at any time. Holiday rooaad…

If those last two words didn’t make you crack a smile, just make a fun vacation music mix on your phone or tablet that will get (and keep) you and your entire crew excited for the fun trip you’re on. Ours always includes a little Foo Fighters, Robert Earl Keen, Taylor Swift for our girls, and Convoy by C.W. McCall for a few giggles.

4. GET THE HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE

In general, try to make the rental car feel like your car at home. Get the seat adjusted just how you like it. Position the mirrors where you can actually see something other than all sky or just the stripes on the road. Make sure the temperature is comfortable so you’re not distracted by children yelling about how they are roasting in the back seat.

And remember to stash a few resealable plastic bags in the car where you can reach them quickly if needed. For a girl who is terrified of vomit, my kids sure love to get car sick when we are on vacation.

5. WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG?

Just accept the fact that there will be wrong turns, missed exits, traffic jams, inevitable road construction, (and in my case, a sick kid in the back seat) in your future. Mentally prepare yourself for these problems to help prevent becoming frustrated while driving.

And if you need a little thought as a consolation, just think to yourself, “At least I’m not driving a right-hand drive manual car in the U.K. or Japan right now sitting in the front spot at a red light, and my brain can’t wrap itself around shifting with my left hand, much less where to turn when the light turns green.” See, your problems aren’t all that bad after all.

And if you’re headed to one of the 75 countries, territories, or dependencies where your only option is a right-hand drive vehicle, stay tuned for my next post on tips for driving in a left-hand traffic world!

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Amy grew up in Southern California but has lived all over the globe. Her latest move brought her to Panama City, Florida, where she lives with her…

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