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Emergency Supplies for Road Trips

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No one plans to have a roadside emergency, but it's nice to be prepared if one occurs. It's very easy to put together emergency supplies for your next road trip. If you should happen to break down, you'll be ready to handle the problem and call for assistance.

Year-Round Items:

  • Maps or GPS. You'll need these to avoid getting lost and to explain where your vehicle is parked if you break down.


  • Car Repair Guide. If you no longer have your car's original manual, purchase a repair guide for your car. Haynes and Chilton's are the most popular guides in the U.S.


  • Money or Credit Card. Don't get caught short in an emergency. Have some way to pay for roadside assistance.


  • Tire Gauge. This helps you measure the amount of air in your tire so that you don't overinflate it. Keep it in your glove compartment.


  • Spare Tire. Before every road trip, check your spare tire to make sure it's properly inflated.


  • Jack. Your spare tire is useless if you can't put it onto your car. Check your jack when you check your tire, and lubricate it if necessary.


  • Tire Iron. The same applies to your tire iron. Be sure it's packed in your trunk before you leave home.


  • Emergency Reflector Triangle. These are required in Europe and are good to have on any continent. Place the reflector several feet behind your stalled vehicle to give other drivers a chance to see you.


  • Fire Extinguisher. Be sure to keep it in an easily accessible spot. You can't put out a fire if you have to unpack your trunk first.


  • Tools. Carrying a small toolbox, containing items like screwdrivers, duct tape, Allen wrenches and a hammer will help you repair not only your car but other vacation-related items.


  • Flashlight. Flashlights are handy for night repairs. They can also be used to signal for help.


  • Mirror. You can use a mirror to signal for help and to see around difficult corners inside your engine.


  • Water. Bottled water is a must-have emergency supply. Bring enough to get everyone in the family through a 24-hour period, plus extra for your radiator.


  • Cell Phone and Charger. While you can survive on the road without a cell phone – in fact, there are still many areas where cell phones won't work – having a cell phone along can speed up the emergency assistance process.


  • Spare Headlight Bulbs. These are also required in some European countries. If you're planning to drive a long distance at night, it's a good idea to bring spare bulbs with you.


  • Emergency Contact List. It doesn't help much to have a cell phone if you don't know whom to call.


  • First Aid Kit. You can purchase a pre-packaged kit or create one from supplies you have at home.


  • Food. Bring along nonperishable items such as beef jerky and granola bars. If you're traveling a long distance in a remote area, also bring canned food items and a hand-cranked can opener. Don't forget utensils.


  • Pet Food. If Fido's along for the ride, make sure you have food and water for your beloved friend.


  • Batteries. Pack spare batteries for your flashlight and any other electronic items you plan to bring.


  • Matches. You can use these to light your candle or start a signal fire in a properly cleared area.


  • Candle. A candle in a glass jar, such as a Yankee Candle, can help you see in the dark and can also keep the interior of your vehicle warm in cold weather. Don't light it while you are driving.


  • Comfortable Walking Shoes. If you have to leave your vehicle, it's better to do so in shoes that can take some punishment.


  • Gloves. To protect your hands in cold weather or when making repairs, bring along a pair of gloves.


  • Camera. Tuck a disposable camera into your glove compartment. If you have an accident, photograph both vehicles and the surrounding scene before anything is moved.


  • Pen and Paper. If you need to leave a note on your windshield or give information to someone, you'll be glad you brought a pen and paper along.


  • Oil. Bring a quart of motor oil in case you need to top up. Be sure you bring the same kind and weight of oil you have in your vehicle.


  • Rags or Paper Towels. After you finish checking or repairing your car, you can use rags or paper towels to clean your hands.


  • Funnel. Having a funnel along makes it easier to top up your vehicle's fluid levels. Bring a plastic bag to hold the funnel after use.


  • Jumper Cables. You can use these to jump start your car or to help someone else.


  • Book. While you're waiting for a tow truck, it's nice to have something to do.

Winter Items:

  • Blankets. Bring a couple of warm blankets along in case you break down in freezing weather.


  • Sand or Cat Litter. If you get stuck in snow or ice, sand or cat litter can improve the car's traction and help you drive forward. Spread in front of the wheel that slips.


  • Shovel. Use this to dig your car out.


  • Chains or Snow Tires. If you regularly drive in winter weather, you should put snow tires on your car or carry tire chains. Be sure you know how to put the chains on your vehicle.


  • Windshield Washer Fluid (De-icing). In bad weather, you'll use a lot of windshield washer fluid. Carry extra in case you run out.


  • Ice Scrapers. Keep one in your car and one in your luggage. You won't be able to scrape ice off your car if your ice scraper is frozen inside it.


  • Weatherproof Outerwear. Don't ever leave home without a warm jacket, hat and gloves. Yes, they are bulky, but they can save your life.
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