HGTV star Chip Wade shares his top safety and planning tips for the best family vacation

By Mackenzie Schmidt
Updated June 20, 2017 01:17 PM
Warner Bros./Getty Images

HGTV’s Chip Wade abides by the first rule of a successful car ride: Everyone pees before they leave the house. But the star of Super Great Rooms on the DIY Networkand regular on Ellen’s Design Challenge (and, you may have guessed, a dad to young kids), has a few more expert tips in mind to ensure you avoid any traumatic roadside experiences, and are fully prepared for the few bumps you can’t avoid.

1. THE MISTAKE: Procrastinating on Car Care

THE FIX: Make It Easy to Never Forget. Wade recommends setting a reminder to check up on your car regularly: “I live by my phone, so I put a recurring alert for when I need an oil change (about every four months) and when I need a tune up (every 12).” Road trippers, however, get one more to-do. “Two weeks before your trip, check your tire pressure, your oil and make sure the car is running well.” You want to have enough time to fix any issues you may find.

2. THE MISTAKE: Having the Wrong Roadside Supplies

THE FIX: Make a Smart Emergency Kit. “I have a small egg crate in the back of my van with some items that I think are mandatory,” says Wade. On his must-have list: “a small flashlight, a couple water bottles, a first aid kit, duct tape, an extra cell phone charger, wet wipes, batteries, jumper cables and a multitool. I also keep an old, junky towel in the car to put down on the ground in case I need to get up under the car to see what that thud was,” he says. If you just googled “multitool” or are laughing at the prospect of doing your own auto repairs, keep one more thing in mind: “If somebody were to stop on the road and help you, it’s very considerate to have some of these items for that person as well.”


3. THE MISTAKE: Relying on Your Phone Alone

THE FIX: Have an Analog Back Up. If you think being phone-free is rough in civilization, imagine the trauma of a dead battery in the middle of the desert. A recent study by Liberty Mutual Insurance, for whom Wade is a consultant, found one third of Americans don’t consistently keep a cell phone charger in their car. Needless, to say the start of a road trip is not the time to forgo the charger, but Wade also suggests having a simple back up, should your phone meet an untimely demise. “Even if it’s just a standard map of the continental U.S. with interstates and cardinal directions . . . it sounds totally 19th century, but you’ll at least be able to find civilization.” Another simple stress saver: “Have a written list of your emergency contacts on a piece of paper, old school and shove it in your glove compartment.”

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4. THE MISTAKE: Indulging in Distractions

THE FIX: Make a Pact with Your Copilot. We all know texting while driving is a no-no any time, but on a long-haul trip checking your social media or capturing that perfect Instagram is extra tempting. “Make an anti-phone pact with whoever you’re traveling with,” says Wade, “that neither one of you will be texting or using social media while driving.” If you trust them with your safety, you can trust them with your Snapchat story.

5. THE MISTAKE: Putting the Emphasis on the Arrival

THE FIX: Make the most of your time together. When planning a road trip, embrace that cheesy inspirational Instagram post and remember that the journey is the destination. Letting go of your time management a bit, indulging in some sweet car games and watching the world go by is the best way to make the most of a classic open-road vacation.