Do These 6 Things Before Hitting the Open Road in California

couple packing up car for road trip

Winter driving tips for most U.S. states would focus on safe motoring on snow and ice. And yes, in California, there might be some of that, depending on your destination. Learning how to prepare for a road trip in California takes common sense – and, above all, good, cheap car insurance so you’ll be protected if something happens while on your trip. 

That’s why we’ve prepared this useful guide for winter holiday drivers. Check out these six steps you should always take before motoring to any point in this vast state. 

Consider local weather conditions. 

As we said, California is big. You can go downhill skiing in the mountains, visit hot or cold deserts, or walk on white-sand beaches. Bottom line, the topography, and weather can get very … different … quickly. 

For instance, if you live in San Diego and you’re visiting friends near the Oregon border, you’ll want to pack differently than if you’re visiting family elsewhere in Southern California. That geographic variation can affect driving conditions, too.  

If you’ve never driven on ice in your life, you don’t want to have to do so at 60 miles an hour. Smog – or fog – might be another driving threat in some parts of California. Heavy rains can sometimes be a challenge, too. Always know what you’ve got ahead of you weatherwise before you pack the family and head down the road in the Golden State. 

Stay out of traffic (if you can). 

We don’t mean traffic. We mean TRAFFIC. Consider: Los Angeles and San Francisco tied for fourth for the most traffic congestion among U.S. cities. In other traffic surveys in recent years, LA has dubiously claimed the top spot. For many California distance travelers, at least one of those two cities will be right on the map. 

If you can find a route around the most congested areas, you’ll save dramatically in both time and fuel. It might be worth it to upload a free or low-cost traffic app. Software such as Waze, Google Maps, INRIX, MapQuest, and others will give you a real-time report on traffic conditions so you can make pre-trip and even last-minute decisions to vary your route. 

Make sure your vehicle is roadworthy. 

We’d add a lot more in the way of car winterization tips if you were traveling icy roads in many other states, but a simple pre-travel check of tires and lights and an oil change is probably sufficient unless you have an older vehicle or one that’s recently given you problems.  

For your pre-journey car check-up of a newer vehicle, a drop-in at a local quick oil change facility might be enough. But if your car’s older or untrustworthy, have a more comprehensive evaluation at a full-service garage. 

Keep a fully charged phone. 

It’s a vast state, as we mentioned. And while most of us envision it as endless cities and traffic everywhere, there are deserts and mountain ranges that can make you feel all alone in the world. You don’t want to get a flat tire or run out of gas or get caught in a sudden snowstorm on a desolate road. That’s why you need to make sure you have at least one phone fully charged at all times. 

Pack an emergency kit. 

This can be as easy as filling a backpack and putting it in the trunk. Your kit should contain the items you’re likely to find handy or indispensable if you were to be stranded in a low-population area. Your kit’s contents might vary depending upon where you’re going, but it should include blankets, a flashlight and batteries, a phone charger, and maybe even a spare phone, water bottles, and trail mix, or other dried foods that store easily.  

You and your family want to be as safe and comfortable as possible while you wait for help. The good news is that, once you’ve prepared your emergency kit, you can leave it in your car and use it for future trips long and short. 

car emergency kit in trunk

Consider upgrading your car insurance. 

Do you have the minimum car insurance? That’s your legal right in California, and you’ll save money. But you should ask yourself whether it’s enough for your holiday travels. Even if you have full coverage, you might be without at least one very valuable coverage feature. Let’s review. 

Full Coverage Protects Your Bank Account 

Minimum car insurance in California is largely liability coverage to protect the other car, driver, and passengers in case you hit them and the accident is your fault. What minimum coverage doesn’t cover is your vehicle. 

Let’s say you’re driving on an unfamiliar highway system. You’re in dense traffic (of course), and you hit another car while trying to make a difficult lane change. It’s your fault, so your liability insurance covers the other car. 

No one’s hurt, fortunately, but your car’s a wreck. No problem if you’ve got thousands of dollars in your bank account or a credit card with a generous limit. But you still have to pay for a tow truck and motel accommodations for you and your family for however long it takes to repair your vehicle. The entire cost of the accident and its after-effects might be a shocking amount that will come out of your pocket. 

The alternative is to have full coverage, including collision and comprehensive. In this case, your insurance policy would handle the total cost of the collision above and beyond your deductible (the amount you agree to pay out of pocket before your insurer pays the rest). This could save you both money and a great deal of stress when you’re out of town and trying to make holiday plans. 

Roadside Service Gets You Back on the Road 

Another Cost-U-Less feature worth consideration is roadside assistance coverage. 

Remember, you could be in unfamiliar territory when you experience problems. You don’t know where the nearest garage is or how to get your broken ride there — especially during the holidays when lots of venues are closed. 

But if you have roadside assistance as part of your full coverage car insurance policy, help is just a phone call away and someone will be on the way to tow your vehicle, provide a battery charge or change a flat tire — whatever you need to get you back on the road as soon as possible. 

Call Us Before Your California Road Trip  

Enjoy your holiday travels! And you will if you travel under the security provided by Cost-U-Less Insurance, your source for the best and cheapest car insurance in California. Check us out online for a quick quote, call us at (800) 390-4071 for a quote by phone, or check out our locations to find a Cost-U-Less Insurance office and agent near you.