Road trips are synonymous with the American experience, and our nation’s stunning routes aren’t limited just to National Parks and famous drives like Route 66. Take off for the weekend from wherever you live—for example, you may find yourself floored by the beauty of the incredible scenic highways crisscrossing Michigan.

Whether you’re road tripping across the Great Lakes State or setting out for a Sunday drive near your home, follow these important safety tips whenever you strike out to look around and soak in the scenery.

1. Be Prepared

Before any road trip, make sure you’ve stowed an emergency kit and that your vehicle is tuned up. Double check that your insurance is up-to-date and your insurance cards and registration are easily accessible in the glove box. With your gas tank full and your GPS at the ready, cue up your favorite playlist and hit the open road.

2. Bring a Buddy

While the idea of taking off all alone with the wind in your hair may seem ideal, nothing makes a road trip better—and safer—than bringing a travel partner. You’ll have someone to chat with, keep you awake, pass you a sandwich…so you can keep your eyes on the road. Plus, traveling with a companion means you’ll have the bonus of someone to snap pictures out the window so you don’t have to worry about missing any beautiful views. Best of all, you can trade off and share the driving.

3. Make Frequent Stops

If you’re pausing to swap drivers, plan your shift changes at scenic spots along the route. It’s when you stop and pull over that memories are made.

Don’t be shy about making unscheduled, spontaneous stops. Instead of using them as chances to quickly fill up the gas tank, hit the bathroom, and grab more food, why not make them part of the expedition? It’s difficult to fully absorb a place when you’re speeding by, so work in time and make a habit of pulling over when you pass roadside artisans, produce stands, or scenic overlooks.

Furthermore, frequent breaks help immensely with alertness, allowing you to get out and stretch in the fresh air.

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4. Research in Advance

While it’s fun to drive without an agenda and pull over whenever you see something of interest, not all attractions are visible from the road. Make sure you don’t miss any of the most notable stops on your scenic drive by checking out sites like Atlas Obscura to identify historical and cultural stops along your route.

For example, Michigan boasts 12,000 inland lakes and more miles of coastline than any state but Alaska, so there’s obviously a wealth of scenic lakeshore stops. Without a bit of pre-research, however, you might miss Holland, a quaint town known for its sandy beaches and tulip festival. Don’t leave without touring the Holland Harbor Light, a lighthouse locally known as Big Red. (Michigan, by the way, has more lighthouses than anywhere in the United States, so you’re bound to pass another along your drive.)

5. Plan for Overnight Stopovers

Build in extra time for your trip by planning your accommodations in advance. That way, you’ll know how far you’re going each day, and you can adopt a leisurely pace for your driving adventure without concerns about where you’ll stay that night. By dividing up the drive with overnights in gorgeous places, you’ll be rested and ready to take on the next leg of your journey safely the next morning (once you’ve taken in the beauty around you).

In Michigan, try spending the night in Frankenmuth, known as the state’s “Little Bavaria”. Consider a vacation rental along the lakeshore, close to the rugged Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness.

A few final tips for the road:

  • Keep your stress level down by being flexible with your route and your itinerary.
  • Always wear your seatbelt.
  • Stop for fuel when you get to around half a tank, so that you never have to worry about running out if you venture further from civilization.
  • Give your car a quick walk around when you stop for gas, checking tire levels and looking for hazards like rocks in the treads or debris stuck under the car.
  • Relax and enjoy your road trip!
 
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Chris Keilman is a copywriter at Esurance, where he specializes in blog content that’s helpful and insightful. As part of the editorial staff for more than two years, he’s researched and written about a myriad of driving- and travel-related topics, from road-tripping in Michigan to travel insurance to traffic laws.