The seasons are changing, and travel is beckoning. It’s road trip time!

Whether you choose to travel with a group of friends or with your family, going on a road trip can be fun, rewarding, exciting, and yes — even a bit adventurous.

But to really get the most out of the open road, safety is just as important, too. Many professional travelers recommend traveling in groups of two or more, especially since driving for long periods of time can be tiresome. (And if you’re a group of women traveling alone, there’s no shortage of possible predators — both natural and man-made — at the ready for you.)

Traveling with a family can be fun, too — but it pays to be prepared, especially if you’re traveling with young children. The last thing you, or they, need is to arrive to your final destination all stressed out — or to be on the road with them bored out of their minds. (Any parent who has ever had to deal with a cranky, bored, tired, and hungry child can attest to the need for being prepared for a road trip.)

No matter how you choose to hit the open road, it’s absolutely imperative to do these seven things first.

Stock Up on Healthy Snacks

Rest stops are filled with fatty, processed foods that are far from good for you. Before you head out on a road trip, fill a cooler like this one (which keeps food cold for up to five days) with fresh fruits and vegetables, loaves of whole-grain bread, peanut butter, and other healthy snacks.

This will prevent you from stopping by fast-food joints and greasy pizza spots while you’re traveling.

Get Your Vehicle Checked

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Make sure that you’re not taking to the open road with a death trap. Get a grease job & oil filter change. Check your brakes. Check your transmission fluid. Check all your belts.

Most of all, make sure your tires are in good shape — and take along a full spare (not a donut tire) in the event of a blowout or an accident. It’s better to be safe than sorry!

Bring Activities for the Kiddies

Traveling with children? Don’t rely on the iPad (or your car’s entertainment system) to keep them entertained. Pack some car-friendly children’s games, like Simon (pictured above), and some books, to keep them amused during the long stretches of road that can sometimes be boring.

Download Apps to Avoid Rush Hours, Parades, & Events

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There are several apps you can download that will give you the best routes on a road trip. But few are quite as reliable as Waze.

Use that app to avoid rush hours, parades, and special events in the area where you’re planning your road trip. This app is especially helpful if you’re not familiar with the area where you’re road-tripping to.

Make Sure Your Driver's License, Insurance & Registration is All In Order

Got any outstanding traffic tickets? Clear them up. Need to update your registration or your driver’s license? Do that. Do not hit the road with anything outstanding on your driving record — do not give the police an excuse to pull you over or otherwise make your life miserable.

Make Provisions for Your Home

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If you’re going away for more than a few days, make all the necessary provisions for your home. Hire a pet sitter (or a babysitter, if you’re leaving the human kids behind too), install a Ring doorbell, have the post office hold your packages (you don’t need anyone stealing your Amazon purchases), and have a friend or a family member check in periodically to make sure everything is copacetic at the house.

Research, Research, Research!

Katrina Wittkamp

Believe it or not, sundown towns are still a problem for Black travelers. Before you hit the road, make sure you’re entering into “safe” territory — and don’t travel alone, if you don’t have to.