As a lifelong Rhode Island resident, I know summer means clam cakes, Del’s lemonade and beach traffic.
The first two are awesome, but the last one, not so much.
While it’s great to live in a state with dozens of public beaches, the popularity of these natural recreational sources can create logjams on local roads and highways.
Plenty of those around the Northeast can relate with this, whether it’s Boston residents blasting up to the Salisbury Beach, New York residents breaking for Long Island, New Jersey residents heading down the shore or Connecticut residents looking to stroll Hammonasset.
Sometimes snarls can mean longer trips to or from the beach. Other times, they can just be an unfortunate consequence of being in the wrong area at the wrong time. Fortunately, there are steps drivers can take to mitigate time spent in beach traffic, or at least make the most of it.
Tips for Dealing with Beach Traffic
Know your beaches: Even if you never visit the beach, knowing the popular spots in your area, and how they’re reached, can be helpful. Traffic heading to Cape Cod, for example, is notoriously difficult on Friday afternoons. It’s tough getting out of dodge on Sunday mornings, too. Some savvy visitors schedule trips around longer weekends, arriving on Thursday and leaving on Monday. If you haven’t already, research the ebbs and flows of beach traffic on nearby roads and plan accordingly.
Avoid, or prepare, for holidays: You won’t be the only one off on Independence Day. If you’re thinking about heading to the beach, ask yourself if you’re prepared for the traffic. It’ll likely be worse than usual and, for some, a laid-back day cooking steaks on the grill might be a better option.
If you go during a holiday: If you decide to brave a holiday, weekend or any nice-weather beach day, expect to hit traffic and plan accordingly. Pack snacks, some water and maybe a relaxing playlist to keep you at ease in the slog. You’ll also want to have movies or games to occupy the kids.
Prepare your vehicle: Beach traffic can be challenging on vehicles. The last thing you want is for your next shore outing to be unforgettable because you broke down on the side of the road. Having your vehicle’s battery checked is a good bet before any beach trip. AAA members can request free battery checks and, if needed, get a new AAA battery for a special member price.
John Paul, AAA’s Car Doctor, has several other pre-beach-trip car care tips:
- Take five minutes to look under the hood. Check and top off all vital fluids including engine oil, transmission, power steering and windshield wiper fluids and engine coolant.
- Don’t leave home without extra windshield washer fluid, one quart of oil and some pre-mixed engine coolant, in case of emergency. Click here for a list of other items you should always keep in your car.
- If you are stuck in traffic and your car starts to overheat, shut off the air conditioning and turn on the heater, this will help cool the engine. Don’t tailgate. Let air circulate between your car and the one in front of it. Pull over as soon as it is safe and allow the car to cool. Never open a hot radiator. When the car’s engine is cool, remove the top of the engine coolant reservoir and check for leaks. You might be able to tighten a loose clamp, and even a leaking hose, in some instances, can be patched with duct tape. Learn more about why cars overheat.
- Keep an eye on the temperature gauge and pull over if the temperature gauges rises, or the coolant or check engine lights come on. Even if the car seems okay afterward, bring it to a trusted repair shop for a complete checkup. A well-maintained car shouldn’t overheat. You can find a list of AAA Approved Auto Repair shops here. Members receive discounts and guaranteed repairs.
- Consider public transportation: You’ll probably have to leave the pop-up umbrella at home, but taking public transportation via rail or bus is an option worth weighing in you want nothing to do with beach traffic. State transportation services in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have traditionally offered some form of public beach transportation.
For more car, traffic and safety tips, visit AAA.com/DriversNation.