Today is the first day of fall, time to bid a fond farewell to summer and welcome all that autumn brings: scarves, pumpkin pie, cozy firesides, and (of course) leaf peeping.

For many of us, one of the best ways to appreciate the changing seasons is with a picturesque drive to view autumn’s amazing palette. But gazing at the foliage, while spectacular in theory, can sometimes end with less-than-colorful results — like being too early or too late for Mother Nature’s show. It can also leave you open to the dangers of fall driving — one of which is slow-moving, distracted leaf peepers … yourself excluded of course.

So before you chart your road trip, pack the camera, load the car, and get on your way, check out our guide to maximizing your adventure.

Scope out fall foliage with cool apps

In the old days, you had to rely on hearsay and instincts to plan the perfect trip. Today, with the magic of technology, all it takes is an app.

Here are some of our favorite (free!) apps for leaf lovers:

  • Leaf Peepr: Whether you live in the Northeast or on the West Coast, this app lets you find and report on the most brilliant displays of fall color anywhere in the U.S. Utilize reviews, pictures, and ratings from other users to see which areas are at their peak.
  • TreeID: Ever wonder whether that beautiful leaf you’re admiring is a maple or a dogwood? Well, with the TreeID app, you can identify almost any tree in North America. (Sorry Android users; this app only works with iPhones®. But the Audubon field guide to North American trees is only $0.99 and works great with Android.)
  • Esurance Mobile: You never know when you might get a sudden craving for cupcakes or need to find the nearest gas station while leaf peeping.

Give your car a checkup

Whether your fall drive takes you near or far, it’s always a good idea to give your car a little inspection before hitting the road. Here are 3 easy things you can do:

  • Check your wiper blades.  Even if you live in the driest place in America (Death Valley, California) and rarely use your wipers, you should still change them about every 6 months. To check for wear and tear, lift up the blades and run your finger along the rubber edge. If the rubber is rigid or chipped, you probably need new wipers.
  • Check your lights. Of course, autumn means winter’s on its way. You want to be able to see (and be seen) through all those long nights ahead, right?
  • Check your tire tread. The coming of autumn means the coming of rain, which can lead to slick roads. To see if your tires still have tread (and therefore traction), use the penny test. Simply place a penny upside down in a tire’s grooves. If the top of Lincoln’s head is covered, you’re good to go. If you can see Lincoln’s hair, it’s about time to replace your tires.

Fall in line with safe driving

Did you know that fall is deer mating season? And that the average deer-car collision costs more than $3,000?

To stay safe on the road and avoid a costly car accident, be extra careful during dawn and dusk, when animals are at their most active. Learn how to steer clear of Bambi.

And hey, when you find those gorgeous fall leaves, send us a pic on Facebook (we love to do a little leaf peeping from our desks!).

Related link

While on the road, you might want to check out these 8 unusual roadside attractions.

Travel hacks


about Anne

If variety is the spice of a copywriter’s life, then Anne’s career at Esurance was akin to sassafras. From 2010 to 2014, she added a touch of zest to topics ranging from cleaning with baking soda to becoming a first-time homeowner.