Do you have a family vacation coming up? Perhaps a concert to attend? Maybe you just want to get out and hit the road. Here are nine tips to help you get through your next road trip.
Plan ahead: While spontaneous trips can be fun and exciting, planning ahead far in advance may allow you to iron out potential bumps in your plans before they arise. A simple suggestion is to give yourself as much time as you can. The longer the trip, the more time you may need to make accommodations. Think about pets or house care that may need to be maintained while you are gone. Do you work in a place that requires you to request time off a certain number of days in advance? You can never be too prepared.
Make a budget: Save yourself some hassle and a few dollars! Budgets can be hard to stick to while on the road, but a few guidelines may help you curb your urge to spend. Set aside an amount for gasoline, lodging, food, emergencies and entertainment. You can base your estimate off the local pricing information for the place you will be visiting. Remember, it doesn’t hurt to save a little more than you need.
Packing: Welcome to the fun part! I will freely admit to falling into the trap of the chronic over-packer. When you don’t know what you might need, it is very tempting to simply bring everything. One way to resist the urge is to prepare a packing list. Write down the number of days and nights you will be staying. Then determine what the weather may be like and be sure to note if your travels may require you to change clothes more than once a day. Because this article is specific to road trips, we can assume that you will not be restricted to the baggage limits you must adhered to for air travel. However, this does not mean that you should stuff your trunk! Consider the possibility of doing laundry while on your trip, of wearing an item like jeans more than once. Also, pack items that can mix and match well.
Entertainment: If watching the world roll by isn’t your thing, be sure to pack a few items to keep you busy on your trip. Audio books and music (we highly suggest K-Pop) are wonderful ways to pass the time if you’re behind the wheel. If someone else is doing the driving, it can’t hurt to have a great book or a movie or two on your phone or computer. Spare batteries are also a must. An extra car charger, plug-in chargers and USB cords will certainly save you a headache in the long haul.
Transportation: Because this article is geared toward road trips, let’s limit transportation to the type with wheels. Planning ahead will come in handy here as well. You may want to consider a rental car for long-distance trips. A Costco membership or even an AAA membership may mean that you can save quite a bit of cash. Remember that some states have differing laws regarding the legal age for renting a vehicle. In most states, the age is 25. If you will be taking your own vehicle or a friend’s, be sure to give the car a check-up before starting a long trip. You may want to consider an oil change as well as the current state of the car’s tires. Check those fluids too!
Destination: Know your destination! Do your research beforehand and make a few plans. Going to a concert? Find the location of the venue. It won’t hurt to look up the venue rules and parking accommodations. You can also plan ahead for your dining options. Popping into a grocery store can save you time and cash compared to eating out. If the place you are staying won’t accommodate a few groceries, apps like GrubHub and Zomato can help you check out local dining options and maybe score you a few deals.
Accommodations: Hotel? Air BnB? A friend’s couch? Know your options before you set out for your destination. If you choose to stay in a hotel during your trip, think about choosing one near your main destination. Third-party booking services such as Priceline and Hotels.com offer discounts, but remember that you can also save by booking directly from the hotel or with a membership. Also consider that some cities do not have readily available public transportation, so you may have to drive from your hotel to other locations around the city or town.
Safety and Emergencies: This step may be low on this list, but it should be high on yours! Please be sure to take plenty of road trip safety precautions. You can purchase emergency kits in stores and online. You can even make your own. While a GPS and a cell phone are fantastic for navigation, having a map or a Road Atlas handy can save you a lot of trouble if you ever find yourself without a signal. Many car insurance companies also offer roadside assistance. You can even contact highway patrol or the police if you ever feel that you are in an unsafe situation. Having a pair of sturdy shoes in the trunk and a spare bottle of water can’t hurt either. Though you may want to avoid it if possible, you never know when you might have to do some walking.
Make the most of it: Have fun! Road trips may require some planning and forethought, but they shouldn’t be a stressful experience. Turn them into something enjoyable. Take pictures, make friends, try new things — make your road trip something to remember.
Have you taken a road trip recently? Tweet us about your favorite road trip hacks!