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Monday, November 24, 2014

15 Tips for Road Trips

Alisha McDarris

Tips for Road trips

Many times we have driven across the country, either north and south or east and west. And on those trips we've learned a few things. About ourselves (If we turn on an audio book It's pretty much guaranteed that I'm going to fall asleep) and about long hauls in general (don't wait until you only have a bar left on the gas gauge to fill up or you risk running out of fuel on the side of an unfamiliar highway) and we thought we'd pass on our experiential knowledge for those of you heading out on the open road, too.

For starters, there are a handful of items we've found to be absolutely indispensable when traveling farther than grandmas house for Thanksgiving:


1. Neck Pillow

Best $4 I've ever spent. Mine's inflatable for easy storage, but any neck pillow will go a long way in keeping you comfy whether or not you plan to sleep on the way.


2. Plastic Storage Drawers

I picked one up before we headed out on a drive from Massachusetts to Arizona and I'm so glad I did. It acts as a catch-all for all kinds of miscellaneous items including maps, souvenirs, vitamins and snacks. We had a first aid kit, sunscreen, reading material, and writing utensils in there, too. It made the stuff we might need easy to find and retrieve.


3. Paper Map

Those of you who are anything like me and couldn't imagine going anywhere while attempting to rely fully on technology probably already have one (or several), but if you're hopping across state lines and out of familiar territory, It helps to have a set of maps or an atlas to give you a good picture (quite literally) of where you're headed.


4. Electronic Device Chargers

On the flip side, having an electronic gps certainly can make things easy. But not if your phone battery runs out of juice. Make sure you have a way to charge any devices while in the car, make sure it's handy, and it doesn't hurt to have a backup plan (see number 3).


5. Extra fluids

This includes water for yourself (you may not feel like you need to hydrate, but you do) and fluids for your vehicle. It's highly recommended that you travel with extra engine oil, coolant, even wiper fluid in case you run out on some desert highway in the middle of New Mexico.

But it's not all about the stuff inside the car that matters on a road trip; it's the road trip attitude that plays a part in a successful journey, too.

1. Plan, but not too much

Plan your route, decide what places you definitely want to visit and sites you definitely want to see, but leave room for detours (the spontaneous and "oops" variety alike). When we drove out west we planned to drive only about 6 hours a day on Route 66. We weren't in a hurry and we wanted to make sure we still had time to stop at odd roadside attractions or that cute coffee shop we passed while still being able to make it to our intended destination before dark. We couchsurfed most of the way, so we had to line up those stays in advance, but If you're staying in hotels or with friends on the way, then you might find it easier to just stop driving when you get tired. Just beware of attempting this on lonely stretches of road or through big cities on weekends or holidays where you might not find a hotel within your budget, one with vacancies, or any at all.

2. AAA

If you don't have AAA or something similar, consider a membership. There's nothing worse than a shredded belt and no houses or repair shops in sight and a costly bill for a towing service and repair in the middle of nowhere.

3. A Reliable Vehicle

Get your car serviced before you go. Along those same lines, if you're driving for days, it's not a
bad idea to get it checked out before you go. We usually change the oil before a cross-country trip and we purchased two new tires before we drove from Ohio to Arizona. If your car has been making a weird rattling noise, now would be the time to get that checked out.

4. Organization

Keep things organized: Know where everything is in your car so you don't have to tear it apart the next time you have to find you water bottle or map or phone charger. Assigning everything its place, cleaning up trash at rest stops, and planning your route before you sit down in the car in the morning can go a long way in maintaining your sanity.

5. Stay Positive

Maintain that adventurous spirit. You're exploring! Seeing new things! Going to new places! How many other people you know have had a chance to do exactly what you're doing? Enjoy the ride, take pleasure in the little things (like free samples of grapefruit juice at the rest stop in Florida), and don't freak out of you get turned around or aren't keeping to the schedule you planned on.

Of course, if you want to enjoy your trip it's not all about the basics. You don't want to get burnt out on driving after day two of a ten day haul. 

1. Snacks

Snacks are important. You don't want to have to stop every time you feel peckish. Keep snacks of
all kinds on hand: salty, sweet, crunchy, chewy, but keep it as healthy as you can. It doesn't hurt to have a bag of chips or a candy bar occasionally, but I find when I eat crap after being stuck in a car all day I don't feel great. We love nuts, homemade energy bars, carrots and fresh fruit.


2. Entertainment

Keep yourself entertained. Whether you're a music lover, reader or love audio books, make sure you have plenty of material to keep you from counting how many trees you pass on your way through the middle of nowhere. Check out our post on downloadable options here.

3. Stop to Smell the Roses

What? Free samples at the Russel Stover factory? Roadside peach stand. If it intrigues you, check it out, take a break and enjoy yourself.


4. Camera

Don't forget your camera. Document your trip along the way (selfies are highly recommended) so you can look back at photos later and reminisce about that weird sign at a gas station or the guy in the banana suit on the street corner. I also like to save maps, stickers, and cards from the places I've been to put into a scrapbook later (read: folder).

5. Apps

There are all kinds for road trips. Find one for interesting roadside attractions, another to find the lowest gas prices, and yet another for discovering the best local places to eat. There are hundreds out there, so just pick the ones you want!

Alisha McDarris / Author & Editor

Alisha has been a writer and photographer forever. OK, maybe not forever, but at least for more of her 20-something years than she hasn’t been those things... [Read More]

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