Most of the people I know don’t take road trips enough, and I’m one of them. I take road trips once every few years at max. I finally took one again last December to Mont-Tremblant and Montreal in Quebec, Canada. It’s about a seven and a half hour drive from Manhattan, and it was fantastic. I remembered why I liked them so much. Now that the weather is getting warmer, it’s a better time to drive. A road trip is also cheaper than flying (most of the time), and it’s ideal for a last minute trip. Every country has beauty, and a driving tour is a cool way to see it.
If you’re less than enthusiastic at the thought of sitting in a car for a long time, there are things you can do to make your trip fun. Here are some tips to make your road trip awesome.
Before you go
Don’t plan too much ahead
For this type of trip, ignore anything you’ve ever read from me, where planning ahead is usually my number one tip. This time I would encourage you to make loose plans. Whether you’re taking a short trip or a cross-country road trip, it’s good to plan which city you’ll sleep in at least the night before you leave for each stop. You need to be flexible when you’re driving because things can come up like major delays or detours, and you may need to stop in a city closer than planned.
You want to do some research to check where the safe areas are, what are some of the sights to see and where to eat. But leave room to explore and find new things on your own or with your group. Half the fun is getting lost!
If you prefer to plan ahead, you can use road planner site like Furkot.
Where to stay?
Hotels can run up your costs significantly. There are other options available, ranging from hostels, inns, and bed and breakfasts. You can also check out airbnb.com, which allows you to rent rooms or full apartments from locals, or couchsurfing.com, where you can find a couch or bed to sleep on in each city you visit.
A tip if you’re road tripping in the USA from a reader Marko: You can find some deals right off of the highway from motels like Super 8 or Econo Lodge (there are more!).
What to take
I will always tell you to pack light, but there’s nothing worse than crowding up an already tight space in a car with extra clothes and shoes that you probably don’t need.
Read my post Do you really need to take that with you, for some tips on how to pack light.
Pack a cooler and portable grill
Buying snacks and drinks can add up fast while you’re out. Instead, go to a local store and pick up some snacks that you can carry with you like protein or energy bars, or dried fruit. These won’t go bad so you can stock up.Pack food that you can grill, and make sandwiches or things that are easy to pick up at stores as you’re traveling. Bring and fill up a reusable water bottle. It will save you lots of money.
My post Travel, eat well and not break the bank has tips to eat for less when you’re away.
Music and games
You can get bored pretty quickly, and you never want to run out of music! In addition to streaming music, or making playlists, listen to podcasts. Also make sure to load your phone or tablet with everything you want like music, games, podcasts and movies.
If you’re with other people you can play car games like you did when you were a kid. Buzzfeed’s 14 road trip games adults will actually enjoy, has some ideas.
Have your documents
- Don’t forget. Make sure your insurance, driver’s license and registration is up to date, as well as anyone else that will be driving.
- Clean up your driving record. If you have any outstanding speeding, traffic or parking tickets, take care of them before you go. If you get pulled over for any reason, you don’t want any hassles.
To take your car or rent a car?
Decisions, decisions. If it’s a road trip for a week or less, and if I’m alone or with one other person, I’m fine using my car. Anything two weeks or longer, I tend to look for good prices to rent something. I don’t have a big car. I also don’t want to waste too much mileage and add wear and tear on it. If you’re like me, there are reasonably priced rentals that can make your trip more comfortable.
If you’re taking your car
- Before leaving for a long road trip: Check your car’s fluid levels, brakes, tires, engine and anything else that could be a problem.
- Make sure you have: A fully inflated spare tire, jumper cables and extra windshield wiper fluid on hand.
- Clean out your car before and while you’re away: You will start overflowing as you travel if you don’t keep a clean car. A tight space can get even more uncomfortable with things lying around.
It seems like a no-brainer but bring a spare car key. I forgot once. Just once. You don’t forget again after it happens to you.
Get a gas card if you don’t have one already. You will buy lots of gas, which can translate into free fuel points, cash back on hotels, and discounted groceries.
Don’t push yourself. Make sure your daily driving time is a maximum of eight hours each day, especially if you’re going alone. You don’t want to fall asleep. You also don’t want to use up energy just driving and miss out on sites as you travel.
Bring a physical map. It will come in handy in case something happens to your GPS or Google maps. I have been to some places where Google maps didn’t work and my GPS couldn’t figure out where I was. I would have appreciated a map, and learned my lesson after that.
Take the roads as much as possible. The point of a road trip is to see the beauty of the area, and you’re not going to find it on highways. You can find the best scenic routes on map apps like Roadtrippers.com.
Last things to remember
- Carry some cash. You’ll need it in an emergency, or if there are tolls where you’re driving.
- Give people notice. Make sure someone at home is aware of where you are going and staying at all times.
- Talk to people when you arrive. People at stores, or where you’re staying can give you suggestions of what to do and where to go. They can also lead you to tastier and cheaper meals.
- Bring portable backup chargers. Make sure to continue to charge them when you can.
- Gas saving. While you’re planning your stops, try to find their rush hour times and any construction or road closures. Sitting in traffic will unnecessarily eat up your gas.
- Divide the work. If you’re not traveling alone, take turns driving and navigating. Know who does what well, and what they enjoy doing. Doing this can make a small difference so that things get done efficiently, and everyone is happy.
- Roadside service. If you don’t already belong to one, join an emergency roadside assistance service. If you get stuck in the middle of nowhere with a broken down car, you’ll be happy that you have their number handy.
- Take lots of pictures! You might be able to take some pictures you wouldn’t get with any other vacation, and you want to capture every moment.
- From Train Today to Reap Tomorrow: Remember if you’re traveling between countries to change your GPS once you cross the border.
These are my tips for road tripping, what are your thoughts?