Road trips are like a rite of passage for everyone. Whether you’re heading to college with your best friend and roomie or taking the kids to see their long-lost relatives, a road trip can create so many great memories. But before you pack your bags and hit the highway, it’s important to put some thought and planning behind the journey. Getting itchy feet? Here are 10 road trip tricks to know before you go.!
1. Pack a cooler
Pack loads of refreshments and snacks in your cooler, even some pre-made lunches, and dinners if you want. But make sure to keep everything from spoiling with plenty of ice. One of the best road trip tricks isn’t a trick at all. It’s simple to buy high-quality hard coolers that can hold ice for up to 10 days on the road. When you know how to pack a cooler properly, everything inside will last longer.
2. Inspect your vehicle
Before you even consider taking a road trip for hundreds of miles or more, have your vehicle inspected by a reliable mechanic. Do so approximately a week or so before leaving, having them check everything from the car’s fluid levels to the brakes. Have them check the tire levels (even the spare). More than this, however, is to carry along a pair of jumper cables and to know how to change your own tire.
In addition, bring along a first aid kit and some emergency tools for the road. For example, a flashlight can help you signal roadside assistance on a busy, dark highway.
3. Keep a tidy car
Keep a tidy car and designate a place for everything. Clean the interior from top to bottom with a Shop-Vac and then take it to the car wash. With the dog hair removed, candy wrappers gone, and the center console as empty as the day you first bought the car, you’ll feel better and have space for necessary road trip items.
4. Get off the highways
Taking the side streets is a great way to bypass heavy traffic and see a different town. However, only do this if you have the time and nowhere to be. Traveling off the highway, as you might imagine, will be slower but allow you to see parts of the countryside you wouldn’t typically experience.
Still, what you want to avoid is the boring bits like “blue highways” that are only miles of strip malls. So instead, check road maps for the small red dots that indicate scenic routes or use an app like Roadtrippers to offer some off-beat Americana roadside attractions.
5. Schedule scenic routes accordingly
Are you getting off the highway to enjoy one of these scenic routes on your map? Don’t underestimate the time it will take you. For example, when you take the Blue Ridge Parkway, take notice of the distance between each exit.
Peak seasons play a role in this, too. Slow-driving foliage peepers will undoubtedly take their time enjoying the colorful mountain scenery. While it’s a stunning view, driving a scenic route when you’re in a hurry can be maddening.
6. Be mindful of rush hours and holidays
If you can, try to avoid rush hours, especially when traveling around a major city. Take this opportunity to grab a quick breakfast or pull off for an early dinner. On the same lines, be mindful of holiday weekends when everyone is in a mad rush to either (a) get home or (b) get on the road for vacation.
7. Preload your playlists
Unless you want to take your chances with the local radio stations, preload and download your playlists for the road. When you sign up for a streaming service like Spotify, create a road trip-inspired playlist and download it, just in case the LTE is spotty. Prefer listening to podcasts or audiobooks? Download those, too.
In the same vein, it helps to download your favorite shows and movies. This is especially true for families taking a road trip with kids. There are only so many hours of “I Spy” a kid can play. Instead, allow passengers to put their earbuds in and zone out for a while on the long journey.
For all of your personal electronic devices, make sure to bring plenty of chargers and extra USB adapters for the car.
Renting a car? Double-check and find out what technology or power outlet it offers. Modern vehicles come with Bluetooth, but older models might require something different.
8. Assign passengers tasks
Assign each passenger a task, preferably one they excel at. For example, if someone is good at navigation, ask them to be in charge of maps and getting from Point A to Point B. If someone has good taste in music, let them be the DJ. Another essential task is meal planning. For this, you could assign a foodie to Yelp to find the best restaurant in town or to create on-the-go sandwiches for the road. When you divvy up the tasks, everyone can feel like they’ve contributed, making a road trip less stressful.
9. Sign up for an emergency roadside service
Getting stranded on the side of the road can ruin any trip. So before you pack the car and go, make sure you have a backup plan. First, check with your car insurance provider to see what is covered. If you discover it’s not sufficient for a long road trip, it’s a wise idea to sign up for an extra roadside assistance service like AAA. When you blow a tire or need a tow, they can come out right away.
10. Take a rental car
Routine service is one advantage a rental car offers. Rental cars are serviced more frequently, so you can rest assured there will be few issues. And if there is, the rental agency will help you out, replacing your vehicle so you can enjoy the rest of your trip. Plus, you’re not putting miles on your own vehicle.
Featured image source: Krivosheev Vitaly/Shutterstock.com
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