All photos courtesy of Unsplash
“Because the greatest part of a road trip isn’t arriving at your destination. It’s all the wild stuff that happens along the way.” -Emma Chase
Some of the most memorable travel experiences can be road trips. In fact, many travelers discover their passion for travel through road trips. I did! A great road trip can be last minute and spontaneous or diligently planned, but no matter what direction your car takes you, remembering these tips can help to enhance your trip.
Do some research
Before you leave home and hit the road, be sure to do some research. If you need a place to stay, make reservations, especially if you enjoy traveling during the times of the year that are peak season for your destination. Also be aware of any local conferences, festivals, holidays, spring break, or other events that might be happening in the town you want to visit. If something is going on in town, a reservation might be hard to come by and if you are traveling without reservations, you can bet that you won’t be staying close to the attractions you want to see. We study online resources to find out what sites might be worth seeing, where the best restaurants are, and make any necessary reservations accordingly.
While reservations are a good idea to secure a place to stay or to ensure that you can enjoy the attractions you want to see, remember that a road trip gives you the luxury of flexibility. My advice; don’t over-plan your activities. A little spontaneity and flexibility will allow you to explore new places, check out the local highlights, and allow time to enjoy where you are. Over-planning may prematurely end an enjoyable experience and make you feel rushed.
Make sure that your vehicle is in good working order
Before you leave for your trip, it is a great idea to take your vehicle in for a quick check to make sure it is in good working order. Better yet, if you’re mechanically inclined, you can do it yourself! This checkup doesn’t prevent a mechanical issue but it could catch a potential problem before you leave home that could disrupt your trip or worse, leave you stranded. Be sure that your vehicle has had a recent oil change, a clean air filter, all fluids are topped off, and wiper blades, hoses, and belts are all in good condition.
With everything under the hood in working order, be sure to check that all of your tires, including your spare, are properly inflated and in good condition. And finally, make sure to check your brakes.
When loading up, be sure to include tools for a tire change, jumper cables, and an emergency kit, just in case you are stranded along the road. If you have a mechanical issue, some states have roadside assistance along major interstates. Watch for signs on how to contact them. Another option for handling an unexpected breakdown is to have your own roadside assistance for your vehicle through your insurance, automobile brand, or outside organization such as AAA.
Finally, start with a full tank of gas. We also recommend filling up whenever you stop, if possible, and we try not to let the fuel gauge drop too far below half of a tank, just as a precaution. You never know when traffic may turn into a parking lot or you find yourself on a country road that does not have good options for a fill-up.
Make sure that you’ve left your home in good stead
It is a great idea to ensure that your home is secured before you leave so that you find it as you left it when you return from your time away. If you have a neighbor that can keep an eye on things, be sure to let them know you will be away so they can be on the lookout for anything out of the ordinary. Contact the postal service and have your mail held, turn off the water to prevent leaks, check that all windows and doors are securely closed and locked, and make sure to turn on the security system if you have one.
Don’t get lost
In today’s world, we all have GPS and maps at our fingertips. I mean, have you ever asked yourself how the world got around with paper maps back in the day?
Depending on your trip, it could be very possible that you might lose cell service at some point in your trip. Oh, the horror! If that happens, will you know where you’re going?
If you are heading out to parts of the country where cell service is spotty or non-existent, and you might be surprised how often that happens, having a backup paper map or downloading maps in advance might be a great idea.
Don’t forget to manage your trip
To make long trips more bearable, stop frequently, switch off drivers, and break up long drives into multiple days. Play car games, listen to music or audiobooks, and consider having snacks and beverages within easy reach. All great ideas to make the experience fun.
Don’t be in a hurry and remember that traffic is inevitable. All of these suggestions might seem obvious, but they can make long drives a little less grueling. A road trip can be a great way to travel if you plan for the unexpected.
Be realistic with how long the drive will be
How long is your trip? If you look right now at your GPS and it tells you that your trip will be 5 hours long. Will it really be 5 hours? If you follow the tip above, no!
Be sure to factor in traffic. No matter how far you will be road tripping and where you plan to go, the odds are very high that you will encounter traffic along the way. Since traffic is always part of any time in the car, it’s a great idea to allow for possible traffic disruptions if you need to be in a specific place at an appointed time.
Factor in stops for meals and personal breaks. I know I’ve said it already, but don’t be in a hurry. I think that’s an important tip, for sure!
Finally, we don’t care for driving at night. We try to start our trips early and stop driving before dusk. We have even heard of “The 330 Rule.” That means, you either drive 330 miles or stop by 3:30 pm, whichever comes first. What a great way to travel safely.
No matter where you are going, the idea is to get where you’re going safely and try to enjoy the journey along the way.
Have a safe trip!