Memorial Day is right around the corner, summer is about to be in full swing, and that means the open road is calling. Road trips are a great way to see your state, region or country, and to visit family and friends that live far away. But these trips take different planning and precaution than other types of travel; be sure you’re prepared with our list of tips!
Get your car checked out by your trusted mechanic. Nothing will derail your awesome, well-planned road trip like breaking down, walking for miles to the nearest town then being stuck for days waiting for parts. So, make things easy and get your car checked. Tell them how far you’re going and where you’re going. The way a mechanic checks and preps your car for the Arizona sun might be different than for some rainy Appalachian mountains along the east coast.
Clean your car before and during the trip. In your day to day, you might not mind the extra wrappers and papers at your feet and under your seat. But hours in a car every day and even the messiest of people will be happy they got the vacuum out and freshened the seat fabric. Take some time to trick out your car with your favorite things. Not a new body kit, but make sure you’ll be comfortable in your new home on wheels, since you’re going to be spending a lot of time there. Have some movies downloaded to your tablet or laptop, good tunes for the stereo and headphones when the driver wants something different than the passenger.
Get your documents in order – you don’t want outdated insurance or that months-old speeding ticket causing you a headache in another state. It’s best to double check that anyone who will be driving has a valid license, insurance and is otherwise in good standing.
Have a plan, but a loose one. You want to enjoy the drive, not speed through 10 hours of driving just to get into your hotel room and crash. Road trips are all about the journey. So be sure to know your Point A and Point B, with which sights you can see in the different states you’ll be in. Do research about the funky museums and kitschy destinations off the beaten path. They’ll probably be less crowded and cheaper. Take time to learn about the unique culture and cuisine of each state you’ll pass through. A great resource for planning is www.roadtrippers.com. The site will help you plan your route and give you tips about places to go and things to see. Planning-Fun-Road-Trips.com will also give great tips for specific types of adventures such as a couples trips, or family-friendly trips.
Book your lodging in advance. You don’t want to end up in a less than ideal hotel because you thought you could wing it. Before you head out on the trip, call ahead and confirm your reservation. Then bring hard copies of confirmation numbers and documentation. This way the hotel is responsible for the reservation. If for some reason they don’t have spare rooms (which they usually do), they will usually start calling around to get you a room nearby.
Be prepared for changes, delays, detours and pit stops. Be it holiday traffic, sheepherders or a bit of carsickness, you can bet that there will be some delays along the way. Research your route; be sure to try and get through major cities and bad bottlenecks well before or well after rush hour.
Divide and conquer tasks before and during the trip. Know who has what strengths and what is important to each road tripper. One person may want to try out the local cuisine, another may care more about the scenic route, one may just want to get to the final destination- discuss each person’s opinion and divide the planning. One person could research and plan the lodging, another will find some neat restaurants, and a third can be in charge of the quirky pit stops you’ll make. You don’t want tension in the small confines of a car when you’re a couple hundred miles away from home.
Have a map and someone who knows how to read them. Cell phones run out of power and lose signal. On your map, have your route highlighted so you can more easily find your location if you end up lost without a usable cell phone or GPS.
Take back roads, but always know where the interstates are nearby. Map your scenic side roads. These are magnificent and will be welcomed change from interstates. But after a few hours of winding roads, similar scenic overlooks and delays from sheeps or cows crossing, you’ll long for that interstate again. Be sure to have that escape route ready to go.
Follow these gas-saving tips.
Have a check list of everything you want in the car when you leave, check it once when you are packing your suitcases, as you pack the car and when you’re about to pull out of the driveway. This will keep things from happening, like being 300 miles away with an empty tank and your wallet left on your kitchen counter. Remember as you’re packing that you will be in a small car for days. Pack accordingly to give yourself extra room for comfort or souvenirs.
Take lots of pictures and enjoy the freedom of the open road! Did we mention to get your car checked before you go?