Hittin’ the road always sounds so artfully carefree: Just pack a bag, grab your keys, and drive off into the sunset. But those oops-forgot-it details can slow you down like an epic Chinese traffic jam without a little pre-planning. So drop that hastily packed duffle and scroll through our must-read checklist first. Twelve mind-numbing hours into your roadtrip, you’ll be glad you did.
1. Get your car road-trip ready. If there’s ever a time to give your car the equivalent of your yearly doctor’s check-up, it’s the weeks before your trip. Make sure the basics are covered: top off your oil, fill up on coolant, windshield wiper fluid, and replace any burnt out bulbs on your head and tail lights. Then, check that your vehicle license, registration, and insurance is up-to-date—and that it’s actually in the car with you.
2. Choose travel companions wisely. Road trips by definition are intimate: You’ll be confined in a small space with that friend (or friends) for hours, so compatibility is key. Does your buddy only want to talk about girlfriend’s family problems for hours on end? Red flag! Take note before you turn the key in the ignition. IgoUgo member az_mami also suggests that pre-trip, you should “write a friendly reminder list for your companions (ie please don't wake me up before 10 am or my pet peeve is leaving the toilet seat up).”
3. Get a map--a tangible, up-to-date, detailed road map. If you’re a AAA member, ask in advance for freebies or download specific locales to print out and take with you. Sure, your high-tech GPS is an incredible gadget, but it isn’t foolproof. You’ll want the real thing as a backup. Even if you never touch it, it’ll provide total peace of mind.
4. Avoid rush-hour traffic. Memorize this simple rule: Enter cities in the evening; exit them in the mornings. Otherwise, finding yourself navigating the freeways of Los Angeles at 5pm can cost you hours--and slapping the steering wheel in frustration isn’t how you want to spend your energy.
5. Pack for comfort. Stash a pair of flip flops for quick exits, when you don’t want to take the time to dig around for your shoes and socks. Bring a little travel pillow or blanket. Don’t forget the sunglasses and sunscreen. And keep a few spare plastic bags on hand to collect garbage in--a small but important detail--because traveling surrounded by your own gas receipts, gum wrappers, and burger boxes gets gross real quick. (PS, for a complete list of road-tripper must-haves, we love the customizable packing list generator Packwhiz.com--it even reminds you to take out the garbage before you leave.)
6. And, pack for fun. Good trip entertainment equals a good mood. Anticipate at least a little boredom, and collect material to combat it. Pack a camera (or video camera!) to gather material for a trip journal, test out satellite radio, create a ton of all-time favorite music mixes, or download interesting podcasts or audio books--all of which will keep you engaged for long hours on the road.
7. Eat regularly. Sure, spontaneously take every road less taken in the time you want to take it--but eat on a schedule. Regular fuel keeps you energized (and usually cuts the grumpiness factor, too). Planned eating times also help you make better food choices. You’ll be much more likely to try out that local clam shack, than to pull into the first Taco Bell drive-in you see--because you Can’t. Wait. Any. Longer. For inspiration, check out roadfood.com for small-town eats.
8. Get gas before the needle strikes E. Few things induce more stress than coasting through unfamiliar territory on fumes, with no idea when the next gas station could appear. Save yourself the headache, and just buy the fuel.
9. Avoid unnecessary traffic tickets. Few things will wreck a trip faster (or kill your good mood quicker) than having to pony up cash for a speeding ticket. Or a seat belt fine. Or a parking ticket. Obey the law, and save your money for the fun stuff along the way. Take it from IgoUgo member Wildcat Dianne--she once lost “$165 out of my wallet later due to a stupid speeding ticket” during a 3-day Texas roadtrip.
10. Plan time for side trips. The point of a roadtrip isn’t to see the interstate, right? Take a scenic detour, check out those weird and wacky sights, or sample the edibles at a greasy spoon diner. Getting to your destination is only half the fun--the rest happens along the way.
More Road Trip Help on IgoUgo
Search for hotels in cities along your route
Find a flight (if you get sick of driving!)
Explore destinations for your next road trip
Posted by LonelyHighway (Kelly L. Phillips)