The road trip is an American institution. And with gas prices this low, it’s a great time to get in the car and head off. Here’s what you need to know to have a fun, safe trip!
You should always get your car checked out before you set off on the road. It’s much better to fix a problem now, in your hometown, than in the middle of nowhere. Get an oil change, replace worn-out tired, and ensure that your battery is good to go.
It might also be a good idea to enroll in AAA before you leave (or to re-up your membership). If you do have a breakdown or blowout on the road, you’ll be glad you did.
You don’t need to take everything you own on this trip. In fact, you might find that minimalist packing actually makes the journey less stressful! You’ll get sick of hauling heavy suitcases pretty quickly, so pack only the essentials. Honestly, as long as you have a change of clothes and your phone charger, you’ll probably be okay.
For longer trips, you really only need 4-5 days worth of clothes. Most hotels and hostels have on-site laundry; if not, you can find a laundromat. Pack 2 pairs of shoes and leave your good jewelry at home.
Obviously, traveling with kids means packing more stuff. They’ll need toys–but reconsider bringing their absolute favorite stuffed animal. You’d hate to see that left in a hotel room or gas station. Most importantly, however, remember that whatever you need can probably be purchased along the road. You don’t have to bring 10 days worth of supplies on a 5-day trip.
When you pack for your trip, include a small cooler with reusable ice packs. Stock your mobile pantry with water, fruit, granola bars, and sandwich fixings. You might be tempted to indulge in sweet and/or salty treats while you’re on vacation, but your body will thank you for eating healthy while on the road. It’s especially important to stay hydrated!
One of the best things about road trips is the ability to explore. See a billboard for an interesting shop? Check it out! Want to pull over and admire the view? Then do it. Give yourself plenty of time to get sidetracked instead of trying to get to your destination as quickly as possible.
Cars seem to get messy faster than any other space. Empty drinks, wrappers, receipts, brochures–after a day or two, your car might start to feel really unpleasant. Keep a small trash bag handy for each row of seating, and make sure that everyone is picking up after themselves at each stop.
Bring an empty suitcase or bag for souvenirs you pick up along the way. Pack everything as neatly as possible so that your luggage doesn’t end up being a disorganized, smelly mess by the end of the trip. One thing I like to do is to pack a mesh laundry bag in my suitcase. I’ll put any dirty laundry in it as I go to keep it separate from the rest of my clothes.
Even though you’re spending most of the time in a cushy seat, road trips can still be exhausted. Don’t drive more than 3-4 hours in a single stretch. Make sure to walk around for about 10 minutes when you stop to get your circulation going.
A tired driver is a dangerous driver. Budget for an unplanned overnight stop so that you can sleep if you’re too tired to drive. As with life, road trips are all about the journey, not the destination. Don’t push yourself past the point of comfort and safety to get there.