21 Of The Best Road Trip Tips You Will Ever Find!
Grab the friends, grab the music, pack the car, double check the map and go! Here are some helpful tips to make it a truly epic adventure on the road ahead!
1. Research the route before you leave!
You'll find extra places that you'll want to visit, and while you probably won't see all of them, knowing what is hidden away just off your beaten path is like treasure hunting, and you don't want to miss the good stuff. Google Maps is a great place to find things you never knew about. It's also a great idea to make sure there are no road closures along your route.
2. Make a plan but keep it light!
You have to make room in your schedule for adventure and opportunity, because things and people will pop up and your oh-so-carefully-crafted itinerary will morph into something else entirely, so give your crew some breathing room, and keep a balance between things on the Must See list while still leaving room on the Possibility list.
3. Pack a bag but keep it light!
Your schedule isn't the only thing that will fill up. As you go along the way, your day bag will fill up with things you'll want to take home, so leave some room for souvenirs and treasures. Who knows, you might wish you'd brought that sea green sparkling mermaid home after all. If you do find things are a bit too-tight, pick up an extra bag or suitcase at a secondhand store along the way, and when you get home, donate it to a youth shelter. The kids in those places usually transport their things in garbage bags, and are always grateful for a suitcase to use. It's a nice thing to do, and the donation is a tax write off.
4. Everyone brings some music
If one or two people hijack the stereo, not everyone in the car will enjoy the music. Plan a bit ahead of time, think of atmosphere and find some common musical ground, then have everyone bring a little something they like and maybe something new to try out. Also, finding tunes along the way is fun as well.
5. Gasoline Gold
If you want to try to save some money on one of the biggest expenses on a road trip, watch your fuel use. Here are a few helpful hints: drive 55 or as close to it as you can. This will save you more than 5% of your fuel, because driving at higher speeds burns more fuel and it will only increase your travel time by about 15 - 30 minutes. Use cruise control. Check apps like GasBuddy for local gas prices wherever you are. Get a maintenance check on your car before you leave, and make sure to check the air in your tires; optimum air increases fuel efficiency. Pack light; less weight = more fuel. Run the air conditioner instead of having the windows down; the efficiency of using A/C is greater than the drag on the car if the windows are down.
6. Eating on the go
Instead of fast food stops, plan your trip so that you can find local restaurants or grocery stores to stop at for food. Grab a cooler and pack it with ice, snacks, and water. Fruit, nuts, string cheese, and yogurt are excellent foods to stash. Keep healthy and enjoy convenience.
Double check that you have a good spare tire in your trunk, and if you can put a full sized spare in there, do it; you'll get farther and faster than using a spare donut tire.
Make sure you already know how your emergency roadside assistance works, either through your insurance company, your cell phone carrier, or your car loan, so that if you have engine trouble or a flat tire, you will be taken care of. If you don't have these services, or if you are in an area with no cell coverage, make sure that at least one person going on the trip knows how to change a flat tire, and make sure you have a full sized spare tire in the trunk before you leave. *See the How To list at the bottom
8. Driver Duty
Rotate drivers on either a time schedule or a distance schedule. It keeps everyone alert and rested, so no one is driving tired. The point of the road trip isn't to spend all your time on the road, so switching drivers every couple of hours or at various towns will give everyone a chance to get out and look around. Go discover!
9. Leaving the light on
Have the phone number for all your hotels/lodges on hand so that if you are running late, you can call them to let them know you'll be checking in at a later time, and make sure your room will be held for your arrival.
10. Wash and wear
Most hotels, rental properties and Bed & Breakfasts have laundry facilities on site. Double check with all of the places you'll be staying to work out a laundry schedule so that you can pack light and wash on the way. If you'll be driving near beaches, take a beach towel and a washable beach bag to put it in after you use it, so that you don't get sand everywhere.
11. Cleanliness is next to happiness
Clean the car out really well before the trip, and keep it clean during the trip. There will be less to do when you get home and you'll have a more comfortable drive along the way.
12. Scenic Byways
One of the best ways to enjoy the trip, if you have the time, is to take the Scenic Byways that you'll pass as you go along. States put signs up along the highway for these idyllic routes, so go off the beaten path and explore a little, but be careful not to get lost along the way. The Federal Highway Admin has a helpful page full of scenic byways across the country. Have a look.
13. Timing is everything
Be sure to time your driving so that you don't hit rush hour traffic in a city, and keep Friday afternoon, Sunday midday/afternoon, and holidays close to mind when mapping out your trip, especially if you're in a foreign country and you aren't sure when the local holidays are.
14. Be prepared
-Keep a large amount of change at the front of the car for toll booths.
-Plan a budget for everything from food, fuel, lodging and fun, to emergencies and souvenirs.
-Keep (baby) wipes and small plastic trash or grocery bags handy.
-Give someone else in the car a spare key in case yours gets lost or locked in the car.
-Make sure everyone remembers their driver's license (and passports, if needed), and you have current registration and insurance cards in your glove box. Most insurance companies don't care who is driving your car, as insurance follows the vehicle, not the driver. Your car is insured, not you, and that's why your car's VIN # is on the insurance ID card. If you're pulled over, the officer doesn't want to know if the driver is insured, they want to know if the car is insured. All the same, best to check with your insurance company before you go. As long as your friends have a valid license and your permission, they should be covered to drive your car.
Make sure you have either a current atlas (manual gps) or actual gps whether it's an accessory to your car or you use a mapping service on your cell phone (remember the cell phone car charger!), because you will find that little GPS invaluable along the routes you take. Appointing your co-pilot passenger as your navigator is extremely helpful and will keep you going the right way.
There are countless games for road trips (license plates states, I spy, alphabet sighting - S; sign, T; truck, U; underpass etc, 100 bottles of *** on the wall, twenty questions, or even buy little travel games from local bookstores and truck stops), but some other fun things to do in the car are to hold your breath through tunnels, and to have a well known movie playing in the back seat (so the driver doesn't get distracted, but still knows all the lines).
Try the 'best burger/pie/coffee on the route' quest, or trivial pursuit cards. Audio books are another option, but not a good option if there are several people on the trip.
Make sure you check off 'do something you haven't done before' from your road list before the trip ends. If everyone in the car does this, it'll be new experiences all around for the group, and those are great memories.
17. Like a local
By Like, we mean to appreciate a local, and by that, we mean this: talk to the people you meet on your trip. Locals love to sell you on the high points of their towns and will give you history, stories, tips and advice on where to go and what you cannot miss, and places to avoid. There was a waitress at a diner in Northern California who swore that Big Foot lived in the mountains there. Best breakfast story ever.
18. A day of rest
If you've got 8 days or more on your itinerary, it is imperative that at just about the middle of your trip, you plan a down day. A day where no one is going anywhere, you have at least two nights in one spot and you can sleep as long as you want, rest, read, watch TV, go for a walk, or whatever leisure activity you like. Cook together or order out for Chinese and pizza. This will reinvigorate you for the rest of the journey, put everyone in a rested and pleasant mood, and ensure that you don't arrive home at the end of your journey completely haggard with exhaustion.
19. The right stuff
Keep the personalities of all the friends in mind; you will be in an enclosed space for a considerably lengthy amount of time. If these are people you can do that with comfortably, then make it a long trip, but if these friends should be concentrated together in small doses, then it should be a short trip. The point is to have fun, and the last thing you want is a tense situation on a long drive in a capsule.
20. That doggy in the window
If you are bringing a pet, be sure everyone else is okay with it (allergies etc.), and plan ahead for things like hotels that accept animals, dog parks, and rest areas. Bring the food, food dish and water bowl, and an extra towel (think beach dog), as well as the leash. Water your pet as soon as you exit the vehicle instead of just before getting back in so they don't throw up in the car.
21. An ounce of prevention
Before you head out, have your vehicle checked over. That includes battery, windshield wipers, spare tire, all exterior lights, oil & radiator fluids (*see How To note at bottom), brakes, tire tread and air pressure, all belts and hoses, and make sure your fluids are fresh and topped off.
For an emergency kit, you should have the following: A flashlight and extra batteries, blankets, bottled water, non-perishable food (candy bars are great for the sugar), jumper cables, first aid kit, and flares. Make sure someone at home has your itinerary so that if you don't show up where and when you are supposed to arrive, someone knows to look for you.
A. How to change a tire
Pull off the road to a safe distance on flat ground. Set the parking brake, turn on the hazard lights, and get everyone out of the car. Loosen all the lug nuts before you jack the car up, so that they will be easier to remove when the car is suspended in air. Place the jack under the frame of the car within two feet of your tire, but not so close to the tire that the jack gets in the way. Jack the car up about five to six inches from the ground. Remove the lug nuts and the tire. Place the spare on the car and lightly screw the lug nuts back on partway in a 'star' or alternating pattern, lower the jack to the ground, and then tighten the lug nuts. Keep your flat tire until you get to the next town, and then have the tire store replace the flat one with a new tire or a new spare (if your current spare is full sized). Never leave the flat on the highway; let's be ecological and tidy!
B. How to check air in your tires
First, you'll need an air pressure gauge. The manual ones are the size of a pen and about the same price. A digital gauge will run you a few more dollars. You can pick that up at most gas stations, truck stops, and auto parts stores. On the wall of your tire, you will find a PSI number. It varies by tire size, so make sure you check that number on all of your tires. PSI is pounds per square inch, or, how much air you need to have in your tire. When your tires are cool (air pressure is different when they are warm), unscrew the little cap on the valve stem poking out of the side of your tire, and push the air pressure gauge in. If you are below the required PSI, you'll need to add more air. Make sure you car is close enough to the air compressor that you can reach all four tires. Push the air hose down into the valve stem and squeeze the handle. You'll hear the hiss and the air inflating your tire. There is a gauge on the compressor which you can use to monitor the amount of air in your tire. When it reaches the PSI requirement, remove the hose. Do Not over-inflate your tire, or it will pop. Keeping the right air pressure in your tires makes your vehicle safer to drive and it improves fuel efficiency.
C. How to check oil and radiator fluid
When the car is off, open the hood, find the dipstick (see car manual if you cannot locate it), wipe the oil off of it, reinsert it and pull it back out again. The second reading is what you need. If the oil measures below the diagonal grid, add a quart to the engine (open oil cap lid to pour in, check manual if needed). Use the same oil you have in your car, as mixing oil can cause problems.
For radiator fluid, find the plastic tank attached to the radiator (via hose). Check the lines on the side of the plastic tank. If the level of fluid is below the lowest line, add more (of the correct) coolant to your radiator (see radiator cap at top of radiator/check manual). **Never open the radiator cap while the engine is hot, or if there is steam coming out of the cap**. There can be enormous pressure under that cap and it can cause serious injury. Only open it if the engine is cooled.
D. How to signal for distress
Before you go, make sure you have an emergency kit in your trunk; jumper cables, jack, tire iron, spare tire in great shape, flasher lights or flares. If you break down, pull off the road (or push the car off the road) as far as it will safely go. Get everyone out of the car and stand away from the car, off the road. Lift the hood, unless it's windy. This really is a universal distress signal. Put flasher lights or flares out on the road at twenty and thirty feet behind your car so traffic coming up the road has time to see you. Be careful about accepting help from strangers, and try to get a professional on the phone if you are able to.