How fun are road trips, right?
Except for when they're not. In which case...how excruciating are road trips?
The difference between an amazing trip and one you never speak of again? Preparation. With that in mind, here are some of our best road trip tips.
Although it might be tempting to head out in the morning or right after work, don’t. Leaving during rush hour, no matter how seemingly convenient, is bound to be an exercise in frustration. Even if it means leaving an hour later or setting the alarm for an hour earlier, chances are you’ll more than make the time up by not having to sit in traffic with the other thousands of people getting on the road. Speaking of which, try to avoid places and times that you know will be slammed – like driving by the mall on Black Friday, or a school as it’s letting out.
Nothing will compound your stress faster than being stuck in a dirty car. In addition to doing the obvious pre-trip prep work, give your car a once-over before you leave – vacuum the carpet, wipe down the dash, clean out your consoles, or spray some Febreeze. That way when you settle in, you’ll feel fresh and ready to go instead of immediately claustrophobic and irritated. Pro tip? Make sure you keep a plastic bag in the car for when you need to throw something out so that trash doesn’t accumulate, and try to empty out any garbage whenever you make a pit stop. Don’t you feel better already?
Have the right hardware
You don’t have to be a mechanic, but make sure before you set out that you have a trunk full of at least the basics. Make sure you bring a charger for your phone, and an adapter, especially if you’re going to have a GPS app running in the background. Be sure also you have a spare tire and a set of jumper cables, or better yet, spring for a portable jump starter so you don’t have to wait for a good Samaritan to wander by. If you’re heading out in winter, make sure you have an ice scraper and small shovel, as well as a pair of gloves.
Have the right software
Having the right apps on your side, whether you’re driving or riding in the passenger seat, can make your life a lot easier. Here are some of the best road trip apps to have on your side:
- Waze: One of the best traffic apps out there, Waze relies on crowd-sourced information to tell you exactly where any why there’s traffic so you can plan an alternate route. iTunes |Google Play
- Gas Buddy: Road trips mean fill-ups, and it’s a good idea to know where the best prices are. Gas Buddy will show you all the stations in the area, along with prices for each. iTunes | Google Play
- Heads Up: Traveling with a few people? Heads up is a simple charades game that can keep endlessly occupied. Bonus points for successfully acting out “Thor” while you’re seat-belted in. iTunes | Google Play
- Audible: If you’re looking for something a little less hands-on, Audible is an audio book app that lets you listen to your favorite books. You’ll have to pay for full-length versions, but the app also offers generously long free samples so you can give that bestseller a listen before you buy. iTunes | Google Play
- Yelp: Yelp is the most well-known food finder app, and for good reason. It’s easy to search for whatever cuisine and price point you want, and a list of reviewed restaurants with basic information will show up in list and map form for you. Great for when you’re hungry and not quite sure where you are. iTunes | Google Play
Don’t go hungry
Pulling off the road to eat can be a nice break, but packing your own food will save you from unnecessary stops and the constant lure of roadside fast food. Bring a bag or cooler, and make sure it’s easily accessible so you’re not stretching or climbing into the backseat every time you’re hungry. Try to bring food that’s not easily smashed or crushed, won’t leave your hands dirty, and doesn't need any serious refrigeration. Bring a few treats, but keep in mind that you’ll feel better in the long run snacking on a handful of almonds than a box of donuts.
It can be really tempting to cut corners in order to make a few more miles, especially when you’re trying to power through a long trip, but make sure you’re staying safe. The distance you’d travel by skipping a quick break to pull over and stretch or grab some water is negligible, and making sure you take a few stops will make the entire drive go much easier. Take turns driving if possible, and try not to stay behind the wheel for too long.
So pack your bags – and your cooler, and trunk – and get ready to hit the open road!