Thinking about packing your bags and heading out on a road trip of the United States? We love piling into and traveling to a new destination whether it is just the town next door or across the country. Even though we often spontaneous with our road trip adventures, we make sure to follow a set of simple guidelines to ensure we have the best road trip possible.
1. Get Your Car Checked
It is extremely important to have your car checked before any road trip, regardless of its length. An upcoming road trip is a great excuse to head to the mechanic and get your oil changed and have the breaks and tires checked. Also get the car’s fluid levels topped off, double check your spare tire to make sure it is inflated and grab your jumper cables to be ready for any mishap you might encounter on the road.
We learned the hard way on a road trip from Boston to Nashville, and our transmission failed out in the middle of West Virginia. We had to stay at a gas station for two days waiting for a nearby mechanic to open.
2. Check your documents before leaving town
Make sure you have your car insurance card, driver’s license and up to date registration. You never know when you pulled over and having to search for your documents or find out they are missing from your glove compartment can be a headache. Also, before leaving town is a good time to double check your record and make sure you do not have a fine or a parking ticket that is passed due and collecting fines.
3. Be free and go with the flow
Be realistic when planning your road trip and do not try to visit every destination, especially with a tight schedule. Delays on road trip are common, either from traffic or unplanned detours. It is good to have a schedule of where you want to go and what you want to see once you get there but do not push too many activities into a day when you can be tired from a day of driving.
4. Bring cash and a GOOD Debit Card
While debit and credit cards are accepted almost everywhere these days, you never know when or where cash will be required, so it is good to have some emergency in the car at all times. For us, this is a common occurrence at state parks and smaller campgrounds. It is also good to have a quality debit or credit card with you.
We have partnered with Needham Bank for a convenient debit card to withdraw cash in any state or country because not only is there no ATM charge, the bank reimburses other bank’s ATM fee. The NB Debit Card is especially good for a road trip in a foreign country, where credit cards acceptance might be less prevalent.
We recommend to always have a debit or credit card and a small amount of cash somewhere hidden in your car just in case of an emergency. Losing a wallet is always a worst-case scenario but should be planned for.
5. Plan your route around rush hour, events and inconveniences
When you are planning your road trip, you might want to head where the road takes you, but it is important to be aware of what is happening at the any planned destination. Nothing is worse on a road trip than getting stuck in hours of rush hour traffic or getting stuck paying extra with a major event in town. Sports games, major trade shows or parades can also shut down a downtown area and leave many attractions with limited hours.
6. Download Entertainment onto your Phone or Tablet
Anytime we plan a road trip, we always consider the entertainment during our trip, be it a road trip playlist or fun tv series to watch in the evening. Setting up a quality and thought out music playlist can make or break a road trip, be prepared to have every song stuck in your mind by the end of the trip.
Downloading a supply of TV shows and movies can be great entertainment for passengers, especially when traveling through extensive farmland or at night.
7. Buy a Physical Paper Map
We love, as much as anyone else, the connections of our cell phone and the ease of GPS tracking. Even though you can download a road trip map ahead of time to your phone or GPS device, we always bring a physical map with us on a road trip. Coming from a big city, you expect internet and GPS access, but a good portion of the United States and world do not have sufficient internet access to update your directions when you miss an exit or take an unexpected detour.
8. Pack Enough Water
When packing for a road trip it can be easy to pass over the obvious items to pack. Being on the road for several hours or days means you should have enough water to avoid frequent refuel stops. This is especially important when traveling with a pet, requiring monitored hydration.
9. Rest and take bathroom stops
On a road trip do not be afraid of taking a bathroom break or rest stop. The longer your drive the longer of break you should plan for. We recommend stopping every 2 to 3 hours and take a 10 to 15 minutes’ break. Even if you do not have to go to the bathroom, this is a great opportunity to stretch your legs and get the blood flowing again.
When traveling with Gordo on our road trip adventures we make sure to stop every two hours to give our dog a walk, the chance to drink water and go to the bathroom.
10. Use a Road Trip Cooler
The one aspect of a road trip that is often forgotten is food and snacks. If you are trying to save money or to eat healthier on your road trip you need to pack along a cooler with drinks and healthy snacks for you to eat or drink when you get hungry. On a road trip, snack breaks can also quickly add up and be avoided if you bring the snacks to begin with.