1. Plan, but don’t overplan
There are those among us who just feel better when they have every minute planned out. Unless you have a really tight schedule, it’s best to remain flexible on a road trip. You may want to explore a beautiful area or a local may suggest a great spot you didn’t know about. Sometimes the unexpected things turn out to be the most memorable.
2. Bring a map -- yes, the old-fashioned paper kind
Let’s face it -- most of us are lost without our GPS devices or phones. It seems we can’t even navigate to places we’ve been before without plugging the address into a device. How did we get anywhere before GPS? Were we just driving aimlessly until we stumbled upon our destination? In the old days, we used maps! Having a real paper map as one of your road trip accessories will help you out if you’re stuck somewhere without (dare we say it?) cell signal. You can use markers to map out the route you took and keep it as a memento, or even frame it. Besides, maps are cool.
3. Get App Happy
There are some amazing apps out there! If you’re looking for something in particular, chances are it’s out there in app form. If you’re not already familiar with the list below, we encourage you to take a closer look at a few of our favorite FREE apps that can make your road trip even better.
- RoadTrippers (Android, iOS): Offers options to search the area you’re visiting for things like food, lodging, and places of interest
Android Auto (Android only): Handy app that integrates a variety of features and helps you stay hands-free while driving
Waze (Android, iOS): Provides current traffic conditions and alternate routes
ParkMe (Android, iOS): Find out what parking options are available in the vicinity and how much they cost. You can even pay in advance and have the spot waiting for you!
Urgent.ly (Android, iOS): Don’t have roadside assistance through AAA or your car insurance provider? This app links you with local roadside assistance providers.
GasBuddy (Android, iOS): Find gas options in the area and even save some money by filtering info by price.
iExit (Android, iOS): Find out what’s ahead! This app even integrates with GasBuddy and Yelp.
Be sure you also bring along favorite tunes, podcasts, and audiobooks. Road trips are a great opportunity to enjoy music and stories together. Traveling with more than one child? No need to argue in your wood-paneled station wagon about which radio station or 8-track tape to listen to. If you have enough devices you can download books and games they can each enjoy with headphones, and you can keep control over the car stereo.
4. Cash On Hand
It’s easy to pay by card at most establishments, but there are times when cash comes in very handy. It’s not common, but there are places that simply refuse to pay card processing fees and stick to a “cash only” policy.
You may never find yourself facing a burger emergency with a single cash-only restaurant in sight, but why risk it? Many toll roads still accept cash, too. Remember, when you’re on a road trip carrying excessive amounts of cash isn’t recommended. Bring some, but don’t overdo it.
5. The Travelmeister...Makin’ Copies
If you were around for Saturday Night Live in the 1990s, it might be hard to say the words “making copies” without adding -meister to whatever precedes it the way a young Rob Schneider did in his “Richmeister” sketches. Whether you’re a fan of the annoying copy guy character or not, this little tip applies to all travel, and it’s a good one! Before you leave home, make and file a copy of any important documents or cards you plan to take with you. No one expects to lose their wallet or purse, and no one plans to be burgled, but taking precautions never hurts. As a reminder -- be sure you have your car and medical insurance cards, but there’s no reason to take more credit cards on your trip than you actually plan to use.
6. Pack Snacks
Buying all your food on the road can get expensive, and healthy options are harder to find. Be sure to plan plenty of stops so you can get out and stretch, and maybe get a snack out of the cooler to enjoy at a picnic table. If you keep healthy snacks on hand you’ll be less likely to stop at fast food restaurants more than you want to. When you need to restock snack supplies, check one of your handy apps and find the closest grocery store!
7. Prep Your Ride