When I was growing up, my family and I would take a road trip to a new state for my dad’s annual work convention every summer. My father, who at age 17 went on a cross-country road trip with nothing but a map, a couple jars of peanut butter and some quarters to call my grandma with, loved the idea of a road trip. My three siblings and I, however, didn’t always feel the same way. Looking back, I wouldn’t trade my long family car rides for anything. They always had their ups and downs, but in the end, they’re some of my best memories.
I like to think I come from a professional road-tripping family, but a survival guide would have come in handy on many occasions. Here are some of the most important road trip guidelines to think about before hitting the pavement.
DO– Make a Rough Plan
Getting in your car, buckling your seat belt and picking left or right may sound like a great idea, but it’s best to have a rough plan before your trip. It’s easy to waste time on the road, but time is money, and you may see yourself going through your budget sooner than you thought without a guideline to follow. Book your overnight hotel stops before hitting the road. That way, you have certain benchmarks to reach and a rough itinerary to follow.
DO– Use Travel Apps
This app will help you save money over the span of your trip. It will locate the nearest gas stations, tell you their prices and give you directions. And it’s free for iPhone and Android.
Navigation is made easier with this app. Google Maps gives you a voice-guided GPS for all your travels – driving, biking and walking. It also provides live traffic updates and will automatically reroute you if there are any incidents along your route. Google Maps is free for iPhone and Android.
This customizable app will give you all the answers you’re looking for on the road. Want to know what the next exit has to eat? Or the one after that? Where the closest gas station is? Road Ninja has you covered. This app will provide you exit information, gas price comparisons and hotel information. This app allows you to favorite your locations and share them with your friends on social media. The best part? Road Ninja gives you special offers and coupons for extra road trip savings, and it’s free for iPhone and Android.
A new state comes with new speed traps that you’re unaware of. Skip the tickets on your road trip with this useful app! Trapster alerts you of police-monitored speed traps, cameras on intersection traffic lights and construction. It also provides audio alerts to help you watch your speed. It’s free for iPhone and Android.
DO– Sign Up for AAA
Signing up for AAA will cost you around $50 annually for a basic membership, depending on the state you live in. For those roadside emergency nightmares that can cost you an arm and a leg, AAA will be of great use to you. Being a AAA member can also bring you great discounts on hotels, restaurants and more.
DO– Stop at Quirky Roadside Attractions
It’s not every day you get to see the world’s largest fork, so if you’re driving through Springfield, MO or if it’s not too far off route, stop and take a look! Quirky road trip attractions will make your vacation a lot more fun and help with your growing insanity in the car. If you see a billboard on the side of the road for an unusual monument, statue or town, stop and take some pictures. Better yet, download the app Roadside America to find out about upcoming roadside oddities to embrace.
DON’T – Drive Through Big Cities at Rush Hour
If you have to drive through major cities on your road trip, make sure you’re not doing so during morning and evening rush hour traffic. If it’s looking like you’ll hit the city during that time, consider rerouting. You could save yourself a major headache.
DON’T – Forget a Paper Map
Even though it’s 2014 and we’re extremely reliant on our technology, you never know when “signal lost” will pop up on your GPS system in the middle of the Wild West. For hair-pulling situations like that, it’s best if you have old-school paper maps in your glove box.
DON’T – Rely on Gas Stations to Satisfy Your Munchies
Gas station snacks are highly convenient, but most of the time very unhealthy. When you’re running out of snacks, stop at the next grocery store and load up. A grocery store will offer you a wider and healthier variety of food and will be friendlier with your budget. Bring a cooler along and buy some sandwich-making materials so you can skip the fast food stops for lunch.
DON’T – Drive Drowsy
Driving through the night may be necessary if it’s crucial you stick to the schedule, but don’t do it if you don’t have to. According to a CDC report, one in 25 fall asleep at the wheel. Sleep deprivation will impact your brain’s response time and can be just as dangerous as drunk driving. Pull over to a truck stop or book a hotel if you’re feeling too drowsy to drive. If you’re road tripping with others, make sure to rotate driving shifts around sleep breaks.
DON’T – Forget Your Car Charger
This may be the most important thing to the smart phone-dependent people. Not only would your phone dying make a long car ride slightly miserable, but it would make the ride dangerous in the case of an emergency. Your phone is your lifeline when it comes to roadside troubles, canceled reservations and communication to the outside world.
I hope these road trip do’s and don’ts prepare you for all of your road adventures! If you have any other road trip advice, post it in the comments section below!