Whether you’re headed off on a summer vacation, family visit, or other adventure, a road trip can be enjoyable. A little planning goes a long way in making this happen. With this in mind, check out our 20 favorite tips for making your next road trip more fun and less chore.
We’ll start with the basics that may seem obvious, but clean passengers are happy passengers. So, everyone that’s along for the ride should start fresh and clean. And, ideally, shower right before you leave; that way, an unexpected traffic jam or malfunctioning air conditioner won’t lead to a sudden onset of “cabin stink.”
Don’t leave your breaks to chance; this gives everyone something to look forward to along the way. In general, plan for at least a 15-minute stop for every two to three hours of driving—plan on staying longer if you’re stopping to eat. You can use Google Maps or a similar app to help with planning, be sure to check for a gas station, bathrooms, and any other facilities you might need.
Ideally, everyone will stick together at a rest stop or during any breaks. If you separate, determine a time and place for everyone to meet up again. Everyone who has a cell phone should bring it with them during a rest stop
It’s hard to anticipate every situation, but thinking ahead may reduce aggravation. Things like raincoats, umbrellas, and extra clothes and shoes should be automatic. But, consider an extra cell phone charger (and maybe a backup cell phone), a second pair of sunglasses, an extra set of car and house keys, and additional activities for the kids. Even if you use an electronic toll pass, having some change on hand could be a lifesaver if you lose or damage the pass or encounter a coin-only vending machine.
If your crew includes kids, then you’ll want to have some individual and group activities. Before you leave, identify some activities that the younger ones can do independently, but interject with some rounds of group play like I Spy or the “License Plate” game. Depending on the ages involved, ask each child to take a turn making a game suggestion. Try to keep iPad time to a minimum.
Even if you plan on stopping along the way to eat, pack some food and drinks in a cooler. Plans change, you could get stuck in traffic, and you never know when hunger might kick in. Needless to say, avoid foods with intense aromas and stick with fare that’s easy to eat in the car. Importantly, just like you would at home, don’t give small kids food that could be a choking hazard.
Everyone in the car will love listening to the same music in a perfect world, but things are seldom perfect. Instead, have everyone prepare a playlist and give each person a rotating half-hour slot to play DJ. This way, each passenger gets a fair turn. At the same time, figure out how you’ll play the music, such as with a CD or a Bluetooth or USB connection.
Even if your car doesn’t need repair or maintenance, have a mechanic give the vehicle a once-over for fluid levels, tire pressure, and wheel alignment. Ideally, do this a week before your trip so any unexpected mechanical problems won’t delay your travels.
If you have younger children, you have car seats. Kids grow fast, so a car seat that might have been a perfect fit a few months ago may no longer be ideal. This can be not only uncomfortable for your child but also dangerous. Check your child’s weight, height, and age to see if it’s compatible with their current seat (the manual will have the details). This is also an excellent time to confirm that the car seat is installed correctly. Don’t leave these critical activities to the last minute and seek help from organizations like Safe Kids if you’re uncertain.
Blocking out the intense summer sun goes a long way in making passengers comfortable in the car. This is especially the case with back seat occupants who may not have separate climate controls or be old enough to use them. If your SUV or van already has second- or third-row deep window tinting, then you should be good to go. Otherwise, buy some cling-on tinting for the back windows. It’s inexpensive, easy to apply, and isn’t permanent. Avoid the suction-cup shade that can loosen and become a projectile in an accident
Bringing a USB battery charger falls into planning for the unexpected. These handy things can combat a shortage of USB charging ports and an abundance of electronic devices. In addition, a USB pack can also be a lifesaver if your vehicle breaks down and you can’t charge your cell phone.
If you don’t already have one, buy a phone holder to use during your journey. Keeping the phone in one place is less distracting and easier if you’re using the device for navigation or as an audio source.
Sometimes old tech is the best tech. A paper map can save the day if GPS gives you problems or you need a closer look at some details about your destination. At the same time, a paper map can be interesting to the kids and can be a helpful tool for your navigator.
Before hitting the road, check that everyone who’ll be behind the wheel has a valid driver’s license and that all information on each license is correct. This step is essential for driving, but you may need to produce an ID somewhere along your journey or at your destination (like during hotel check-in). At the same time, review your car insurance for coverage details. Again, take these steps in advance of your trip.
What would you do if your car broke down while you’re driving? If the vehicle is under warranty, you’d likely call the manufacturer or dealer. But, if your vehicle isn’t covered, consider signing up for a roadside assistance plan, like AAA or Allstate Motor Club, among others. Even some auto insurance companies offer programs. If the worst happens, you’re one phone call away from help without worrying about how much a tow will cost. Different plans have different coverage allowances. In some cases, you might be able to join for just a month or two if you only want temporary coverage.
Be prepared for the inevitable spills and messes with ready-to-go and easily accessible wipes and paper towels. If something nasty happens, you’ll know exactly where to turn for clean-up help. You can even find no-scent or plain water-based wipes for a refreshing body wipe down.
Keep in mind that your travels are likely to bring near or major cities and the accompanying heavy traffic. Whenever possible, plan your driving to avoid morning and evening rush hours. Depending on your destination, resort areas can suffer from traffic messes, too
Give your friends and family a detailed copy of your route, including estimated arrival times. It’s a wise precaution and a good backup if you don’t make it to your destination. Be sure to include good contact numbers for everyone, including any hotels and resorts. Of course, don’t share this information via social media.
There are few hassles worse in life than a lost wallet, but the aggravation gets even worse when this happens during a trip. In an inconspicuous spot in the car, hide enough money for a tank of gas and a few meals as protection against a lost wallet. Another fallback is to activate the contactless payment function (like Apple Pay or Google Pay) on your smartphone. Not every merchant accepts this type of credit card payment, but it could help in a pinch.
Driving through unfamiliar territory is disorienting enough, but arriving during the night can be confusing and possibly dangerous. Instead, plan to arrive during daylight so you can see what’s going on and get a better idea about the area. You’ll also arrive fresher and better able to take in the sights.
What better way to begin a journey than behind the wheel of a new-to-you car, truck, or SUV? The professionals at Trust Auto in Sykesville can help you choose from our great selection of high-quality, low-mileage used vehicles.
Buying a used car in Washington, DC? Buying a used car in Virginia? Then the best-used vehicles are just a short drive away. Buying a used car in Pennsylvania? Buying a used car in New York? Then learn how our remote shopping services can help you find the perfect vehicle without ever leaving home.
When searching for the “best used car dealer near me,” look no further than Trust Auto. From Baltimore and beyond, we’re the used car dealer that’s all about the customer experience. Call or stop by and find out why customers love us.