Everyone loves a good road trip. There’s something very American about grabbing some friends or family, hopping into a car, and setting out on the open road. But before you embark on your next adventure, there are some secrets you should know about.
Here are a few of them:
1 – Check Your Vehicle Ahead of Time
Throwing your bags in your car, sticking the keys into the ignition, and heading out of town is a rookie move. Don’t be a rookie.
Always, always, always give your vehicle a basic inspection prior to leaving town. At the very least, you’ll want to check oil, fluids, tires, brakes, lights, belts, and hoses for any sign of depletion or abnormal degradation. If you’ll be going on an extended trip, it’s best to have a professional inspection and tune-up performed.
2 – Keep a Cooler in the Trunk
Food is often one of the major expenses on a road trip. Having to eat out for three meals per day can get expensive. And if you’re on a budget, you’re probably forced to eat fast food (which isn’t healthy and leaves you feeling yucky).
One secret is to pack a cooler in your trunk. Then, instead of stopping at restaurants for every meal, you can make occasional trips to the supermarket. Store your food in the cooler and eat lunches at rest stops and parks along the way. You’ll save money and time, while simultaneously enjoying better overall experiences.
3 – Always Have Backup Electronics
Technology is great…until it stops working.
Nothing is more frustrating than being in the middle of nowhere and having your phone die without any way of charging it. In a matter of seconds, you lose your communication, GPS, and entertainment.
Always carry backup electronics and supplies. This includes charging cords and batteries for any electronics you need (phone, camera, GPS, etc.).
4 – Stay at Campsites
Multiple nights staying at hotels can cost you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. That’s not exactly a cost-effective way to travel if you’re on a budget.
On alternative is to stay at campsites along your route. There are thousands of them around the country and they typically only cost a few bucks per night. You’ll also find interesting people who are often outgoing and sociable. This helpful resource from KOA lists all of the campgrounds across the United States and Canada.
5 – Get Off the Highway
Highways can be efficient for traveling from one point to the next, but they’re rarely the most interesting. Whenever possible, you should choose to get off the highway and try back roads. (Even if it means adding time to your trip). There are plenty of map books and map apps that will help you find scenic/interesting recommendations.
As travel blogger Ed Hewitt writes, “I have found these recommendations to be fairly reliable; most have at least a few miles of interesting local scenery, offer driving experiences ranging from a rambling bucolic feel to truly stunning views of America the Beautiful, and pay off handsomely for those with the time, patience, and inclination to wander a bit.”
Another perk of taking back roads is that you’ll miss a lot of the traffic that comes with major interstates. And while stop lights and restrictive speed limits will slow you down on occasion, they give you more time to enjoy the scenery.
6 – Beef Up Your Music Supply
While there’s definitely something nostalgic about popping in a CD mix and cranking some old school tunes, nothing kills the vibe quite like having to insert, eject, buff scratches, and flip through album folders. The better option is to stream music.
If you don’t already pay for a subscription service, use this road trip as an opportunity to sign up for a free trial. Spotify and Amazon (as well as others) offer free trial periods so you can stream without commercials and interruptions.
Plan the Perfect Road Trip
The beauty of the American road trip is rooted in its spontaneity and diversity. Even if you take the exact same path multiple times over the years, you’ll see it in a different light each time. So why not do it more often?
Armed with these six secrets, you can make road trips more convenient, cost-effective, and enjoyable. Be safe and have fun!