How to Prepare for Road Trips
With over 4 million miles of roads crisscrossing the USA from Atlantic to Pacific and Canada to Mexico, there are endless options for road trips. Road trips are so fun for so many different reasons. This year more people are taking the roads and rediscovering the joy of open roads and the freedom which comes with it. Whether you are planning a short trip or a long trip, there are a few essential things you can take care of to make your trip comfortable. Every road trip has three critical components that we can manage – the car, people, and trip planning, rest is all hope and luck. Here are some tested useful tips to prepare for road trips based on my personal experiences. Some of these tips are darn obvious and some I learned with time.
Get your car tuned
Assuming that your car is serviced regularly along with oil changes, make sure all car fluids are topped off before starting your trip. Check the air pressure in tires including the spare one. Make sure wipers are working as they should. Don’t skip it, it is very important while driving on the highways in pouring rains.
Clean the car
This is pretty self-explanatory. Who does not appreciate a clean and fresh car? Vacuuming, dusting, wiping of interiors and windows followed by a car wash will make it ready for the trip. Squirt some Febreze (yes, it has only one “e”) to freshen it up and clip one of those air diffusers on the air vent to keep it smelling good.
Prep your car for the trip
Stock the car with chewing gums, lots of quarter coins (for tolls), one or two packs of wet wipes, tissue box, paper towel roll, hand sanitizer, hand cream, lip balm, barf bags, and small trash bags. I will highly recommend keeping booster cables and emergency warning triangles in the car. If planning a winter road trip you might need car tire chains depending upon weather conditions and a couple of gloves in the glove box.
Keep them happy
Shop for snacks that tend to make less mess in the car and are easy to eat, depending on the age of your passengers. I make two bags of on-the-road-snacks. One with all the snacks goes in the truck and the second one contains snacks for the day and remains within reach. Oranges, apples, and bananas and my favorite fruits to pack, besides whatever fruits and veggies I find in the refrigerator. Carrots and cucumbers with hummus are great. To keep every tummy happy, I also bake several mini muffins (sweet and savory) as special treats for them. To save time on the first day, I pack home-made healthy rolls for lunch. I also pack a big thermos of hot tea for adults and plenty of chocolate milk boxes for kids.
Carry plenty of water with you to avoid dehydration-induced headaches. We are big drinkers when it comes to water and I keep 4-5 large Nalgene water bottles for the trip. I put four of them in the freezer a day before for cold water supply during long drives.
Comfort and fun
Keep a few pillows/cushions and blankets/throws for a comfortable journey. Make sure to pack long charging cords for all the smart devices. I would also recommend keeping a few eye masks, and earplugs to catch some rest during long drives (obviously when you are not driving!). Also, update all the apps which you may need during the trip. I remind kids a few days in advance to download their favorite music, podcasts, games, movies, and gather their favorite books (all of us still prefer to flip the real pages of the book).
Map your route
This is a fun family activity, which everyone enjoys. Share your overall route with kids using Google Maps, show them the places you are planning to drive through, and ask for their suggestions for stops. Keep in mind the daylight time during your drive. Driving at night through a totally remote area may not be the kind of adventure you are looking for, especially with your family.
Planning and booking
Of course, you will plan your trip depending upon your schedule, preferences, etc. Make sure to book your campsites, hotels, and/or cabins in advance. My booking tools of choice are recreation.gov for campsites and booking.com/airbnb for hotels/cabins. When you find something you like on Airbnb, always check if it is available on booking.com, I usually get a better deal at booking.com. Here are some recommendations for helpful apps for road trips.
Prepare for the emergency
It is a good idea to share your trip plan with your family members (who are not traveling with you) or friends, just in case of any rare emergency. Save your auto insurance contact numbers on your phone. Though everything about the trip is saved on the phone, I still forward all the contact and other important information to all the passengers with phones for backup.
Make sure to keep a box of disposable face masks or plenty of reusable ones along with the hand sanitizer. Stay safe and healthy to enjoy your trip and time with the family. Come along for a 2-week New Mexico road trip to get some inspiration.
Happy and safe travels!