It is officially summer across North America! This means invites to beach parties, backyard barbecues, and road trips are starting to fill everyone’s weekends. Yes, it is road trip season once again, and it seems that many Americans are believing in revelling in the journey, and not merely the destination.
There has been a surge in the popularity of road trips. In 2015, only 22 percent of Americans spent their vacations road tripping, but according to The New York Times, this number rose to 39 percent the following year. And as per this study by Skift, today’s affordable driving experience, coupled with new driving technologies and services, has made the American road trip a more appealing way to spend one’s vacation.
Don’t be too quick to hop on a car just yet. Be sure to read these 10 road trip tips to ensure you have the most unforgettable experience.
1.) Be Insured!
The key to having fun and being able to relax on a road trip is knowing that you’ve sorted out the ‘serious stuff’. Let’s talk about safety first and foremost. Get your health and travel insurance sorted, but choosing the right car insurance for your road trip is quite essential too.
For road trips where you hire a car, I prefer going with a car rental damage insurance such as Bonzah, where they cover up to $35,000 in damage for trips up to 31 days. They are compatible with major car rental companies, and they also cover not just 50 US States but worldwide as well.
This kind of flexibility with a car insurance will have you being on the road ala Jack Kerouac in no time.
2.) Select the Right Vehicle
No matter how long your road trip is, the vehicle you choose will be your home and transport throughout the duration of your holiday.
A popular choice for road trips are SUV’s, however this all entirely depends on the type of road trip you want to make. If it will be a campsite road trip spanning several weeks, then you better do your research on RV’s (recreational vehicles) or trailers.
It’s important to know the weather and terrain of your driving path / destination so you know not just the kind of vehicle to use but also the proper tools and accessories. For instance, if you wish to travel during winter, then snow chains are essential.
While road trips are normally associated to the outdoors and a rugged type of travelling, let’s not forget that there are also the short, bucket-list types of road trips.
If you want to celebrate special occasions and go on a drive along the coast and / or vineyards, then it would be a cool idea to rent a luxury car and finallly fulfill that drive of your dreams.
3.) Map Out Your Stops and Ideal ETA’s
While it’s great to leave room for flexibility during road trips, it’s also recommended to be quite strategic with your stops and arrival times.
Driving to an unknown destination till the sun sets may sound like a romantic notion, but it’s best to be organised prior to hitting the road. This way, not only do you save on time and fuel but this ensures everyone’s safety also.
Try to keep each single drive to 3-4 hours until you either make a fuel / rest stop, or an overnight stop. I also personally prefer to drive only when the sun is out.
4.) Select Your Road Trip Companions Wisely
I’ve said it many times before, and I’ll say it again: Who you travel with makes or breaks the experience.
Most especially on a road trip, where you will be spending hours on end in a confined capsule. Conversation is important in road trips, so not only should you all be able to stand each other, but it would be better if you got along fabulously.
It is also wise to set expectations before the road trip starts: How will you split costs? Who will be the designated drivers?
5.) The Right Playlist
Never, ever underestimate the power of the right playlist on a road trip! My Golden Rule here is whoever’s driving has control over music, and no one complains.
If you’re not the type to listen to music on a road trip (hmmm…), Audible is also a great alternative. You can multitask with this app and have your book that’s been on your to-be-read list since forever read to you while driving.
6.) Book Accommodations Ahead of Time
After a long drive, you will want a hot shower, clean sheets, and a good night’s sleep. The last thing you need is a car full of weary travellers looking for available accommodation in the middle of the night.
While apps nowadays make it easier than ever to make bookings, you still do not want to leave things to the last minute and pay twice the rate. You must also consider long weekends and holidays (especially when driving interstate and internationally), as these are factors that may affect your booking.
When you are staying overnight to break a 2 or 3-day travel, you may also want the accommodation to be strategically situated along your path.
Most accommodations will also likely ask you of your estimated time of arrival, and those with great customer service will give you a call should you not have checked in after 2 hours of your ETA. This is to ensure your safety and if you find yourself lost, they will at least give you guidance and direction over the phone.
7.) Be a Smart Snacker
I personally prefer to have all meals outside the vehicle. Not only is this a less messier option, but going out of the car to eat also gives everyone the chance to stretch their legs.
Before starting your journey, it would be good to have pre-packed snacks ready. Pack your own cut-up fruits, nuts and granola bars. And if you run out, make sure to choose the healthier option in convenience stores.
Junk food is tempting to have during road trips, but these will make you feel sluggish and sleepy so it’s not a very wise option to have.
8.) Invest in National Park Passes
If your road trip will have you visiting two or more National Parks, it is best to get the National Park Service’s America the Beautiful passes.
This allows you access to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites, including a day pass. This will save you time and cost, and also will give you the flexibility of adding more national parks to your itinerary along the way.
9.) Download Useful Apps
With the convenience of many driving apps, there’s never been a more convenient time to go on road trips. Apart from your usual navigation-based apps, some useful ones that you can use on a road trip are: Gas Buddy, an app that locates the nearest and cheapest fuel around you. Fuel Calculator keeps track of how much you’re spending on fuel.
Just one word of advice : these apps take up a lot of battery juice, so ensure you have enough chargers and power banks.
10.) Get a Real Paper Map
“To understand where you’re going, you need to know where you’ve been.” Paper maps can easily provide what even the latest map / GPS apps cannot: seeing the big picture.
A good old paper map helps in the visual comprehension of scale and distance.
And between you and me, it ain’t a full-fledged road trip without a creased and coffee-stained map.
Are you going on a road trip this season? Where are you off to?