During out most recent family road trip, we went to California, Arizona, Nevada, and a very brief stop in South Utah. Together, Mary and I have completed many road trips (most of them with our separate families) so we are well versed when it comes to staying entertained and not getting in each other’s hair too much. Trust us, the way to make a good road trip great is understanding limits of the human psyche and prized personal space. Here are a few things (or ten) we learned that can possibly make your trip better:
PLAN YOUR ROUTE
Input everything into a dedicated GPS before you begin your journey. Notice that we said “DEDICATED” GPS; this means you want a device that already has world maps plugged in via software. This eliminates a few possible hiccups along the way: 1) Less phone usage means less battery usage which means more time on your phone for other forms of entertainment 2) Mobile phones don’t always have the best reception in the middle of nowhere and 3) Helps avoid data overcharges. Doing this will help you stick to your planned route. The last thing you want to be is lost and missing an appointment you bought and booked months ago. We like to plug in the following days’ destination the night prior. The less stress = the best trip.
*Although it’s rare that we do, for long trips we believe may have intermittent coverage, we bring an actual physical map of the immediate area (bought at a local petrol station), just in case!
ENTERTAINMENT ON YOUR DEVICE
Road trips can get very boring (and tiring) if you aren’t prepared. Looking at the passing views will only suffice for so long. A few items we recommend are a cellphone or laptop. Make sure you have music, audible books, and movies downloaded to your devices because you won’t always have signal on the car radio. Books, portable games (like playing cards) and other travel-sized board games are always worth a shot to kill time.
*Electronics are of the utmost importance when it comes to modern day entertainment. Therefore, be sure to bring external battery packs to charge your devices! A great external battery brand we use in the Wanderlustyle family is Mophie (Not affiliated).
Always load up on travel associated apps. This can help find the best places to eat, cheapest (and safest) places to stay, saving money, and if you’re foreign to the local speaking populace, great for translating.
PACK RIGHT FOR THE ROAD
Typically, on road trip, everything you brought is in the same vehicle, making any extra leg room a privilege. If you already packed as light as possible, make sure to place any bags that you would need to access, on the top or at least in a convenient location for an easy grab and go. Before our journey, we also like to pack enough snacks to get us to our next stop. Be sure to purchase enough liquids (stick with water or coconut water for the best hydration) to stay hydrated.
*Packing snacks that last long such as sunflower seeds, jolly ranchers and candy are great in aiding the driver in staying attentive. Also, be sure to pick up coffee or a preferred energy to help you stay awake. Be careful not to overdue it with the energy drinks, though, in my (Reid) experience, energy depletes much faster after the initial hour of drinking it. I stick with coffee and sunflower seeds now. Also, Continuous hydration is a great way to mitigate dozing off at the wheel.
PREPARE YOUR CAR
Double check your tires! Possibly the worst drawback of planning and packing for a road trip is a flat tire. In one experience through the beautiful countryside of Utah, with little reception, we found ourselves set back a few hours with one of the heaviest rain storms of the year trailing us. It came down to us not looking over a balding tire that could have easily been replaced before we embarked. Maintenance keeps your car healthy and increases its lifespan. Apart from a flat tire, you don’t want your car battery to be dead the next morning – make sure to check your battery and fluids!
Another great thing in prepping is cleaning out the vehicle! Inside and out – A clean and clear environment allows for a less stressful mind. Again, the less stress on a road trip equals fewer reasons capable of causing bickering. Long trips like these, especially with people you love, can be a rough. Have a trash bag at all times. Make sure you have water bottles, sunscreen, umbrellas, a flashlight and whatever else you think you may need to keep in the car for emergencies. Also, make sure to have car chargers (and external chargers as mentioned before) for your GPS and cellphone.
BRING LOOSE CHANGE
This can be a under the ‘packing right’ point but it really deserves its own emphasis. Always bring spare cash, you never know when you’ll need it, especially for toll booths or places that aren’t able to take credit/debit cards – it’s quite often to come across these type of spots in the middle of the country.
*Before heading out on a road trip, check your sofas and crevices around the house for some loose change.
For road trips (with others) be sure to share the enduring task of driving. Swapping seats makes everyone see the ever changing landscape in a new perspective. It also evens out the burden of driving and keeps everyone fresh!
*Bring a travel neck pillow (the one people use on airplanes). It’s the best pillow on the road and saves room in the car!
STOP & STRETCH!
Rest breaks and swapping drivers bring us to a much-needed point: STOP and STRETCH. It’s always great to take a pit stop somewhere even if you don’t have to use the bathroom or grab something to ear or drink. Get out, walk around, take the opportunity to take pictures that will help you remember the small moments of your unforgettable road trip. A good 15-20 minutes of fresh air can give you a second wind for the final push to your destination.
Be mindful when it comes to the comfortability of yourself and others. In our family, we allow the driver to have full control of the A/C and windows along with the radio station because they are the one doing the most “work”. Therefore, if you have to snuggle up with some extra clothing and blankets cause the driver loves cooler temperature then be prepared to do so. If they love the windows down, prepare ahead with some headphones to dull the beating wind. It really is a balancing act between the driver and every passenger. Not everyone loves a cold car and not everyone loves the same genre of music; be prepared to come to terms with each other. Stay flexible both mentally and physically. Of course, if possible, bring pillows and blankets for the most comfortable ride!
VISIT PLACES EN ROUTE
Although debatable, our favorite aspect of a road trip are the countless opportunities for visiting small and unknown places or parks that are off the beaten road. We have even turned around to make a stop at a small shop in the middle of nowhere outside of Nevada. These types of experiences bring unique moments; from the scary people to the things weird and awesome things being sold and said places. You can’t go wrong with pulling off the side of the road to watch a sunrise or sunset – these are the moments’ road trips are made for: a single moment unable to repeat itself because for many, they will only be passing through once in their lifetime and that is where the real magic lies.