Thursday, June 21, 2012

5 Tips for a Great Road Trip

When you're in hour 15 of your road trip,
just start thinking about the hot tub
waiting for you at your vacation rental.

Vacation season's in full swing, and, according to AAA, millions of Americans are hitting the road on trips of 50 miles or more. Whether you're traveling with just another adult or will have a car full of kids, you'll want to make the journey as enjoyable as possible. With a little planning, you'll likely find that a road trip is just as much fun -- if not more fun -- than taking a plane.

Buy Ahead and Pack a Cooler. Snacks are essential on the road, but only the right kind will do. While grabbing bags of chips, nuts and energy drinks as you’re fueling the car sounds like a good idea, it's not. First, it's expensive. Second, you're buying purely on impulse. Plan out your snacks like you plan your drive. After all, what you eat impacts how your mood, which will impact how much you enjoy your trip. You'll also save time by not running into the store to buy things --- just get gas, hit the restroom and go.

Nothing equals the feeling of reaching
the beach at the end of a long road trip.
Use Online Mapping Tools for More than Mileage. While Mapquest and Google Maps are indispensable for finding the best route, they can also show you landmarks along the way. Look for state parks, historical sites, and entertainment options. Researching fun stops along your route is easy, and you can be as selective as you want. Getting a feel for the area you're driving through is one of the most enjoyable parts of a road trip. You can also find great places to eat and estimate how much gas you'll need. There are other online trip planning tools such as, and

Service and Clean Your Vehicle. This one seems like a no-brainer, and it should be. However, don't just check your own oil and tire pressure. Take the car or van into a trusted repair shop and ask them to give it a thorough once over. They'll check tread wear on your tires, coolant levels, change your oil, examine the belts and air filter and more. Then, take your car to a full service car wash. Get the inside thoroughly cleaned, and spring for the extra air freshener.

Create a Road Trip Ambience Inside Your Vehicle. Traveling 8 to 16 hours in your car across the nation is different from shuttling the kids to practice or commuting to work. First, mentally map out how you'll pack the bags, leaving room for an extra bag someone invariably decides to bring along. Then, position your snacks in such a way that you'll actually reach for them, instead of just falling into the habit of buying something at the gas station. Mix CDs of your favorite music, bring books on CDs, as well as DVDs. If you don't have a DVD player in your vehicle, don't fret. Most laptops play DVDs and will do fine for keeping the kids entertained (you might get a set of noise reduction headphones).

Plan for an Extra Hour or Two of Driving. You never know what surprises a road trip will bring. That's part of the fun -- but if you don't leave a little extra time in your travel plans, it can become a real pain. The extra time will help you relax and encourage you to get off the Interstate and enjoy yourself, or just to slow down and enjoy the scenery as you drive.