Things You Need To Know Before Packing The Car – And Your Friends
Part of the fun of the summertime is piling into a car and going for a road trip.
It could be a quick trip for a weekend or a week or more to go on vacation. Or just to get out of your town to do something different.
I’ve taken plenty of road trips, starting with going from Tennessee to Clearwater, Florida, as a kid on vacation. Now that I’m in California, I make frequent trips up and down the coast and occasionally into the desert (and to Las Vegas!), so I have quite a bit of experience and and providing my top 10 road trip tips!
Especially look at #10; you won’t have a good road trip if you don’t follow this advice!
1.) Have Good Tunes
You can’t have a good road trip without good tunes. I like to pick music appropriate to where I’m going to set the mood – Trop/Rock of Jimmy Buffett and Eric Stone along a coastal route, something “pump it up” for nightlife adventures like Vegas. etc.
2.) Be Sure You’ve Got Enough Gas Between Stations
One time, I was traveling with a girlfriend and every couple hours she was nagging me about stopping for gas. I had 3/4 or a tank, 1/2 a tank., etc. When I got to a 1/4 tank the gas gauge suddenly dropped to zero. The red light came on, it was nighttime and there were no stations in sight. I started to sweat and eventually saw a light at the top of a hill. Whew, it was a station! However, the guy was closing just as I arrived and I managed to BEG him to stay open for five more minutes. So when I say be sure you’ve got enough gas between stations, I mean be sure you have enough gas!
3.) Don’t Be Speeding – Enjoy The Journey
Don’t be in too big of a hurry to get there; instead, as Jimmy Buffett sings about in one of his songs, go “fast enough to get there but slow enough to see.”
4.) Pack A Picnic
This was instilled into me by my parents. To save money, we would pack a picnic lunch and pull into a rest stop and eat at picnic tables by the interstate. As a kid, I wanted to go to McDonald’s but I realize how much better picnics are than fast food chains (beyond the health benefits) or even nicer restaurants. In fact, I outline them here in this picnic post. They really do add to the road trip experience.
5.) Have Plenty To Drink In The Car
This is especially important for me because I tend to consume a lot of liquids. So I carry a jug of iced tea (unsweetened!) and have ice in a cooler. Of course, I can always stop and get more tea or other drinks when I’m on the road but that costs me time.
6.) Have Plenty Of Snacks In The Car
You never know what delays you might encounter when on a road trip – traffic, construction, an unexpected detour – so you had better have something to eat. Plus, having snacks when driving/riding is just part of the road trip experience.
7.) Don’t Overpack For Road Trips
There’s a natural tendency to say “what the heck” and not be selective when it comes to packing the vehicle as opposed to when you are flying and try to cram everything into a single carry-on bag. But don’t overdo it for several reasons. First, you’ll have all that crap to deal with when you arrive, secondly you’ll quickly run out of room to put all that stuff from you and others in the vehicle and packing and re-packing the car will frustrate everyone, and third you don’t want stuff stacked so high it’s blocking the windows and you can’t see out to change lanes and drive.
8.) Play Games – Read The Road Signs & License Plates
Not only is this a great way to pass the time but reading road signs can also educate you about places on the way to a destination. Learn where certain towns are located, see if there are any sights to see or landmarks (like the Hearst Castle turnoff on Highway 101 in Central California), information you can use later to dazzle friends who think you’re an encyclopedia (or a human Google search) of travel. Reading the license plates, well, that’s just a fun thing to do, as well as giving you an idea about which people from what areas travel to that area.
9.) Stop On Occasion – Be Curious
It’s easy to be a “point to point” road tripper, but be a little adventurous. If you see something interesting along the way, stop and explore it. Part of the benefits of being on a road trip is the flexibility to stop anywhere along the way. Take advantage of it.
10.) Have Fun People With You Who Don’t Complain About Everything!
Seriously, nothing is worse than being trapped in a car with people who are constantly griping: “Why are we stopping here!?” “Oh gosh are we THERE yet?” (One hour into the trip.) “Oh, I’m SO bored.” (Two hours into the trip.) “I need to pee.” “Can’t you drive!?” And so forth. So choose your car mates wisely.