Updated July 19, 2020. After a long winter, wet spring, and months of sheltering-in-place, it’s time to get ready for your road trip! Where you’re headed isn’t as important as the fact that you’re going.
Need some inspiration? The editors of Outside magazine have put together a list of America’s Best Car-Touring Roads. The Travel Channel wants to tell you about the 20 Most Popular U.S. Road Trips. National Geographic has declared 2020 “the summer of road trips,” due to the pandemic.
First, take care of the basics…
Before you pull out of your driveway and turn on your carefully-curated playlist, make sure your car is ready for your road trip:
- Of course, you’ll get an oil change and have all the filters, fluids, lights, and doo-dads checked out.
- Tires, too. Seems obvious, but leave nothing to chance…including the spare tire. Don’t wait till you need it to find out if it’s in good condition. Same with the jack–are all the pieces there? Toss in a tire gauge, too.
- Paperwork: Proof of insurance, warranty, AAA or emergency road service contact information…maybe even that car manual you’ve never read.
- Maps seem so 20th-century, but for a serious road trip, I’m all about backup for my backup. I use my device for GPS, with “hard copy” maps standing by. Invest in a good old-fashioned Road Atlas, just in case.
Next, a few essentials:
- Chargers for devices top the list! You’ll be using your phone or tablet for directions, finding places to stop, and for tunes or audiobooks.
- First aid kit for the passengers: Buy one (Walgreen’s, Target, AAA, etc.) or make one: band-aids, gauze pads, antibiotic ointment, scissors, tape. Here’s my list of 8 OTC medications every traveler should pack. Add insect repellant, too.
- First aid kit for the car: Jumper cables, duct tape, utility knife, blanket, rain poncho, flashlight & batteries, and a couple gallons of water. You could go nuts anticipating every emergency–keep it simple. A decent roadside kit, with jumper cables sells for about $30. Your local auto parts store probably has one.
Finally! Time for some fun!
- Pack the cooler with great food. Go ahead and include those carrot and celery sticks…and maybe some hummus for dipping? How about making tortilla roll-ups? Trail mix with your favorites? Ranch snack mix? Popcorn? Think beyond dry crackers and cookies…
- Games! Of course, the classics: license plate game, 20 Questions, I Spy… If you’re kid-free, here’s my blog post on road trip games for adults. And everyone loves Car Bingo; it’s cheap, easy, and fun!
- Don’t rush! Stop frequently, to stretch and to see the views. Find the wacky roadside attractions. Search for the best lemon meringue pie. Read the historical markers. Poke around in little towns. Talk to the locals. Isn’t that why we take road trips? To see things up close?!?
- Keep an Official Map. (There I go again, with the map thing.) Mark your route, stops, restaurants…in different colors. It really is fun to watch the trip unfold. And it helps you remember.
More road trip and travel tips: