Your Guide to Adventure: Tips 10–24
Now that you’re inspired to hit the road (see our nine tips on “Embrace the Spirit of Adventure”), it’s time to pack and prepare. Being smart about how you stash your stuff can mean the difference between cramped chaos and smooth sailing. Likewise, while it’s great to live out your spontaneous side, if you’re traveling in a group, it helps to be organized so that the trip works well for everyone. Whether you’re headed out to celebrate the 90th anniversary of Route 66 (see our bonus tip at the end for an event you can hit along the way!) or just steering toward your favorite lakeside retreat, here’s Part Two of our series: how to make sure the journey is just as pleasant as the destination.
Part Two: Tips 10 – 24
Be Prepared (and Pack with a Purpose)
- Pack a Front-Seat Bag
Put everything the driver might need during the drive in an easily accessible (and reasonably sized) bag in the front. This should include cellphone chargers, water bottle, maps, wallet and snacks.
- Don’t Forget Sleep Accessories
Travel pillows and blankets are not just for airplanes! Save your passengers some neck pain and reduce complaints about temperature control by keeping travel-sized pillows and blankets within reach. After all, sleeping passengers mean peace and quiet for the driver!
- Create Dedicated Trash Bags
Have one in the front and one in the back: Snack wrappers and other trash pile up quickly, and everyone is more comfortable if they’re contained.
- Keep Plenty of Food and Beverages On Hand
Speaking of snacks, nothing gets a cooped-up crowd crankier than hunger pangs. Bring plenty of bottled water and mess-free snacks (hand fruit, peanut butter crackers, nuts) to have in between pit stops. Crunch is good—think apples and carrots—to keep drivers awake at night. Keep everything in one container easily accessible to everyone, and stay on top of the cleanup.
- Leave the Rest Behind
If you don’t need it for the road, it belongs in the trunk. Keep the passenger areas as roomy as possible so that your fellow road trippers are comfortable for the long haul. Here’s a good rule of thumb: Pack like you have to hold everything on your lap. If you pack like you’ll have to hold it all, you won’t have to unpack your car to get everyone out at a rest stop, and no one will overheat because of all the stuff piled on them.
- Make a Must-Do List
While much of your adventure can come from the unplanned serendipitous moments, if you have must-see items, make sure you put them on your map and have some idea of when you’d like to get there.
- Buy Gas Cards in Advance for Budgeting
Stay on budget by using pre-purchased gas cards along the way. You can keep track of all your gas expenses if you have designated cards to use, plus it will help you save cash for other necessities.
- Save an Off-Line Map
Do you want to find yourself in the middle of nowhere, lost? Nope. Before putting your destination into your Garmin GPS, follow the route on the screen’s map so that you also have a mental picture of where you’re going. Download the maps along the way to your device so that they’re saved in case of an emergency. Garmin Drive 50LM comes preloaded with detailed lifetime maps. It features Garmin Real Directions, easy to understand spoken turn-by-turn directions that guide like a friend using recognizable landmarks, buildings and traffic lights.
- Plan for All Kinds of Weather
Your trip could start in June, but you may drive through places that have snow (mountains), and then again through triple-digit temperatures down through the South. Be ready to bundle up one day and lie out in the sun the next.
- There’s an App for That
Be careful not to use your phone while behind the wheel, but with a dashboard mount, your device or smartphone can be put to use with lots of handy apps that will help enrich your journey. Use apps to avoid getting caught in traffic on the interstate unexpectedly, find a last-minute hotel room, or locate the closest restaurant or gas station. With Garmin’s Smartphone Link app you can get up-to-date “live” traffic information to your navigator using your existing mobile data plan.
- Put the Interstate Miles Behind You at Night
The kids are more likely to sleep, and there’s less traffic, shaving hours off the drive. But check to make sure there’s not nighttime road construction first, and if you’re feeling even the slightest bit tired, pull over and call it a day.
- Maximize Roadside Rest Stops
Rest stops are faster than gas stations for pee breaks. Make the kids go to the bathroom at every stop, even if they say they don’t have to! As a passenger, give fair warning of when you think you’ll need to stop so that you don’t put pressure on the driver to find a place at that exact moment. As a driver, give passengers a heads-up when you’re coming upon a bathroom-break opportunity.
- Eat Fast but Eat Well
Dine at quick sit-down stops like Panera, Chipotle and Moe’s. It’s a nice break from eating in the car and healthier than run-of-the-mill fast food. Eating outside of the car will also force you to stretch your legs and get your blood circulating, and keeping the wrappers out of the car is an added bonus!
- Get Your Timing Right
Time bathroom breaks, food breaks and gas stops together. While it’s impossible to plan everything perfectly, it saves energy and frustration when you can coordinate breaks from the road. When traveling alone, it’s especially important to keep timing in mind.
“I’ve driven 13 hours in a stretch over a dozen times in the last four years. On these longer trips, I pull over every two hours or so to stretch my legs, hit the bathroom and let the car rest for a few minutes. I gas up when I’m half full and drive during daylight hours, as you never know what could happen—lost in backwoods with no GPS, and running low on gas in nowhere land.”
—Lea Tzimoulis, Division One NCAA Basketball mom and road trip expert
- Where to Go? Pony Up to the Will Rogers 80th Memorial Rodeo
August 24–27: Celebrate one of America’s most beloved cowboys during this weekend celebration along Route 66 in Vinita, Oklahoma, with a parade and action-packed rodeo events including barrel racing, steer roping and bull riding.
Now that you’re inspired and you’ve got the preparation planned out, stay tuned for Part Three, where we shift gears and give our top tips for road trip entertainment and game ideas!
Stratton Lawrence is a travel writer and adventure buff located in Folly Beach, South Carolina. He’s driven cross-country many times, including a two-month sojourn from San Francisco to Charleston in a 1972 Volkswagen Super Beetle. Stratton also provides auto advice, whether you’re hitting the road in a classic car or your favorite modern cruiser, as a writer for eBay Motors.