It’s (almost) that time of year again when the weather starts to turn a little warmer and winter finally fades into the budding trees of springtime. In addition to the blooming flowers, the beginning of March also indicates that spring break is right around the corner for college students, teachers and many families with school aged children. If you’re ready to bust your cabin fever, consider joining them on your own version of a road trip and keep these items in mind before hitting the open road (if you’re flying, reconsider – a long road trip is something you have to do at least once you in your life):
A. Prep Your Vehicle
- Get your car ready for the road
- Schedule a checkup for basic maintenance
- Check your tires for bulges and make sure you have adequate tread with the penny test
- Make sure your spare is in good condition
- Get your battery checked
- Have your brakes inspected
- Have an emergency roadside kit prepared
- Have paper maps if you plan on going to remote areas where your GPS won’t work
- Forget everything from step 1 and rent a car. Avoid all the wear and tear on your own vehicle and sidestep having to spend money getting your car road trip ready. Use a search site like Expedia.com to find cars from car rental companies in your area. Many times, you can find a more fuel-efficient car than the vehicle you own for less then $250 per week. By not subjecting your car to thousands of miles of wear and tear, not paying for vehicle checkups and improving fuel efficiency, it can be smarter and more cost effective to rent a car. Also, check if the credit card you use to rent the car has automobile coverage for rentals (most do) and make sure you decline the unnecessary rental insurance.
B. Entertainment and Filling Time
- Phone chargers – in today’s age, this is an essential item that doesn’t need further explanation. Pack two, plus a way to plug the USB end into the wall, and your car.
- Hands free device – this is really a safety device as much as it is for convenience
- A great playlist – this is especially important for the start of the road trip to get everyone in a great mood. You will be spending the next 4 to 34 hours with your carmates, so getting off to a positive start is vital. Know your audience and throw in classic songs that everyone can sing to.
- Download several podcasts – I love Serial season 1, but if you’ve listened to that already, read this great article for finding your podcast.
- Bring a good book or download an audiobook – my wife and I always listen to a crime thriller audiobook on our 7-hour trip up to the U.P. to visit her family and it makes the trip go by so much quicker.
- Have your camera charged and ready – you never know when a great photo opportunity will arise.
- Bring a disposable camera – remember how fun it was 20 years ago look through the photos from a disposable camera after they were developed? After the trip, wait a few weeks to get the photos developed and get together with your friends to look at them and re-live all the ridiculous shenanigans of the road trip.
- Cards and travel games – card games or board games can really make the time go by quicker when you’re crammed in the backseat of a sedan. This gambling game is one of my favorites. Life is better with money on the line.
C. Packing List for Your Car
- Sunglasses – nobody wants to squint for an entire car ride
- Blanket and pillow – if it’s a long car ride, you will likely be sleeping for part of it and you’ll want to be comfortable.
- Reusable water bottle – just make sure you’re not the friend that makes everyone pull over every hour to go to the bathroom. No body likes that guy/girl.
D. Personal Hygiene
- Body wipes – being packed in a car can become unpleasant quickly if smells start to linger. This can be improved with body wipes.
- Lip balm – cracked lips are never fun.
- Toothbrush – this should be self-explanatory. If it’s not self-explanatory, you weren’t invited on the road trip because no one wanted to be in close quarters with you.
- Mints or gum – these could help keep you awake if you’re the driver (sunflower seeds are my go-to for staying awake when I drive) and your carmates will thank you for covering up your dragon breath.
- Sunscreen – just in case.
E. Other Essentials
- Snacks – having snacks on hand can help avoid unnecessary pit stops and can help you from getting hangry.
- Garbage bags – you will accumulate a lot of trash over the period of your trip so being able to stay tidy can go a long way.
- Car cooler – It’s always nice to have a cold drink ready.
- Pocket knife – because you just never know what you’ll need it for but it will come in handy.
The last time I took a long road trip was from Minneapolis, Minnesota to Wilmington Beach, North Carolina with 4 friends from high school. A 22-hour road trip can get extremely uncomfortable for 5 grown men in a car but we had an unforgettable time. Flying certainly would have been easier, but it wouldn’t have been nearly as memorable.