Traveling via car to your next assignment can seem like a huge task. Especially if there are a lot of miles in between you and your destination. While we are excited to get on the road (or just want to get it over with)…planning ahead can make things go much more smoothly and stress free. To make the most of your time on the road, follow these 10 recommendations!
Pack Some Snacks
Eating on the road can be unhealthy, inconvenient and EXPENSIVE! Especially if you are health conscious. Access to good healthful choices for food and drink is scarce at most gas stations and highway exits. While you may have options in certain larger cities for meals, for snacking and beverages it is best to pack a small cooler and bring your own. This also helps to keep you safe in the event that there is a traffic delay. Unfortunately, these things do happen…and you don’t want to be stranded for hours when you are hungry and thirsty! To keep things less messy and maximize space in your cooler, opt for a few frozen water bottles (that you can drink later when they melt) or cold packs….vs filling your cooler with loose ice. Most of these options will make it for the day without refrigeration (you can always put the contents of your cooler in the hotel fridge for the night when you arrive). Here are some great options that are easy to pack into a small cooler / bag:
- Bottled Water
- Soda or juice bottles or cans
- Cheese that has already been cut into bite sized pieces
- Cut up fruit
- Nuts or trail mix
- Lunch meat (or just go ahead and make a few sandwiches!)
- Granola bars
- Yogurt (make sure you bring a spoon!)
- Snack sized potato chip bags
Check the weather
When you are planning a long road trip, be aware that you may encounter different weather conditions along the way. While it may be sunny when you leave, it may be stormy (or even snowing!) as you cover your miles. It is important that you know what weather conditions you will be faced with so you can plan appropriately. This information can even help you to plan on when you should leave and/or how long you will allow for your trip. Make sure if you will be encountering snow or ice that you have the proper tires and emergency kits containing warm clothing and your food/medications.
Check your car
When getting ready to embark on your journey, don’t forget to make sure your car is in tip top shape to endure the extra load / miles. Some important things to remember to do :
- Change the oil if it is due or close to do
- Check all your fluids (wiper fluid, transmission fluid..etc)
- Check the tread on your tires
- Make any known repairs needed. Don’t tempt fate by putting it off.
- Make sure you have a spare tire kit and jumper cables
- Do a walk around to make sure all your equipment is working (brake lights..etc)
Take a map and know your route
Nowadays a GPS works amazing for getting us wherever we need to go. However, sometimes technology does fail. There may be areas along your route that don’t have good cellular signal causing the GPS to freeze or even fail to load. Here are a few tips to ensure that you don’t find yourself lost if your GPS isn’t working:
- Purchase or print a hardcopy map of your route. Study your ENTIRE route and mark it on the map before you leave. Make sure that you keep the map where it can be easily found and accessed.
- Some GPS services allow you to download your route so it is available even if there is not any signal. Be sure to do this before you leave for your trip.
- If you find yourself on the road without signal and need to get online, find a large chain restaurant or convenience store. These places usually have free WiFi that you can log into from the parking lot and get back online. Some good examples are McDonalds, Starbucks and Truck Stop Gas Stations like Loves.
Know the local laws
While traffic laws are fairly universal throughout the US, there are certain variations that may be worth noting. When planning your route (with your handy map!) do a quick google search of state traffic laws to see if anything catches your attention. One example of this is HOV lanes in bigger cities. Another is emergency lanes that open / close during peak hours. Click here for a great little blog from AutoBlog.com to get you started.
Be aware of traffic patterns
Aside from knowing the local driving laws and geography, another important thing to note is the local traffic patterns. Big city commuters often suffer from rush hour traffic. Smaller towns may have a road that slows to a crawl when there is road construction or an event. I know from personal experience that it seems like rush hour in Atlanta, GA starts at around 3pm and lasts until about 7pm. Make sure that when you are planning your route, you take these factors very seriously, as it can add HOURS of delay (and frustration) to your trip! Try to avoid a route with long stretches of road construction and make sure you time your trip to be driving through areas that have a lot of rush hour traffic during non rush hour times.
Make sure you have AAA or other roadside assistance set up
You’ve checked your car already and made sure you have your safety kits. But sometimes things still do happen! Be sure that before you start your trip you become a member of AAA or have another roadside coverage plan in effect. Be sure to have the emergency phone numbers and membership cards readily available for your trip, so if you need them…you can find them! Know what benefits you have and how to start the process in any event.
Plan gas/restroom stops
Making an impromptu stop along the highway may prove to be a challenge in certain areas. Like if you are stuck in bumper to bumper traffic. Or if it is a remote area with a lot of miles in between exits. And believe it or not, not all exits on the highway offer restroom or gas facilities. So it is best to make a pit stop plan. If you feel the urge to go, stop as soon as possible…don’t put it off! You can google gas stations along your route to help you decide when and where to stop. Know your car’s rate of gas consumption and don’t let it go below ¼ of a tank, in case there’s no gas for a while. Remember that mountainous terrain causes your gas to deplete quicker and these areas typically have less highway exits.
Plan your stop for the night
If your trip will take multiple days, be sure to have a plan for when and where you want to stop for the night. While typically it is best to book it as soon as possible, the reality is that you don’t know exactly how your trip is going to go. You don’t want to have to be super stressed or make your day hours longer than anticipated trying to get to a hotel you booked if you are running behind. A good idea is to get on the road for a couple of hours before you start to plan where you are going to stop for the night. At that point, you will have a better idea of where you will be during your timeframe for the day. Either your passenger can start to look up hotels to book or you can do it during a pit stop. Another good idea is to pick a hotel in an area that has the things you will need to be comfortable for the night (like restaurants for dinner.) Waiting until the last minute to do this can be tragic! There is no guarantee there will be hotels or vacancies at the last minute in a specific area leaving you either stranded or wasting your resting time looking for lodging / food.
Be reasonable in your itinerary
Being on the road can be unpredictable, as there are many factors that you can not control. So set a reasonable itinerary and always have a plan B. Don’t forget to add in time for pit stops. So if google maps says you can be to your destination in 10 hours, make sure you add a few hours to that for food, gas and bathroom stops in addition to some cushion for traffic. Cutting the timeline too close can cause you a lot of stress. Make sure if you book accommodations for the night that they have a cancellation policy in case you don’t make it that far. Also make sure that the hotel/motel has an office that is open after hours in case you will be arriving at night.
And as a final note, make sure that at least one of your loved ones knows your itinerary. Just to be safe! Long road trips can be a hassle, but they can also be great if done the less stress way!