When you hit the road, whether you’re going full-Kerouac or simply taking the kids to Disney, a little preparation can go a long way. There’s a certain romance to throwing caution to the wind, but not everyone has the fortitude for that and that’s okay. Here are some road trip hacks to ensure smooth travels when you’re just looking to see the world on “easy mode” instead of an extreme adventure.
1. Always be prepared – pack an emergency kit along with all of your essential documents and small things you might need.
Hopefully you don’t need any Advil or things to clean up small wounds, but these items are small enough that you might as well have them nearby if you’re already packing luggage. An extra few cubic inches of space can make the difference between a ruined vacay or not, and it never hurts to be practical.
In the case of a road trip, you can certainly find some extra space in the car for things like a flashlight, some water bottles, a disposable camera (great for snapping some shots if you don’t want to take your phone or a valuable camera with you, and handy to have incase you need photographic evidence of an accident or who-knows-what.)
2. If you’re on a sightseeing road trip, don’t forget an address book and extra stamps!
When you travel a lot, especially on the road, different destinations can start to blend together so keeping a small souvenir can go a long way in terms of helping you remember everything. Obviously, taking a lot of photos and interacting with the people you meet is the best way to create milestones in your mind.
This way, there will be no excuse to not send tons of postcards back home and make the rest of your friends and family jealous of your adventures. A journal is great to keep with you too, or even taking audio recordings on your phone.
3. Snacks are a necessary part of every road trip. Don’t forget to be extremely well-stocked.
You never know when you’ll get a hankering for some snacks, and if you’re travelling with a group then it’s inevitable. Having some grub with you can save you from taking extra rest stops, but be careful with things like fresh fruit and chocolate that won’t keep very long and will melt if it gets hot outside.
If you want to be extra prepared, turn a fisherman-style tackle box into the ultimate snack box. Obviously, you’ll want to experience as much local fare as possible so we recommend packing things like jerky, dried fruits, nuts, and other snacks that are calorie-dense and that don’t need to be refrigerated.
4. Invest in fabric screens that adhere by suction cups or double-sided tape that you can use to take cat naps if you need that 20 minute break.
When you’re on the road, sometimes nights and days can blend together and when you’re on a roll you can’t always pull over for a nap based on the whims of the sun and the moon, so you’re stuck trying to catch a few Z’s when it’s hot and sunny outside. These screens to block out the sun can be a life saver. You’ll want to be careful falling asleep in a hot car, it’s a good idea to leave another window open.
5. Ask a local where to eat.
Guidebooks are for chumps, throw them away. Who cares where some snooty reviewer says you should eat? The best restaurants are the ones that keep the locals coming back, not the ones that buy-or-bribe their way into travel guides. When you find a great place, make sure you leave them a nice review. It helps make up for all the grumpy customers they have to deal with and it makes a huge impact for local businesses.
6. Road tripping with kids tip #1: Use a dishwasher cutlery holder to hold food while eating on the road.
They usually also have handles on them, so sharing food won’t be an absolute disaster either.
7. Road tripping with kids tip #2: Hang a shoe organizer on the back of a seat full of travel games and activities.
Instead of are we there yet, they’ll be so occupied and entertained that they’ll be patient little angels the entire trip. We can dream, can’t we? On the plus side, you won’t be finding broken crayons and ripped out coloring pages on the floor of your car three weeks later.
8. Follow the weird billboards.
Every little town that you’ll pass will have their own strange and quirky landmarks, whether it’s a big statue of Paul Bunyan or THE THING. They may seem kind of cheesy but… Try not to be a skeptic about the signs advertising “World’s Largest Office Chair” or the “Mystery Spot.” These sites are cool and quirky, and you’ll always have funny stories to tell about “that one time when you pulled over for…”
9. Traveling with your favorite four-legged friend? A suitcase makes the coziest dog or cat bed.
Having a special place just for your pet can help if they’re getting anxious or homesick. Simply wedge a pillow and fuzzy blanket into the suitcase, and you’ll have a sturdier place for your fuzzy friends to snooze! Just like you may start to feel homesick, your pets can too. If you let them hang out in the suitcase for a while before you leave, it can help to keep them feeling calm, comfortable and safe. Obviously you’ll want to make sure that the suitcase isn’t going to slam shut or to trap them inside.
10. Use a cereal container as a no-spill, no-mess trash can!
Garbage, tissues, food wrappers, oh my! Reigh it all in with a clever and sealable makeshift garbage for the car that you can empty easily. After you’ve tossed out the bag, this can also be a conveneint place to put damp swim trunks or dirty laundry that you don’t want getting mixed up with the rest of your things. You can even line it with a plastic bag to keep it super easy to clean out.
11. Carry a spare car key.
Keep it in a different place from your everyday key. If you’re wearing a jacket, keep one key in a jacket pocket and the other in your jeans, etc. The last thing you want to do is to lock your key in your car and have to deal with often-shady 24-hour locksmith companies, especially if you’re from out of town. This one’s obviously a no-brainer, but there have been a few road trippers who have not been so wise! There is nothing more devastating than getting stuck thousands of miles away from home without a car key.
12. Bring extra empty bags. You never know what sort of odd knickknacks or keepsakes you’ll want to collect along the way.
These take up next to no space and can come in very handy. You may be on the trip of a lifetime, seeing places and things you’ll never get to see again – don’t forget to buy a thing or two to remember it by!
13. Maximize your toothpaste use.
Toothpaste isn’t just for cleaning your teeth. In addition to teeth, did you know that paste (be careful – not gel!) makes your headlights shine as bright and clear like new? This is important for optimal visibility, especially when you’re in unfamiliar territories.
14. If you’re on an especially long road trip and want your car still smelling fresh by week two, keep an open box of dryer sheets tucked away in your car.
With the amount of time you and your friends, family, and maybe a loveable furry friend or two will be spending in the car, you’ll be glad you did! A small cup or dish of baking soda can also do a great job capturing odors if you leave it in there overnight.
15. Need an extra cup holder? Use a roll of tape…or a shoe!
Sometimes the most simple things can make for the most useful objects if you look at them right. Do you have any other useful travel hacks that can help on a road trip? Leave a comment and we’ll add the best ones to help out fellow roadtrippers. Happy trails!