It’s road tripping season! With so many people often taking flights to their destinations, sometimes it’s so refreshing to take that old fashioned road trip and really spend that quality time together. If we don’t take the time to travel on the road, their could be so many beautiful things we would be missing if traveling any other way. There are so many wonderful things to be seen and learned from when hitting the road, especially in our very own southern backyard! In fact some of my greatest memories all started with packing everything into the car, leaving when the sun is still sleeping and taking in the views from the car window.
These memories with the family are so important, especially to the kids which means it’s best to have as little worries and stress as possible. To make the most of your time on the road, I have put together some of my best tips for making this the easiest and most enjoyable adventure.
1. Check your vehicle
I cannot stress how so incredibly important this is. Before you do anything, you must bring your car in and have everything checked to ensure your car is ready and safely prepared for a long journey ahead. Usually the most important things to double check on are your breaks, tires, having enough wiper fluid and if an oil change is needed. Make sure that spare tire is fully filled and you have all the other necessary emergency equipment on hand like jumper cables. It certainly doesn’t hurt to have everything get a quick run through!
2. Start packing a week before
I know, I know. I get strange looks when this is said to be on my list, but let me tell you, it seriously helps me SO much to stay organized. Right now I only have a dog and husband to worry about. But when kids get into the picture, this step will only become that much more important! I’m not talking about cramming everyone’s suitcase, but starting little baggies for the dog, or preparing some snack bags for the road can really help to not only stay organized but also (most importantly) making sure you don’t forget anything. If you start the dogs bag now or making sure there are enough blankets, etc., then you have all week to double check and make sure you have all the little things you need leaving only the big suitcase packing for later on.
3. Have the car be sparkling clean
It’s a known fact that cleanliness actually does create happiness. When spending long amounts of time in a confined space, having done a quick cleaning job really can make all the difference. Go ahead and clear out those scraps of paper or trash that you said you’d grab later. Well now it’s later and it’s time to make this car a happy space. Making sure the dash is dust free and the floors are nice and vacuumed are some of the lessons I learned from my dad right before taking a long road trip and it’s one I’ll definitely be continuing. It’s inevitable that over time the car will start to accumulate trash during your trip, which is fine! That’s part of a road trip. But have a spare bag available to put everything in.
4. Load up and get a full tank of gas the night before
There’s that old joke that goes “if we want to leave at 6:00 then let’s plan on leaving at 5:30”. It’s almost always a guarantee that we will be running late the morning we want to leave. No one likes to be rushing around last minute, especially if it’s super early in the morning! Pack everything into the car the night before, leaving out those little necessities like a tooth brush and PJ’s. Why leave it all for the last minute? (This would exclude an ice cooler for obvious reasons) Same thing goes for getting gas.I always want to hit the road quick without stopping immediately. So turn that half a tank to a full tank the night before and enjoy your open road.
5. Don’t always go with the flow of traffic
Unless your my father-in-law who always drives 10 mph under the speed limit, usually everyone tends to go a little over what the sign says when driving. No one EVER wants to get pulled over, but sometimes it just happens. During my most recent road trip I was unarguably going with the flow of traffic, when BAM! those blue and red lights start flashing behind me. My stomach sank onto the floor as I had to wake up my husband from his nap in the passengers seat to tell him I’m getting pulled over by the cop. Luckily I had all the documentation needed for me to just get the ticket and go. Even though I was super bitter about it because I literally was going the speed limit that everyone else was, it was still my fault for not just using the cruise control on our car. If your car has it, definitely use it. You won’t have to worry about inching faster and faster and you can drive worry free about speeding.
6. Get those music jams set and loaded
Next to getting the mechanics of your car all squared away, this is definitely the next most important thing for a great road trip!! It’s pretty much a rule of thumb that the one riding shot gun is usually the DJ, so get those playlists all ready to go so you can enjoy your time on the open road. I’ve been a CD kind of girl since, forever, and always had a great mix tape at the ready. Although that method of jamming out is great, the Bluetooth setting on my phone has also become one of my best friends… Spotify is SO great for choosing the music you love and you can easily hook it up to your Bluetooth setting in the car! They even have pre-made road trip playlists if you so choose. If your car doesn’t have Bluetooth then stick to those mix tapes!
7. Know when to stop
Sometimes we can feel super ambitious and want to do the entire trip in one go. But one of the beautiful things about a road trip are the stops! You can hit up big cities or discover charming small towns and get to know more areas than just the destination that you’re trying to get to. See a billboard for Mammoth Cave in Kentucky? Ruby Falls in Tennessee? Stop and check it out! Not only discovering the unknown beauties of the area you’re in, but also it can be a really big safety check. Driving from 3AM to 11PM sounds daunting. So cut it in half. No sense in getting into an accident from tiredness when we’re all trying to have a fun vacation.
8. Have a plan but have it loosely
It can be a good idea to have goals, but a lot of times those goals can be changed due to delays, which is inevitable. Road construction is a constant when cruising down those big highways which usually consists of lots of merging, inching forward and taking detours. Plan for it! It’s okay if you didn’t make it to the halfway point because things change and we are ready to roll with it. Thanks to GPS systems, we are able to find quick routes that can help avoid the traffic and take lesser traveled roads to our destination. If you don’t have a GPS system and can read a paper map then put your skills to the test and find that unknown detour. (Also that is super impressive nowadays and you would deserve a major reward for that)
9. Take TONS of pictures
I don’t know where I would be without my camera. With smartphones at the ready, it is easier now more than ever to capture those precious memories. I’m talking more than just Instagram pics. I recently invested in a Polaroid camera and have never looked back. (Click here for the one I have). Getting that instant gratification along with some awesome vintage nostalgia is something that I cherish and will keep using forever. When heading on a long road trip, take the time to capture those giggles, smiles and unusual stops along the way. Looking back on these times of adventure will be so worth it.
10. Keep yourselves entertained!
People often find that road trips can have a certain lull at times, but let’s keep that from happening! Some of my favorite road trip games are Mad Libs. They are so much fun and keep us laughing for hours. You can also try to figure out some games that can correlate to your surroundings. Like how many times you can find a billboard that says Ruby Falls. (We did that and there were a LOT) Get creative with it.
11. Have a spare key
Could you imagine losing your only key to the car during your road trip? This would seriously put a damper on things. Better safe than sorry and grab that spare key!! No one wants to be stranded.
12. Leave some space for goodies
One of the best reasons for taking a road trip instead of flying is the chance to take some awesome treasures home! Who knows, you could come across something that you just cannot live without and luckily you’ll have plenty of room for it in the car. If I’m heading down to Savannah, GA then you best believe I’ll be browsing around some antiques that could NEVER make it on a plane.
Soon I’ll be constructing the perfect road trip around the South that will hopefully inspire you to get out and adventure around our great nation. So many great things to see, so little time!
Safe travels and happy open road!!