7 Tips to Make Your Next Road Trip the Best One Yet

Chances are this warm weather has you dreaming up vacation plans. A classic way of real-life escape is the road trip.

Even if a road trip’s not your style, until teleportation is commercialized in the travel industry, a portion of your travel plans will be spent on the open road. Use these 7 tips to make your time on the road as smooth as possible.

1. Have a rough plan in mind for your trip.

Don’t fly, or drive, blind.

Print out some driving directions for your trip from sites like Mapquest (www.mapquest.com) or Google Maps (http://maps.google.com). These sites can tell you estimated time and the best route.

Anticipate any bottlenecks in your travel – try to leave and return before or after any rush hours, not during. Sites like Trippish (www.trippish.com) can help you determine the best time to leave based on weather patterns.

Make sure you have cash or change on hand for any tolls you may have to go through.

Find out some interesting side trips or stops along your route. This gives everyone a good opportunity to get out and stretch and breaks up some of the monotony of long trips.

2. Before you head out, make sure your vehicle is in good running condition.

Check the oil.

Check the tires. Make sure they are properly inflated and have a safe amount of tread left. Try the George Washington Tire Tread Test.

Check the belts. Any cracking, squeaking or discoloration means you need a new one.

Check the fluids. Make sure your coolant, windshield washer fluid and power steering fluid is topped off or at the level specified.

Check your wipers. If the blades are separating on the edges, or if they’re squeaking or streaking, replace them.

Get any scheduled or needed maintenance before you leave. Schedule your service appointment.

Double check your spare tire to ensure it’s safe and ready to be used in an emergency.

Make sure you have a car jack – a spare tire isn’t any good with no way to change it!

Clean up your car before you go. Take out anything that’s unnecessary, pick up the napkins and wrappers, take out the receipts, wipe down the dashes and door handles, and vacuum the seats and floors if you can. It will make your journey more comfortable, and the post-trip clean up that much easier.

3. If your vehicle isn’t in good running condition, make alternate plans.

Consider taking a rental vehicle. Most rentals are available for relatively low prices, come with their maintenance up-to-date and in good running condition, and you don’t have to worry about cleaning them before or after your trip. Check out Downeast Toyota’s Rental Fleet

4. Make sure your important documents are current and available.

Check your state inspection and vehicle registration due dates. You don’t want to have outdated documents if you get pulled over.

Double-check your insurance policy expiration date.  After you’ve had an accident isn’t a good time to find out it’s expired.

Make sure your vehicle registration and current insurance papers are in the vehicle

If you have roadside rescue, such as AAA, or another service provided through your vehicle insurance, have the membership card or info handy. You never know when you might need it.

5. Stock these items in your vehicle to be ready for anything:

First aid kit and sunscreen.

Extra change of clothes (especially with kids).

Aspirin or ibuprofen, or any other medication you’re taking.

Snacks and bottled water. If you’re traveling with pets, don’t forget food and water for them.

A GPS and/or maps, directions, and any information on your itinerary, like hotel confirmations.

Extra set of car keys (no worse place to be locked out than hundreds of miles from home)

Plastic bags. Perfect for collecting trash, storing wet clothes, or dog droppings.

Toys and games (if you’re bringing children) – coloring books, portable DVD player, travel board games

A book of CDs or an iPod filled with music or audiobooks can be a great way to pass driving time.

Wet wipes. These are great for everything from spilled beverages to runny noses.

Cell phone charger.

Extra quart of oil.

Tire pressure gauge to make sure you’re maintaining proper tire pressure to ensure the best driving and fuel mileage.

6. Be a safe driver.

Don’t drive while you’re drowsy or tired.  Stop somewhere and take a break (or a nap, if it’s necessary). Driving while tired just isn’t worth the risk.

Don’t text or use the phone while driving. Not only is it unsafe, but it may also be illegal in some places you drive through.

Let a passenger run the map and give directions, if you’re not using a GPS.

7. Be prepared… to be flexible.

It’s not smart to start anything without a plan, but remember—you’re on vacation! It’s a rare time in your life when deadlines don’t apply to you. Be sure that you aren’t too busy to have fun.

“A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.” – Lao Tzu