Practical reminders, common sense approaches and clever solutions to avoid everyday challenges and live your best life.
Nothing says freedom like the open road. It's tempting to just get in the car and drive, exploring the country in all its beauty and diversity. Unfortunately, nothing in life is quite that simple. While you can certainly pick up and leave on a moment's notice, sometimes that hastiness leads to wasted time and money. A small amount of preparation before you leave and while you're on the road will help you avoid some major road trip pitfalls.
There's an App for That
Many of the pitfalls of road trips (including one of our personal vexations, finding a clean bathroom) have been rehabbed by smartphone apps. They can help you quickly and easily find what you need along your route. These are just some examples:
- GasBuddy for a nearby gas station
- iExit to locate businesses and services near interstate exits
- ParkMe to find parking
- Flush Toilet Finder, which is self-explanatory
- HotelTonight and OpenTable for last-minute food and lodging
Make a Route Plan, Even if You Don't Stick to It
Letting the wind carry you where it will opens opportunities for unexpected adventures, but some of those adventures might not be all that pleasant. Instead, research points of interest on your intended route so you don't miss them. You can use apps such as RoadTrippers and Roadside America to find out what's unique about each area and add them to your route.
If your chosen route gets jammed up, rely on apps like Waze, Google Maps or INRIX to navigate around traffic, construction and road closures and keep you on course to your destination.
Prep Your Car
Make sure your car can stand up to the rigors of long days on the road. Top up fluids, check belts and the spare tire, and pack an emergency medical kit. Be sure to have emergency roadside assistance because you never know when a fender-bender will happen.
Once on the road, use apps such as Automatic and Dash to monitor your car's performance and alert you of potential problems and Urgent.ly and AAA Mobile to get roadside assistance.
Pack the Necessities
These essentials will help make the trip less messy and more comfortable: sunglasses, wet wipes, toilet paper (really), trash bags, pillows for snoozing.
Bring Mobile Entertainment
Load your phone or tablet with your favorite apps -- for music, audio books, podcasts and so on -- to keep you entertained on the long, open stretches of your journey. And don't forget the chargers and adapters.
Since you've prepared at least the outline of a route plan, you can estimate how much time you'll spend on the road between stops. Don't let yourself get so focused on the drive that you miss the whole point of a road trip -- the interesting things along the way. Plus, frequent breaks ease tension and keep you alert while driving.
Watch What You Eat
We've all been on road trips where we ate nothing but junk food for days. We're sure you remember how unsatisfying, if not downright unpleasant, that was. With so many ready-to-eat healthy food options available in most roadside stops, you don't have to endure days of nothing but greasy breakfasts and burger-and-fries lunches. Apps like iExit and Google Maps help you find that healthy food.
Don't Put Your Valuables on Display
An extended road trip means your car's probably packed to the brim with stuff -- stuff you'd hate to lose. Make sure passing thieves don't see your valuables, so they'll be inclined to move on to a more promising target.
Now, intrepid traveler, you're ready. Load up the car, your travel companions and your mobile devices and hit the road. By following these tips, you can avoid many speed bumps along the way.