A road trip is a rite of passage, and it’s (almost) never too early or late to take your inaugural trip. Summer is the perfect time to hit the open road, but there are a few things you should know before ticking this bucket list item off your list. First, decide whether you want to do this journey solo or with friends or family. Both options are great, but they create entirely different dynamics.
No matter how you plan to spend your summer exploring the highways, here are five things to keep in mind before you pack your bags:
- Make sure the car you’re driving is in prime shape. If you’re taking your own car, you want to make sure the car maintenance is up to date. Schedule an appointment with your mechanic or dealer for a check-up. Ensuring the brake pads and tire treads are at an appropriate level, as well as taking care of any issues before you’re hundreds of miles away, will keep you safe and give you peace of mind. If you’re renting a car, you can rest easy knowing the car is well-maintained. It’s also a good idea to check with your insurance provider and make sure you have roadside assistance.
- Book your hotels, passes, and other attractions immediately. Sell-outs can happen, and prices can skyrocket the closer you get to your chosen dates. If you have an idea of something you feel you have to do, like staying at a renowned place like the Grand Canyon or Crater Lake, bear in mind that some of these locations only have one prime hotel and it can sell out months in advance. Traveling during the offseason, avoiding holidays, and traveling during the week can help you have access to more places (and at a lower rate).
- Driving really can be taxing on the body. There’s a reason professional truck drivers are required to rest at certain periods. Even though you’re “just sitting,” it takes a significant toll on the body. One of the best parts of road tripping with others is that you can share driving duties. However, you’ll still want to make sure everyone has ample time to stretch and rest. It’s true that driving tired really is as dangerous as driving drunk, and it can be even more dangerous on big drinking holidays like the Fourth of July. Be realistic in how many miles you’ll drive each day, and listen to your body.
- A traffic ticket can ruin any trip. Keep an eye out for speed limits, and be aware that there are definitely “speed trap towns” and zones. Many GPS systems list the local speed limit for you, so keep an eye on that number. Cruise control can be a great way to avoid tickets while on the highway as long as you don’t depend on it too much (it’s still critical to be aware of your surroundings). Proper car maintenance is also important in helping you avoid tickets. Nobody needs to be pulled over because one of their lights is out.
- The cleanliness and organization of a car will make a bigger difference every day. How clean and organized “your” space is can be tied directly to your stress levels and mental health. Taking the time to detail your car before the trip as well as making sure it’s well organized can help you stay happy on the road. Maximize your trunk space with organizers, make sure there are places to put trash and recycling in the car until you get to your next rest stop, and bring some wipes for cleaning up spills. It will make a big difference when you’re on day four of that cross-country trip.
Road trips are unique because they force you to slow down. There’s no screen time, at least for the driver, which means you depend on different means of entertainment, such as talking to travel mates and listening to music or podcasts. Start planning your road trip now, and see where the highway leads you.