If you have ever been on a road trip before, then you will know they can either be the best vacations of your life or an ongoing, never-ending, pain in the neck. Literally.
Over the years, we’ve been on so many road trips, we’ve lost track. From quick three-hour trips to three days of an ongoing highway.
At the time of writing this post, we are literally living on the road. As in, packed our house up into storage, traveling from state to state, living out of our car and hotels.
So, we know a little about road trips, to say the least.
Trust us when we say, sometimes they are fantastic!… annnd sometimes they are painful.
Being on the road so often has taught us a few things, and over the years we’ve learned a few tricks to make our road trips more comfortable and enjoyable.
Which is great, because a more comfortable road trip can make all the difference in the world between a lousy and a fun vacation!
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Here’s the inside scoop on our best pro road trip tips!
1) Choose what you take with you wisely.
I cannot emphasize this one enough. So often we overpack. It’s basic human nature. Even now as we are living on the road and for the countless other road trips and flights we have taken, we’ve overpacked.
Not overpacking is actually a very difficult thing to do. You want to make sure you don’t forget anything, or you grab those few extra items because “what if?” happens and then you’ll wish you had them.
There are so many reasons to over pack and so few reasons to not overpack.
Space, weight, and the desire to not carry/pack/unload everything are the only real reasons to minimize your packing.
But, depending on the situation, these few reasons can be major factors in what you decide to take.
It’s always okay to take a little extra but if you look around and half of what you have isn’t necessary, it may be time to rethink your packing strategy.
2) Think about your vehicle space
Before you start packing what you’re going to take with you, it’s important to acknowledge how much space you have for packing.
Start by cleaning out your vehicle. It always helps to begin with a clean slate. Then decide how many open seats you need. Eliminating this space will give you an idea of exactly how much packing space you will have.
Also, check to see what kind of hidden space may be in your vehicle. For instance, under the back seats, little cubbies you don’t usually pay attention to or back seat pockets.
3) Maximize and utilize your packing space
Now that you know what space you can work with, it’s time to start filling it.
Start with packing your luggage.
Maximize the space in your luggage. Does your luggage have space on the bottom between the handlebars? What kind of pockets are on your luggage? Think of packing like the old Tetris game we used to play as kids. What items do you have and how can you make sure every centimeter of space is filled?
For packing clothes, I utilize Marie Kondo’s method for folding before I put them into the luggage. It’s super simple and has revolutionized the way I pack!
Also, make sure to fill extra spaces such as the inside of shoes and boots to get that extra room. Place your items in Ziploc baggies before putting them in your shoes or other spaces to keep things clean. This is a great option for socks and scarves.
Bonus tip: If you plan to make some overnight stops between your starting point and destination, keep out a bag of items and clothes you may need for the night(s). Including clothes, shoes, and toiletries for fast and easy access and to avoid having to unpack the whole car for one outfit.
Now use the same idea when packing the car. Place non-essentials for the drive in the cubbies and under seats. Put your big suitcases in and fill the space around them with your extra items like shoes and jackets.
Be careful to avoid blocking any safety features such as seatbelts and airbags.
This may seem to be a bit extreme to some but if you do have to take a lot with you or have children, it can make a big difference.
Imagine if all the little items you didn’t tuck away somewhere in the luggage or vehicle had to be on the floor or seat around you or the kids. How much less space and comfort would there be?
If it’s extra space, it’s extra comfort!
4) Keep things you need in easily accessible areas
Place items you will need for the road trip in easily reachable spots. Your overnight bag should be somewhere on the outer layers of your packing so you can easily grab it when you need it.
If you plan to be grabbing food and drinks out of the cooler during your drive, make sure you put it in a place that is easy to reach without having to pull over and move a lot of stuff around. Another option is to utilize a small cooler for the front of the vehicle to keep drinks and snacks in that you can refill at rest stops. The same goes for your snack bag.
These are the main items that should fill the reachable space around you. Everything else should be packed away.
Bonus tip: Make sure to keep wallets, purses, Drivers Licenses, passports and other important documents you may need up front. I advise keeping those items in a center console or glove compartment.
5) Plan ahead for entertainment for yourself and the kids
Know which items you will need or want. Make sure to remember your kids favorite toy or must have stuffed animal. You can also check into games specifically designed for road trips.
Download audiobooks or music before you’re on the road. Trying to figure out what to read or listen to while on the road can be much more difficult and you’re not always guaranteed to have the service coverage you need.
This also applies to any movies or tv shows you may want for the trip. Did you know you can now download movies from Netflix? It’s the perfect option for road trips as it helps eliminate space being taken up by DVDs and keeps you from painfully long buffering times in remote and poorly covered areas.
7) Consider keeping natural calming items and mild pain relievers on hand
I’ve found that keeping lavender and peppermint essential oils close by can really help with nausea and headaches. If you are an essential oil user, consider getting a USB plugin diffuser for your car.
Some people prefer the all-natural route but if it’s not for you, keep some mild pain relievers in the car such as Tylenol or ibuprofen. It’s not a surprise that being in an enclosed moving object for hours on end may cause you some discomfort. Being prepared for mild discomfort is a huge must in our road trip experience.
Another big help is taking anti-inflammatories prior to your start. Ginger and Turmeric are both known natural anti-inflammatories and can be taken in capsule form. Taking steps to minimize inflammation in your joints during long travel periods can reduce chronic pain and ease discomfort. You can read more about it on this article from Doctor Oz’s blog.
Our go-to brand is nature’s way. You can find them at most grocery, and local drug stores, and on Amazon.
Bonus Tip: Cut up lemons to put in your water to drink during your drive. Lemons are also an anti-inflammatory and aids in digestion which can be helpful when you’re eating or constantly munching but don’t have the ability to move around.
7) Keep electronic essentials close by
This would include charging, aux cords, Bluetooth devices, and charged battery packs.
The number of times we have needed to charge our phones, but not had the cord in reach, which then led to a desperate plea to our phones not to die yet so we could use our GPS, has greatly diminished since we now keep charging cords in our car at all times.
Auxiliary cords are also great to have! Especially if you want to listen to music or audiobooks.
And these days it’s illegal to talk on the phone while driving just about everywhere you go, so opt for a Bluetooth device.
Both for the sake of your driving record and the safety of everyone.
8) Sleep well the night before
This one is for obvious reasons. There is nothing less enjoyable than trying to have fun when you’re crammed in a car, you’re tired, and you have hours of driving ahead of you. The main source of your focus is on just trying to get there and less on how great the journey can be.
The drive turns mundane and you are forced to overload on caffeine to make it there. You become so intent on getting to your destination that you miss a lot of precious little details about the drive.
And a trip that should be fun quickly gets old.
9) Be prepared for tolls and other emergencies
Tolls can be an expensive nuisance but they’re even more expensive if you aren’t prepared for them!
They differ from state to state. Some are just change counters, others take a photo of your vehicle’s plates and send a bill, and still, others are physically manned by people. Often, they don’t accept cards and some have hefty fines for driving through them without paying.
Preloaded payment boxes also differ in each part of the country so what you may use in Florida, won’t work in Delaware.
Check your route ahead of time and play it safe by always keeping cash on hand.
The same goes for emergencies. You never know when the only gas station anywhere around will have their card system down. Or your credit and bank cards all get flagged for fraudulent activity but you need to buy lunch.
If you’re concerned about finding and getting gas use the app GasBuddy. It tells you where gas stations are and helps you find the best prices. No more getting gas and then driving a mile to see it’s ten cents cheaper there!
It’s always best to be prepared!
10) Be safe and make the conscientious decision that safety is more important than anything
It is 100 percent okay to have to make an extra stop or two to stretch if it means safety. An extra hour or two, or even an overnight stop, is not worth the safety of anyone in the vehicle with you, or in the vehicles on the road.
We once heard a story about a family that was making a road trip. They chose to drive straight through the night. They switched drivers and promised each other not to stop until a designated point for gas. That stop was hours away. The passenger decided to sleep a bit. The driver chose to keep that promise but ended up falling asleep at the wheel. The van crashed causing the death of the significant other that was napping and one of their children. It’s an incredibly devastating story.
Especially because it all could have been avoided if their promise to each other had just been to drive as far as they could safely do so and stop if necessary.
Studies have been done that show drowsy drivers are actually less aware and reactive that drunk drivers are. Which means, the drunk drivers in this study, were safer drivers than the sleepy drivers were. That’s a disconcerting fact.
So, stay smart. Stay safe!
11) Take the extra time if you have it
You never know what you might be missing if you don’t stop long enough to see it.
If you have the extra time to really enjoy the ride, take it. Just because you can make that trip in one day, doesn’t mean you should.
Is there a stop between your final destination and your starting point that you’ve always wanted to see? (Advice: don’t go more than an hour and a half out of your way in each direction.)
We ourselves used to push through making 16-hour trips in one shot all for the sake of getting there quickly. But why? Why force ourselves to sit through that drive when we could break it up and enjoy the journey more.
These days when we have long trips, we break it up over a couple of days and map out neat or historic stopping points.
Even if it’s just an overnight, it can be really cool to wake up a couple blocks from Times Square, on the water of the nation’s sailing capital, or to the sound of roosters crowing in the middle of nowhere.
Thanks for reading. I hope you find something useful in these tips!
Have comfy road trip hacks of your own? Tell me about them in the comment box below!
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