Road Trips. You either love them or hate them. The TravelingMom team is divided. Some of us will happily plan out a thousand mile journey that stretches over a week while some of us are online booking the next flight and breaking out in hives at the thought of being in a car for that long with our family. As a seasoned business traveler here are some road trip hacks I’ve learned over the years to make the journey a little easier!
Packing up the car and hitting the road can be stressful especially if the route is an unfamiliar one. When the winding road ahead seems uncertain and long tried and true road trip hacks will help keep you focused on the fun of the journey instead of the “when will it be over?” thoughts.
Make Technology Your Friend
- Save that Battery. Running your smartphone’s GPS nonstop in unfamiliar areas can certainly drain its power at an alarming speed. On a route without too many twists and turns? Screenshot the directions on your phone or iPad and display those instead. The power of keeping your screen lit up will be far less than running the GPS tracking.
- Charge in airplane mode. If your phone battery does drain charging it back up in airplane mode will decrease the charge time until your battery is full again. Just remember to turn airplane mode off when your phone is charged so that you don’t miss any important calls.
- Carry a spare portable charger for all of your devices. A portable charger can power up phones, iPads, Kindles and all other common road trip accessories. Don’t forget to charge the charger though! I’ve gotten into the habit of plugging it in whenever I get into the car.
Go hands free. Car tech has come a long way. Whether you already have bluetooth in your car or you need to do an aftermarket add on make the pledge to go hands free on your road trip.
Bring the Basics
- Change and some spare bills. Trust me, as someone who has cried her way through toll bridges realizing she made a wrong turn and also realizing she have no cash it “pays” to keep extra in the car. Surprise tolls and parking meters will pop up on your trip and having extra change and some ones will save you the pain of tickets later. This is where smart car design comes in handy as well! I was able to drive and review a Toyota Sienna recently and was impressed with the slots for coins, all of the secret compartments, and so much storage for snacks and electronics to be hidden from view whenever I got out of the car.
Utensils for days. It sounds silly but throw a few utensil packets from your last takeout meal in your console. You will not believe how happy that fork will make you in a week when you discover it in a frantic search for a way to eat the delicious pie you bought.
- Save your car insurance info and a copy of your license on your phone. Sure you’ve got the paper copy in your glove box but when you are frantically looking for it and realize that your toddler used it as a coloring sheet you’ll be happy that you have another copy. Besides if it’s on your phone it will be with you for rental cars as well. Many rental car companies are now asking to see proof of insurance if you decline coverage.
- AAA or Roadside Assistance. Before you set off on an epic adventure why don’t you join up and make sure your epic adventure doesn’t include sitting on the side of the road figuring out how to pay the tow truck driver. AAA can also save you money on hotels and attraction tickets.
- Pack an emergency kit. Sure AAA may be on their way to save you but what if the inclement weather delays rescue? Having a basic car kit will help give you peace of mind no matter what you may face.
Get your car checked out before the trip. If your trip is going to be a grand adventure covering thousands of miles it is always good to bring your car in for a “well car check” before going. For $30 or less you’ll drive out knowing that your car’s health is up for the adventure. Your local mechanic can have you in and out in a flash and refill any fluids your car needs.
Random Knowledge: Road Trip Hacks for Everyone
- Prepare for puke. Yup, it’s never a fun topic but do you really want to find out that you’re not prepared on the side of a rural highway when the kid’s lunch is in their lap? Sister site She Buys Cars’ writer Shannon has some great tips on preparing a kit to make the unexpected easy to deal with.
- Save Money on Gas. Gas it’s the expense that every road trip comes with. There are multiple tricks to save money on gas and TMOM writer Karyn rounds them up for us.
- Organize your crap. Yes, I said crap. The 18 things you need to keep near you in the front seat. When I travel alone for work it’s my giant water bottle, snacks, my clipboard of calls I want to make in the car, and extra chargers. I’ve toyed around with all sorts of random “holders” and ironically it was a product designed for kids that ended up being my favorite. The Junkie is made by Bubblebum and two features that I love are that it buckles into the seat (no flying debris if I have to hit my brakes!) and it has a tablet holder which I can use to hold my screenshotted directions for easy viewing. Note: I received the Bubblebum Junkie from the company to check out but opinions are my own. My kids are not happy that my opinion is that the Junkie is mine and not theirs.
What road trip hacks have you developed? How do you make road trips bearable?