You’re sitting on your hotel bed after an exhausting day of sightseeing that leaves you both feeling more tired than before you left home. You’ve been on planes and trains all day, and now you just want to relax for a little while. So why not take a road trip? It’ll be fun just like your honeymoon!
And you know what else will be fun? Getting lost. Wandering around unfamiliar towns looking at signs pointing to attractions, trying new foods and drinking lots of coffee. Take short hikes along dusty roads and stop at roadside stands to buy fresh produce. Stumbling upon quaint inns where people look friendly and serve delicious food from wooden kettles.
But once you get into the car and start driving down those dusty back roads, reality sets in. For starters, there are no gas stations or fast food restaurants along the way. And although you may have seen some cute shops and farms en route, they won’t last very long because the nearest town is 12 hours away. If you’re lucky enough to find lodging somewhere between hotels, chances are the rooms won’t be any bigger than the ones you’d find inside a jail cell.
If you’re planning a road trip, here are seven tips for making sure it goes smoothly.
1. Plan Ahead
Road trips don’t happen overnight. They take days, weeks or even months depending on how far you plan to go. Before you hit the highway, make lists of places you want to see. Map out areas you can drive through quickly and list other spots you might stop by if time allows.
Don’t forget about things you might want to bring with you. Do you need special equipment for hiking? Will you need extra supplies for camping? What kind of entertainment will you pack?
2. Get Travel Insurance
Travel insurance is important because it protects you against delays, missed flights and cancellations. Make sure you know exactly what your policy covers so you aren’t paying for something that isn’t covered under the terms of your agreement. Also, check to see whether your credit cards offer travel discounts. Some airlines give members of their frequent flier programs free upgrades.
3. Pack Lightly
You should only carry as much stuff as you think you’ll need. That means leaving behind unnecessary items, including clothes, electronics, cameras and books. Yes, we said books. We recommend packing light (no more than 3-5 pounds per person) and using rolling bags instead of backpack straps. This makes it easier to change locations without having to lug heavy luggage everywhere.
4. Be Prepared for Emergencies
A few years ago, my husband was headed south from Seattle to Los Angeles in our van. He had stopped for gas at night, but got caught up in a rainstorm and ended up getting stuck on a lonely two lane road. There were no services within miles.
Luckily, he knew where to find help. A farmer who lived nearby saw him stranded on his property and offered to let us stay for the night. I still remember that farmer’s kindness today. In fact, I’m still friends with her on Facebook.
So keep a first aid kit, flares and extra snacks in case of emergency. Put a phone charger in your bag so you can call 911 if necessary. Also, be aware of local laws regarding hitchhiking. In many states, if you appear visibly shaken, hungry or thirsty, drivers could charge you with reckless endangerment (a felony).
5. Drive Safely
Take a driver education course before you head out on the open road. Even if you already graduated from high school, it never hurts to brush up. Most importantly, always buckle up.
6. Take Pictures
Take pictures of everything. Have your camera ready to snap photos at every opportunity. When you pull over at rest stops, ask locals for recommendations on where to grab lunch or a drink. Keep a small notebook handy so you can jot down ideas for future reference.
7. Stay Flexible
One minute you’re admiring the sunset from the side of the road, next thing you hear is your tires popping from being blown off the pavement by a gust of wind. Or maybe your engine stalls out when you try to climb a hill. Those kinds of situations happen all too often. Accept them gracefully and move forward.
The good news is that most problems occur during the early part of the trip. Once you’re on the open road, things tend to run smoother. Just remember to stick to the speed limit and avoid distractions. Turn off your cell phones and don’t text while you’re driving.
Not surprisingly, couples who spend time apart regularly report greater marital satisfaction and increased intimacy.