“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Planning Road Trips

Last week I shared some Travel Thoughts on my upcoming Southeastern USA road trip. Today I want to post some tips I picked up doing my research, especially from two on-line articles, Ed Hewitt’s

10 (and a Half) Tips for Road Trips on SmarterTravel.com and Road Trip Tips from TravelChannel.com. They were two of the most information-packed articles I found and here are the ideas I found most helpful from them.

Clean your car before and during your trip.

Debris will accumulate in the course of your travels, so it’s best to take a few minutes to start clean. And, as you rack up the miles behind the wheel, take some time every couple of days to purge your car of that flotsam and jetsam.

Check your vehicle.

About a week before departure get your mechanic to check fluid levels, brakes, tires, and everything else that might bring your cruising to a sudden stop. Make sure to have jumper cables and extra wiper fluid in the trunk, that your spare is fully inflated and road-worthy, and there’s a tire iron, bottled water, fire extinguisher, first-aid kit, and reflectors/flares are easy to locate when you open your trunk.

Have a loose plan.

You can count on a delay or two somewhere along the way. If you overschedule your road trip –figuring you can hit all those roadside attractions and still make 400 miles every day—you’re almost guaranteed to find yourself frantically re-booking your stays and/or driving yourself frazzled, or both.

Having no plan (and no reservations) is probably worse.

Get off the interstates — but look ahead.

What’s the point hitting the road to see the country if all you see are superhighways? However, some “country roads” are just a string of strip malls.

Most U.S. road maps (paper variety) indicate which roadsare recommended as scenic routeswith interesting local scenery and are worth it those with a little time, patience and inclination to wander. Roadtrippers.com – the website and the mobile app – can help you find such scenic drives.

And always be prepared to find your way back to the main highway when a side road doesn’t pan out or local traffic becomes a major pain due to rush hour or special events..

Preload your phone with entertainment options.

Sampling the local vibe via radio is mostly a thing of the past in today’s merged and amalgamated media networks. So, make your phone your entertainment center with your own collection of downloaded music, streaming tunes via an app like Spotify or Pandora, or listening to your favorite podcasts. And make sure you have the right technology to plug into whatever power option is available in the vehicle (cigarette charger, USB port, etc.).

Tend to division of labor.

Knowing who does what well and what really matters to your traveling companions will help you divide tasks to get things done efficiently and to the satisfaction of all.

Join a roadside rescue service.

If you take enough road trips, eventually you’ll end up with a flat or mechanical trouble in the middle of nowhere. That 800-number that immediately ties you in to approved local tow services and mechanics will save you a lot of hassle.

Have your documents and a clean record.

Make sure you have your current driver’s license, registration, and insurance, just in case. It’s best to clear up any old traffic and parking tickets before you go to avoid unnecessary legal hassles, including possible impoundment of your car.

Snacks

A well-stocked cooler makes a great contribution to road trip success and enjoyment. Consider these munchies for your on-the-road pantry: Trail Mix: dried fruit with pretzels, nuts, chocolate chips and granola for an energy-packed snack; Bottled water and juice: small frozen bottles of water and juice quench thirst while keeping cooler contents on ice; Hard cheeses: cheddar or gouda over semi-softs because the hard cheeses keep longer once the cooler starts to warm up, and involve less mess; Cut veggies: carrots, celery, radishes, bell pepper and cherry tomatoes (in storage containers) are easy to pass around the car to share.

Packing
The impulse to bring along everything is hard to resist when your free of airline restrictions and fees, but you can lighten your load and increase your gas mileage by exercising self-control.

Less is more. Remember, a fresh set of clothes is as close as the nearest coin laundry.

Stick to 1 bag per person. It’s the best way to prevent over-packing. And soft duffel bags and backpacks are easier to squeezd into limited space.

Keep the essentials within reach. Put a sturdy canvas bag handy to the front seat stocked with road maps, bandaids, sunglasses, handiwipes and a pocket knife will make dealing with surprises on the road easier. A blanket and travel pillow for each passenger is so comforting when fatigue sets in.

Final advice for road trippers: start early and stop early. It’s not a race or an endurance contest. And if someone says they need a pit stop, that becomes the new priority!

Safe and happy travels.