Someone once told me that road trips are like childbirth. Done right, they can one of the best things you will ever do. Done wrong, and you are trapped in your own personal hell screaming “Whose idea was this?”
Before You Leave
Get Your Car Serviced & Cleaned Before You Depart
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Be sure and get your vehicle thoroughly serviced before you depart (and have it cleaned while it’s there too). Ask them the check your air pressure in all five tires (that’s right...the spare too), oil, wiper blades, belt and hose connections, tire pressure, turn signals, horn and headlights and make sure all of your fluids are full.
Bring a Basic Repair Kit
Have a repair kit on hand for fixes you might be able to take care of yourself. At the very least, bring a few different sizes of regular and Phillips-head screwdrivers, jumper cables, vice grips, a tire iron, bottled water, fire extinguisher, first-aid kit, reflectors/flares and a roll of duct tape.
Join a Travel Club
If you're not already a member of a travel club, join one before you leave. There's always AAA, which has affiliates almost everywhere, the Better World Club or an auto club offered by your car's manufacturer.
Create and Map Out Your Itinerary
Determine how many days you have for travel and where you want to go, but don't simply plot out the fastest route from point A to point B. While major highways and interstates quickly whiz you from city to city, county roads afford the best sights and out-of-the-way attractions. Don't set an overly ambitious agenda. Plan on a maximum of 5-6 hours per day behind the wheel. Finally, take along a current paper map, in addition to any online directions or GPS systems. Each is a good backup to the other, as none is foolproof.
Skip the Junk Food
Roadside convenience stores are notorious for lousy food. If pork rinds and a Slurpee aren't your idea of a great road trip lunch, bring a cooler on your adventure. In the morning, fill it with ice and drop by a decent supermarket. The ice should keep things cool until the next morning, when you can refresh it. Then, when the munchies hit, at least you won't be insulting your body with food products whose ingredients were developed in a secret lab in New Jersey.
Dress Comfortably & Wear Easy On/Off Shoes
Since you will be sitting for a long period of time, comfort should be your top priority. Wear soft, roomy pieces in breathable fabric. Cotton blends and jersey are great options. Avoid items like jeans (the heavy denim may be uncomfortable and will take forever to dry if something is spilled on it) and light-colored clothing that will show dirt and stains easily. Be prepared for weather changes by dressing in layers, but skip bulky items that will cause you to overheat in the car. Have a sweater and rain gear (such a light windbreaker) handy in case of inclement weather. Comfortable slip on/off shoes will make stops easier.
During The Trip
Pay Attention to Gauges — and Watch the Road
The gauges on your vehicle aren't there just to make the dash look pretty. They're there for a reason: Eventually, something will go wrong — and the gauges might tip you off before it's too late.
And when your eyes aren't on the gauges, they should be on the road, not on the screen of your smartphone. Over the last decade, driver distraction has become one of the leading causes of accidents. Relax, listen to some music, enjoy the scenery, and save the cellphone calls for your next stop!
Don’t Be Afraid To Take Breaks
Whether it is for bathroom breaks, meals or sightseeing, make sure you take the time to stop and take a break from driving. This is also a good time to stretch your muscles to prevent cramps. When you stop, be sure to walk around and do some stretching exercises. This will keep your blood flowing and keep you loose.
As always, be sure to drink plenty of fluids, especially water. Often people don’t want to drink too much so they don’t have to stop for the bathroom. But staying hydrated will help keep you awake and alert.
Take Turns Driving
Don’t leave the driving (or the navigating) to the same person. There are health hazards in driving as it places stress on your mind and body with road rage, eye fatigue and night blindness, and road fatigue. So, it is best to take turns; making sure each person has time to contribute to the trip in various ways.