11 Things You Must Know Before Going On A Road Trip

Make sure you're ready before your journey starts

As vaccinations roll out and our society can see the light at the end of the pandemic, our wanderlust and cabin fever has many of us eager to travel.

In this day and age, it's easy for us to travel anywhere in the U.S. However, less than a hundred years ago, it could take upwards of two months to go from the east coast to the west coast.

The Federal Highway Act signed by Dwight Eisenhower in 1956 concluded in 41,000 miles of U.S. interstate, allowing us to go coast-to-coast in just a few days.

Flying to your destination is quick and relatively painless, but the destination is half the story. 

Road trips can sometimes be an eye-opening and cathartic journey. Seeing the country change in front of your eyes is an unparalleled experience.

It's not always a simple trip, however.

Being prepared for a road trip is essential for a fun and, most importantly, safe journey.

Here are 11 things you must know before you head out on your road trip.

1. Pack high-energy snacks

Bring snacks high in energy on your roadtrip
Image Source: Adobe Stock

Like your car, you'll need to stay fueled through your trip. Getting Mcdonald's every stop will not do you any favors, though.

Instead, grab snacks that are high in fat and proteins. Here is a shortlist of ideal snacks for a road trip:

  • Peanuts/Almonds 
  • Beef Jerky
  • Granola Bars low in sugar
  • Banana's
  • Apples

2. Watch your caffeine

Coffee on the Road
Image Source: Adobe Stock

Speaking of energy, caffeine is one of the most readily available energy boosters around. Consequently, there can be too much of a good thing.

Caffeine is a diuretic. The more of a diuretic you consume, the more frequently you will urinate.

I love drinking coffee or energy drinks when I'm on a long drive. That love comes at a cost, though.

I would have to stop every hour or so to go to the bathroom. Going to the bathroom so often can add quite a few minutes to your trip.

My advice would be, depending on the length of your journey, to drink your caffeine a quarter of the way and at three-quarters of the way on your trip. Doing this may align your planned breaks with bathroom breaks, optimizing your travel time.

3. Stop as many times as you need

Road trips can get pretty long, so stopping a lot can lead to some frustration and added time to your trip.

But stopping as many times as you need is a necessary evil.

Whether you need to go to the bathroom, get hungry, or need to rest for a bit: do so.

If you get tired, stop immediately. A moment of sleepiness can cause you to fall asleep at the wheel. Even a moment of inattentiveness can cause a fatal crash.

Going to the bathroom and getting hungry are less pressing. However, being uncomfortable in a car will make the trip seem a lot longer than it actually is. 

4. Have your route planned both offline and online

Google maps and other GPS devices are a modern-day miracle. You can go from where you're standing now, to anywhere in the world without even thinking about it. 

However, the power of the internet and consumer GPS doesn't work everywhere yet. 

In case of running into a dead zone, it's best to have a physical map with you. Alternatively, Google Maps provides a backup option.

Google Maps allows you to download navigation to an area for use offline. Here's how easy it is:

  • Search the area you need navigation in. For this example, I'll use Akron, Ohio

  • Once Google Maps sweeps over the area, you'll have tabs on the bottom screen that read Directions, Saveand Label.
  • Scroll passed Share and press Download

  • A box will appear highlighting the area. You can drag as well as zoom in and out, capturing more or less of an area (Note: the more you zoom out, the more memory it will need to capture the roads)

  • Since Cleveland is so close to Akron, I'm going to go ahead and download that area too

  • Depending on the size, it will take a moment to download

  • There you have it. Google Maps will download every road within the picture so if you run out of data or have no service, you'll still be free to navigate.

5. Study the states you're driving through

Each state has its own unique driving laws. The severity of traffic violations also varies. According to the Nevada DMV, you could be fined $20 per mile an hour over the speed limit. 

That could be a $400 ticket for going 20 miles per hour over the speed limit.

On the other hand, a speeding ticket in Massachusetts of the same violation would only cost $150. So it's best to do your research and watch your speed as you cross state lines.

Traffic laws are not the only thing you should keep your eye on. 

The contiguous United States has diverse geography.

US Elevation
Image source: Reddit-fendyfpv

The image above shows the sheer contrast in elevation across the U.S.

Driving around or through the midwest might come easy, but getting to the west coast will prove a dangerous journey across the Rockies.

6. Dress Light-Pack Heavy

Dress Light-Pack Heavy
Image Source: Adobe Stock

No matter the type of travel, it's always best to actively travel light. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes. Wearing only one layer while driving will prevent any kind of discomfort if you can properly regulate the temperature.

But it's also important to be prepared.

While you should dress light and comfortable when traveling, make sure to pack plenty of layers with you. Having clothing to match the weather and situation is imperative as many different climates inhabit the continent.

Remember you can always remove the layers if you have them, but you can't put them on if you don't.

7. Protect your back

Keeping good posture while driving
Image Source:  Adobe Stock

Sitting in a car for hours on end will have adverse effects on your back and neck. Back and neck injuries can affect your entire body, taking away from your potential activity when you arrive at your destination.

You can start by maintaining good posture.

Additionally, you can find neck and lumbar support pillows specifically for car seats. This will ensure that your head has somewhere to rest while keeping your lower back from slouching.

8. Keep a Variety in your playlist

We are lucky to have so many options in which to keep us entertained during travel, some may say it's a curse, however. Having so many options all the time paralyzes most of us, resulting in picking something familiar instead of something new.

Take a chance and curate a playlist with podcasts and other types of audio theater. 

Doing so will open you up to new forms of entertainment and make time pass quickly as your brain is engaging with something new.

Don't forget to sprinkle in familiar tunes in there as well, as they are equally important.

9. Don't rush

With our lives almost scheduled down to the exact minute, it's hard to go on a road trip and really see the country.

It's hard for many of us to set aside enough time to plan a trip and actually enjoy the journey. If you can ever afford a few extra days to make a couple of detours in the states you would only drive-through, you will find more hidden gems than you know what to do with. 

There are many wonders hidden beyond the interstates and skyscrapers along America's highways, you just need a little extra time to do some searching. 

10. Chew Gum

If you don't like to keep your mouth moving by talking the entire way, it's a good idea to bring some gum with you on your trip.

According to the US National Library of Medicine, chewing gum while driving increases alertness, giving you more focus on the road.

So if you want fresh breath and smooth driving, try chewing on a piece of spearmint. 

11. Bring the essentials

Needless to say, the list above is not completely necessary for a safe trip, but highly recommended.

However, there is a list of items you must bring to assure a safe passage along the interstate, and that includes; but not limited to:

  • Blankets
  • Flashlight
  • Jumper Cables
  • Lighter/ Matches
  • Cash (but not too much)
  • Breakdown repair kit
  • Utility Knife
  • Spare Tire
  • Extra motor fluids such as oil, power steering fluid, and antifreeze
  • First Aid Kit

Safe Travels

A road trip can produce many wonderful, eye-opening memories along the way.

And many headaches too. 

Being fully prepared won't ensure nothing will go wrong when you're on the road. But, if it does, you will have the means to weather whatever storm comes your way.

Mountains of Southern AZ
Paul is passionate about mastering the craft of writing. Adaptive and charismatic over pen and paper, no subject is out of the question.

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