So, you're getting ready explore the great American continent this summer and you have dreams of crystal clear mountain streams and long straight desert roads ahead of you. Planning "where to go" is only half the equation though. Unfortunately summer poses all sorts of challenges to consider, but with a little planning you're sure to have a great time and build memories that will last a lifetime.
I love taking road trips. There is nothing quite like exploring this country by car. It's amazing the sights, sounds, and experiences that you can explore but it can also be a challenge being out of your comfort zone for days at a time. Don't worry though, with proper planning you are going to have an amazing time! These tips are designed to be applied to a "typical" summer road trip, but don't forget to take your particular route into consideration when getting ready. For instance, your trip through Death Valley is going to require additional planning compared to your trip to go camping in upstate New York.
Pack Snacks and Extra Water
No matter where you are going, it's a good idea to pack extra water and snacks. Sure, juices and pop are good too but I like to always carry an extra gallon of water when traveling, especially if you are heading away from civilization for a while. That gallon of water can come in handy to drink, wash hands, or even pour into your car's radiator if you don't have any extra coolant. Don't worry about going shopping before you leave, Pilot Flying J has you covered, so what I do on my trips to Vegas is stop at their location in Barstow or Primm and stock up while I fuel up!
Check Your Car Emergency Kit
Before heading out, make sure to check your car emergency kit to ensure that everything is in good working condition. This includes checking the charge on your jumppack. After all, a dead jumpack isn't going to help when you really need it.
Make Sure To Use The Bathrooms When You Can
Nothing frustrates me more on a road trip than when minutes after stopping for gas, someone goes, "can you stop - I gotta pee!" Use the darn bathrooms when you have a chance because you might not always be able to find good facilities such as those I enjoy at Pilot Flying J locations.
Plan Your Budget Accurately
It's easy to say "I don't have much money, so a road trip sounds cool!" Unfortunately there are a lot of expenses outside of just transportation like this blogger friend of ours documents on her budget breakdown from her trip exploring California.
Don't Go Off The Road
A good friend of mine was stuck in traffic last year on the way to Vegas. There was an accident up ahead and traffic was stopped completely. Some "brave" souls decided to simply turn around but discovered that what looked like firm soil was actually soft sand in the median and several cars ended up getting stuck. This caused additional delays as emergency vehicles needed to assist those people as well as ultimately that's going to delay their trip even further than if they had just waited in line. The same goes true for "short cuts". If you don't know where you are going, stay on well marked official roads and don't go off road unless you know exactly what you are doing.
Monitor Your Gauges
Most car problems come with early indicators and modern cars are loaded with sensors. For instance, if you see a low pressure alert for a tire this could be easily fixed with a quick stop to a travel plaza for some air but if ignored, you might be in for a new tire or worse if it blows out and causes an accident.
Check Your Tires, Fluids and Battery Before Leaving
Summer can be brutal for your car, so make sure that it's in great condition before you head out. It's not just the high temperatures outside that are a concern, but bright sun and hot temperatures can lead to increased tire wear as pavement can rise to well over a 100 degrees even if the air is much cooler. This leads to the rubber on your tires wearing much faster as well as the added head causing other stress on the engine fluids to keep things cool.
Make Sure You Know Where Travel Stations Are
With apps like the one above from Pilot Flying J, you can plot your route and plan your stops. This will help alleviate stress of the unknown but also let your passengers know when you'll be stopping.
Pack Extra Chargers and Cables for Mobile Devices
Nothing is more frustrating than realizing that you are short a cable or charger. Unfortunately these things can get lost or broken so pack an extra and you'll be the hero!
Check The Weather Forecast for Where You Are Headed
Depending on how far you are going, this can be a big deal. For instance, while things might be bright and sunny in Louisville, they could be expecting afternoon thunderstorms in Knoxville. This will help you plan your route as well as be prepared when weather changes so you are ready for backups or inclement driving conditions.
Grab a Paper Map or Save Your Route for Offline Use
No matter your cell phone service, there's going to be a time when you have no coverage. Unfortunately, that's probably when you'll discover you are lost. You have a few options here from simply printing out your route as well as downloading the maps from google for offline use.
While these tips will help ensure that your summer road trips goes off without a hitch, there are unfortunately those surprises that can happen. I think that's one of the reasons why I love stopping at Pilot Flying J. They always have everything I need from extra aspirin to healthy snacks and clean bathrooms. While there a lot of choices out there, I been a fan of the brand for many years so it's great to be working with them now as they fully embrace mass market consumers, instead of being a secret that just the truckers and hard core road trippers like myself knew about!