Car Travel Tips
10 Top Tips for Car Travel
Road trips don’t have to be stressful, in fact road trips are exciting adventures. They’re great bonding experiences for friends and families, but make sure you plan ahead to avoid the stress and annoyances that tend to come hand in hand with road trip experiences.
Before setting off on any trip you should make sure your car is in good working order. Check the oil, fill the gas tank, check the tire pressure on all of your cars, check the treads and make sure it hasn’t been a while since your last tune-up. No one wants to think about things going wrong, but it just makes sense to prevent any breakdowns.
Plot your route ahead of time, and have more than one option just in case. If you’re heading off on a lengthy trip it only makes sense to know what roads and highways that you will be traveling on. It also provides you with the chance to plan in stops for services, and stops for sites of interest. Street Maps provides you with traffic cam information, weather, tourist stops, coffee shops, gas, food, hotels and rest areas. This allows you to plan for every eventuality.
Keep it Clean
Think of your vehicle as you would your home- because for the length of your road trip that is what it will be. No one wants to sit on crumbs and have to kick empty cans and bottles out of the way to get comfortable in their seat. You are probably going to come up against a lot of flying bugs, and bird droppings, too so make sure to pack window cleaner and paper towels to keep your windshield squeaky clean. Sure you can plot in regular stops but sometimes you reach a point where you want to pass the services without stopping because for once, no one is begging to stop.
You’re on vacation! Planning is key, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be open to unplanned stops. When you use a site like ours you will see all of the various points of interest along the way that you might want to stop and check out, but if you see something else that has caught your eye don’t be afraid to stop. What are the chances you’ll be back in this exact position again? Just stop and take the selfie.
Not only will taking back roads help you avoid traffic jams, but there is always something exciting to check out, whether it’s small stores, amazing views or interesting local culture. Obviously you can’t take the back roads the entire way unless you have three months to spare, but that doesn’t mean you can’t factor in a slight deviation from that highway you’re rolling on.
Always have a plan B, roads can be unpredictable so it’s very likely that you will come across traffic in your travels, or an accident. So make sure that you plan ahead and you have alternative routes to choose from to avoid stress in such situations.
Make sure you have an emergency pack in the trunk, it should include a first aid kit, flares, high vis vests, duct tape (the answer to most of life’s problems on the road), flashlight, jumper/booster cables, screwdriver, spare fuses, safety cones, a supply of water and snacks, and blankets.
You really never know what can happen on the road so you should prepare for every eventuality.
Make sure your spare tire is in good working order, too.
Are We There Yet?
For anyone that’s been on the road for any length of time… you’ll know, it can get boring. Luckily technology is way ahead of it was when I was big on road trips. Check out podcasts that everyone can get in to, you can get through an entire series easily. Whether you’re into true crime or looking for laughs there are plenty to choose from. Thanks to satellite radio you can now access your favorite stations. Have everyone prepare playlists ahead of time so that if there is a difference in musical tastes everyone has their fair share of listening time.
Provided you aren’t traveling alone, take turns. You can agree it ahead of time and choose routes for each driver to man. You’ll get there quicker if there’s a fresh set of eyes behind the wheel every once in a while. Besides, everyone needs to have a turn at being a backseat driver.
Stopping off for a hot coffee, croissant and free Wi-Fi is a total must. Not only for your sanity but to let you check in with family and friends to let them know you are all safe and sound. You’ll probably want to upload some of those selfies onto your social media accounts, too.
Destination Isn’t Everything
Most of the fun involving a road trip is the actual road trip itself. It’s great to get away and just hang out with each other while being goofy. Sure, everyone loves stepping out of that car, knowing that you’ve arrived… but when you look back on your trip the best memories will be of those that you in the car.
When the car broke down on the side of the road, when your spare tire turned out to be a dud, when you ran out of oil, when you got lost.
When someone was overly dramatic about their need for the bathroom, when you cleared up on I Spy, when someone’s play list was so awful you will never let them forget about the torture they put you through.
Those are the things that will stick in your mind after a long trip on the road.
I know which set of when’s I’d prefer to look back on, how about you?
Picking A Hotel
Finding the right hotel for a road trip can be a pain in the backside, but now? Well, it isn’t like the old days where you would turn up at any old motel and snag a room. Nowadays, you can check out review sites to make sure that your hotel has all the creature comforts that you’re really looking for.
Before you’ve even set off on your trek you can have that room booked and look through pictures from customers and check out all of the reviews and ratings. There’s also the added bonus of scoping out the area around your hotel to check out events and restaurants that come recommended by travelers that have gone before you.
The Most Important Thing
First of all, what matters to you? If Wi-Fi a total must? Are you looking for quiet, privacy, a pool? Do you want a restaurant on site or nearby? Take time to compile a Top 5 list and start with those advanced search options. Once you’ve narrowed your list you can always add more musts to see which hotels will stack up against your needs the most.
It’s All ‘Bout the Money
It’s the most important thing, right? Well, it certainly plays a big part when you’re booking a hotel room. Work out your budget so that you can hit the comparison sites and get the most out of them. With Street Maps you’ll see what hotels and motels are on your route which should make things even more simple for you. You don’t want to get off the highway and stray too far off the beaten path to get to a hotel.
You can save a lot of money using a website where you big on a hotel room, but the problem with that is that you have no clue what you’re paying for until you’ve won the bid and paid for it. If your group aren’t too concerned with what hotel you end up in then it’s a great way to save money, and it can be kind of fun to get a surprise.
Location, Location, Location
You don’t want to be too far off the beaten path for more than just the reason of your chosen route. You also don’t want to be in the middle of nowhere and have to waste time getting to and from each of the attractions that you’ve planned in to see. Especially if once you’ve arrived you are choosing to rely on public transport to make your way around the city that you’re visiting. Then again, if you do want a getaway that affords you peace and quiet then you’ll want something out of the way.
If you want to experience the city as the locals do, then staying in a B&B might be the answer for you. B&B owners offer insights into an area that you might not get anywhere else.
Does a hotel have a swimming pool? Are there beaches nearby? Is there a gym, or a fitness center? Does the hotel offer room service? Is there an events room? Will your room have toiletries, bathrobes, coffee makers, TVs, fireplaces or…? You may travel a lot and therefore expect a lot from your hotel, you might not be all that bothered about what you get. You should be prepared to do some research to make sure your hotel will meet your needs.
Again, if you are a frequent traveler you may already be a member of a rewards program. If you haven’t already, do it now. You can earn free meals, upgrades, extra nights and other goodies, and all you have to do is use the same hotel wherever you go. It’s as close as getting something for nothing as it gets. I mean, sure you have to spend money, but if you’re a frequenter of hotels then you’re already paying money to stay somewhere. You might as well get some benefits from it.
Most businesses are focusing on being green nowadays and that includes hotels. Pretty much all of the bigger cities have green certified hotels, so it might be a bit more difficult do so in a smaller city. Some hotels may not be certified, but they do leave signs in the rooms encouraging you to use your towels more than once. Chances are if you were at home you would use your towel more than once, so why would it be any different on your travels? You can take it a step further by letting them know you don’t need your sheets changed on a daily basis. It could even score you a free drink, after all you’ve saved them both time and money.
If you’re traveling with your kids, then your priorities are likely to be a bit different than the average traveler’s requirements.
There are plenty of websites that can point you in the right direction when it comes to staying in a hotel that’s designed for the family. Work those requirements into the advanced search when you’re looking for a suitable hotel, and double check on Street Maps whether it’s on your route.
See, it might sound time consuming, but wouldn’t you rather plan ahead to avoid a complete disaster stay at a grungy hotel by finding a hotel that meets all of your needs? Better yet, one that might just go above and beyond and exceed all of your expectations. You can be as specific, or as vague, as you want.
Maps & Directions
Have you ever been on a trip with someone who didn’t bother to check a map to see how to get to where you’re going? Have you found that it’s the same type of person that would rather drive around aimlessly than stop and ask for directions?
Are you that person?
It’s easy to be stubborn and refuse to give in, but planning your route only makes sense.
It’s so easy now with sites like Streep Maps available to help you plot your course. To be honest, it doesn’t matter when you’re heading to a new restaurant for dinner, planning a road trip or visiting a buddy who just bought a new house out of town, maps make your life simpler.
Why bother with maps, though?
Chart the Territory
The entire point of a map is to get you where you’re going. With a map you can chart the territory that surrounds the route you’re taking. You can check out areas of interest, hotels, and figure out where to fill the tank up. They are straightforward and factual, so it’s difficult to argue about what a map is telling you. Unless one of you is holding it upside down, of course. Everyone has a common goal when it comes to traveling, and so do maps.
Even if you think you have a good idea of how to get where you’re going, having a map with directions sure does alleviate some of the stresses that come with traveling. If you’re just a passenger and you happen to be traveling with the type of person described earlier, there is nothing to stop you from getting your own driving directions from Street Maps and having them to hand to come to the rescue if things go pear shaped. Even if things are progressing well, you will feel much better knowing you have them handy.
Maps don’t offer theories of routes; maps offer actual routes. They are practical and everyone knows how to use them. Not all people will be able to read them as effectively as others, but luckily Street Maps makes it possible for anyone to use a map. A map can tell you where you are, it can show you where you’re going and it can offer you multiple choices in how you can get there.
When you lose your way, when you’re under pressure maps clarity and stability. They offer a focus for someone under pressure to concentrate on that task right at that moment.
There’s psychological reasons, too. They did research way back in the 40’s that showed when people are dropped right in the middle of new surroundings they start to arrange things in their minds. They look at key landmarks and other things that stand out and start to build maps in their minds.
We’re naturally programed to make use of maps and plan routes and follow directions.
Descriptive, Not Interpretive
So, what is the job of a map? To show you a territory. What are directions for? To get you through that territory safely. Maps are descriptive, they aren’t open to interpretation. You can count on them to offer you facts. It’s a fact that this route will get you from Point A to Point B in approximately “this much” time. They don’t make judgements, they don’t serve as backseat drivers, they serve as factual guides to lead you in the right direction. They also offer multiple options so it isn’t about doing THIS or doing THAT, it’s about offering you a choice of many routes that will get you where you’re going in the way that you would like to travel. So if you want to travel via all of the tourist sites then you can, if you want to know where every rest stop is within 10 miles of where you are at any given moment then you can. Maps are a beautiful thing.
Maps highlight hazards- they take into consideration things like diversions and areas to avoid. They don’t just show you where to go, they show you where not to go. If you find yourself lost they can get you out of the conundrum you’ve found yourself in.
You look at a map before you set off on your journey and you plan your route, but as you travel you consult your map to ensure that you are still on the right path. Because you can check your progress regularly, you can adapt if any situations change. A map is like a constant loop of feedback- where am I? Do I need to adjust? You do, and when you do you can check again and again as you go.
Not everyone can read a map well, but everyone can read a map. It doesn’t take a class in map reading to get you by, it presents you with information and you follow it.
Maps are for everyone.
Maps aren’t new to the world; they’ve been used throughout history. Think about what technology they had hundreds of years ago versus what we have now? Maps are now available online which means they are regularly updated for intensely high percentages of accuracy. There is no use in an inaccurate map. Street Maps offers up to date maps that you can use regularly without worry.
What can be better in today’s world than something that is constantly updated. An online map that offers directions cannot be rendered obsolete, because it is constantly evolving as the world around us evolves.
I bet you’ve never thought about maps like that before? I’m sure you can agree now that maps are truly a thing of beauty.
There’s not a whole lot on this planet that can cause stress and annoyance quite like getting stuck in traffic. Everyone sets out on their trip, whether it’s a road trip or a quick drive to the market, with good intentions and a rough idea of how long it’s going to take them.
Traffic jams are also a big cause of smog and pollution in the world’s big cities. So preventing traffic jams isn’t just good for your sanity, it’s good for the environment.
For those poor souls that face heavy traffic on a regular basis it can lead to psychological problems.
Not to mention the 3 billion gallons of fuel that traffic congestions cause, or the 7 billon extra travel hours spent, all to the tune of an estimated $160 billion! It all adds up and for the commuter it’s estimated that each drive spends around 42 hours in traffic annually.
If you happen to live in a traffic heavy city then you don’t need me to tell you, “I’ll be there in 20 minutes, depending on traffic… so, I’ll probably see you in an hour and a half.”
It doesn’t have to be that way, though. While you can’t avoid all of the traffic all of the time, you sure can stay ahead of the game.
Win Some, Lose Some
If you find yourself getting caught in traffic in work then consider changing your departure time. With the most common working time being a 9-5 (plus school drop offs) you’re more likely to get stuck in traffic at 8:30 and 5:30 (unless you live in California and face the 3-6 traffic farce). This tact would also mean leaving work later, sounding like you’re losing out on an hour of your day, but you know you sit in traffic for far longer so you’re still walking away a winner.
A to B
Is the shortest distance between two points a straight line? Not always. Consider how many different ways there are for you to get your chosen destination. Not all of those paths can be congested, can they? So whether you’re facing your every day trip to work, or a special road trip, don’t always take the most obvious route. It’s called the obvious route because everybody else is taking it, too. Ideally, you’ll have an escape route so that if you are approaching a traffic situation you can avoid it. There are plenty of traffic apps to choose from that predict traffic jammed roads for you to avoid.
Plot and Plan, Then Plot Again
Planning your route is always the best way to avoid congestion. If you have to, plan a few routes so that you can change them up the morning of a big trip. If you’re just heading to work, or to your friend’s new house, then you don’t need to plot multiple routes, just check regularly before setting off. Listening to the traffic in your car while you’re driving is also a smart idea, because it could be clear before you leave and you might still end up right in the middle of a mess.
Assume nothing. Check what activities are happening in the area you will be traveling through, that could slow you down and lead to heavy frustration. Be prepared to adapt. Don’t be that stubborn person who thinks they know best, be that person who gets to where they’re going without massive delays.
We’ve already mentioned traffic apps, which are a great way to stay ahead of the game. We also mentioned listening to the radio so you can keep abreast of any traffic issues as they arise. Using GPS is another great way to stay on top of things. You can look at previous routes you’ve taken, you can also allow family members to keep track of you (and you of them) without disturbing them with texts and calls on a drive- accidents are a prime cause of traffic congestion.
A GPS system that offers live traffic updates is even better, killing two birds with one stone.
You can get updates right to your mobile phone, but be careful with that because using your mobile while driving is illegal in most places, and if it isn’t… it isn’t safe. If you have a system in your vehicle that connects to your phone for safe use, then this could be the way to go for you. It allows you to get the updates you need without being distracted by using your mobile phone.
There are apps that are fueled by user updates to give live traffic updates on accidents and traffic as they are happening. Obviously it depends on what area you live in if there are enough users to make a difference to your life, but if you live in a bigger city then you should find it helpful. Again, if you are going to use something like this then you need a cradle for your phone to avoid being distracted by the technology.
If you are a lone traveler (or there’s just two of you) the best way to avoid traffic is by switching to a motorcycle. There are a lot of locations (see California and the United Kingdom) where it is legal for you to weave through the traffic, allowing you to leave all those stuck in congestion in your wake.
If you are travelling on a holiday weekend it’s safe to say that all bets are off and no matter how much planning you use you will very likely still end up in traffic at some point. Some things are unavoidable, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take advice from the steps above to do your best to avoid it.