If you’ve never been on a road trip, it might be hard to prepare yourself for hours in the car while driving through an unfamiliar area. I mostly grew up in Hawaii, so road trips weren’t something that I encountered very often. However, before I moved to Hawaii my family and I would go on road trips pretty frequently to Mammoth from San Diego (about a six-hour drive). When I graduated high school, I moved to Reno, NV and my parents moved back to San Diego. Then, visiting the ‘rents usually meant I was driving. The drive from Reno to San Diego typically takes nine to ten hours, depending on how often you make stops. I became comfortable with long drives, so I have some tips to help you prepare for your trip!
Making sure your car is well equipped for hours on the road is the most important step. Your road trip will be cut to an unexpected halt if something goes wrong with your car while you are in the middle of who-knows-where!
First, check to make sure all your fluids are good-to-go. This means checking your oil, coolant, and windshield wiper levels. If it’s almost time for an oil change, stay on the safe side and handle it before your trip. To be honest, I don’t know much about cars, so you might need to just talk to a mechanic, lol. I do know that this is the advice my dad gave me before heading out on the road. The last fluid that you’ll want to make sure you have GAS! I know that’s a pretty obvious one, but think about the route that you’re taking. If you’re tight on money, you may want to do some research on where the cheapest gas might be. I like to use the app Gas Buddy to look for gas stations and prices. Additionally, you’ll want to make sure you have enough gas when going through a rural area that has a long stretch without a gas station.
No one ever expects an emergency to happen, but it’s better to be prepared than not. Depending on what season you’re embarking on your road trip, you might need different items in your emergency kit.
Regardless of the season, water should always be something you keep in your car during a road trip. The simplest way to do this is to get a couple of the plastic gallon jugs. However, if you have something reusable and big enough to hold at least a gallon would be best. Plastic jugs can get hot in the summer and freeze in the winter, which can contaminate the water. But realistically if you’re in a real emergency, anything is better than nothing.
In the winter, you may want to have an emergency blanket on hand. This can come in handy if you get stuck in a snow storm and roads get closed or if your car breaks down and you want to stay warm while you wait for a tow truck. On top of that, you’ll also want to carry chains or cables for your tires in your car. Obviously, if you’re route isn’t going through somewhere that snows, this is unnecessary. But if you are, this is very important to have. Chain control can be a pain, but they won’t let you through if you don’t have them (unless you have snow tires and 4WD/AWD).
Other than carrying water in your car, there isn’t too much you would need for an emergency in the summer. The only thing that I would recommend is a cooling towel. These are great if you’re in an extremely hot area. Who knows, what if your car breaks down and its 100º+ outside. Basically, all you need to do is get the towel wet (the water will come in handy!) and put it on the back of your neck. It will
Whether you’re a passenger or the driver, you’re most likely going to get hungry at some point. You can stop for a meal if you prefer, especially if you are already planning on stopping throughout your road trip. But if you don’t want to stop, you could also pack a meal. I usually go for the classic PB&J (TIP: using the King’s Hawaiian Sweet Bread makes it SO much better). This is usually my go-to because it doesn’t require any refrigeration, but with a cooler, you have many more options.
Besides packing meals, you will also probably want some snacks.
I definitely use road trips as an excuse to eat junk, so I bring snacks like candy, chips, and crackers. It’s hard for me to pass up an excuse to eat Sour Patch Kids, salt and vinegar chips, and Goldfish; it’s like being a kid again! If you’d rather be responsible and eat healthily, some options could be fruits, veggies, jerky, and nuts.
You want to be prepared on your road trip with plenty of things to do so you don’t get bored. If you’re driving with other passengers in the car, this makes things a lot easier because you can have someone else to converse with or play games together. When you’re riding solo, you need to make sure you are prepared with plenty of things to keep you from boredom, but also aren’t too distracting while you’re driving.
I’ve spent most of my road trips alone, so I like to come prepared with music and podcasts.
When it comes to music, I use Spotify Premium (premium is only $9.99/month, so you have no ads and can download your music). I like to have a few different playlists; that way, if I get tired of listening to one I can easily switch to another. One of my favorite things to listen to while I’m on a road trip is throwback songs. I usually go for the late 90s and early 2000s hits, but you can bop to whatever makes you happy.
Besides music, podcasts are another great option. They are free and you can download a few episodes in advance so you don’t waste your data or have to wait on it to buffer if you’re in an area with bad service. There’s a podcast for pretty much anything nowadays. My favorites are
Another option for entertainment is downloading an e-book! I don’t typically do this, however, it would be a great way to keep you entertained, while still keeping your eyes on the road.
It’s a good idea to let someone know
Pretty much everyone has a phone with some kind of navigation app on it now. But, when you are driving through a foreign area you could lose service at any given time. I would recommend either printing out the directions ahead of time or screenshotting the directions as a backup. Printing them is probably the better option just in case your phone dies, but if you have a car phone charger, you will probably be fine with just a screenshot as a backup.
Where are you going on your next road trip? Do you have any other tips that have helped you on the road? Let me know in the comments!