The Ultimate Road Trip Guide

Ever since leaving school in May, I’ve felt like I’ve been living my life out of a bag. At the end of school, I packed up my dorm into a small chevy rental car to drive to Disney World for a few days where I lived out of a duffle bag. From there, we headed home where I unpacked the contents of the car into an unused room in my house. I somehow managed to decipher what things I would and would not be needing over the summer and chose to leave the things I would not need in their boxes and bags. Then, throughout the month of May and into June, I was tasked with packing up whatever I needed to spend the night at my mom’s or dad’s house every other night or so. When it came time to go to Spain, I packed up two suitcases worth of clothes and necessities, and lived out of them for the three weeks I was there. I’ve now been home from Spain for two and a half weeks, and though I’m not proud to say it, I still have not unpacked my suitcases. At this point my laziness has just become convenient, though, because now I don’t have to pack so much to leave for vacation, and ultimately school.

Tomorrow I will be leaving with my family to drive fourteen hours from New Jersey to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina by Friday afternoon. I will spend a week there and depart on my own the following friday to complete my drive to Miami. The chaos of packing my car for this little migration has inspired me to make a road trip post, considering I’ll be doing a pretty good amount of it over the next few weeks and am a seasoned veteran in car tripping. So worry no longer if you have a road trip looming over your head in the near future. Here’s how to make it go as smoothly as possible.

Packing

  • If you’re planning on staying on short overnights, make sure to pack a separate bag with the things you’ll need in the hotel so that you don’t have to take everything out of your car each night.
  • Don’t pack boxes without lids or tops. Doing this makes it hard to stack things, and you need all the space you can get.
  • Utilize all available space. Not only do you have a trunk, but you have a floor and back seats. Use them.
  • Have a sweater accessible in the car even if it’s summer. Sometimes blasting that AC all day makes you chilly.
  • Pack items that go with each other in the same boxes. Kitchenware with kitchenware, toiletries with toiletries, etc. so that it’s easier to unpack upon arrival.
  • Pack a plastic grocery bag in the car to collect garbage so you’re not just stashing it wherever you find space.

Hotels

  • Don’t stay at hotels right off the exit of a major highway. Yes, it’s more of a hassle to drive a few miles off an exit, but it significantly lowers your chances of having your car full of everything you own broken into.
  • If you have a goal of where you’re going to drive to that night, book a hotel there. There is nothing worse than being tired and having to keep driving from hotel to hotel asking about vacancy.
  • Try staying at the same chain of hotels every night. Most companies offer some type of points or reward system, so staying repeatedly may earn you some nice perks.

Food

  • Bring it. It’s simple and saves you a lot of money and time. If your road trip is only going to be a day or two, pack a cooler of sandwiches, fruit, yogurt, drinks, etc. and avoid having to stop for meals.
  • If you’re not planning on bringing meals, don’t underestimate the importance of snacks. Granola bars or a banana can hold you over while you’re driving down that exitless stretch of highway looking for food.
  • When stopping for food, take this time to throw out all the remnants (half-filled cups, chicken nugget boxes, etc.) of your last meal to make space.

Driving

  • Print your directions. Phones these days are great quick and easy ways to get directions, but it never hurts to have a hard copy somewhere just in case.
  • If you’re in that I-kind-of-might-but-might-not-need-gas phase, just get it at the next exit. It would be devastating to pass it and find out that was the last stop for fifty miles.
  • Don’t do anything extremely illegal. Getting a ticket in another state is so much worse than getting a ticket in your own.
  • Get a good night’s sleep beforehand and never drive tired. It’s just dangerous. Sleep now and make up for lost time tomorrow.

Entertainment

  • If you have a CD player in your car, make a few CDs to bring along to avoid having to scan for a good channel every fifty miles or so.
  • Bring either a portable phone charger or a car charger to avoid a dead phone battery.

And always, always, ALWAYS lock your car. Even if you’re just running in to pay for gas. It’s not worth the risk of losing everything you own.

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