Category: Travel Tips

(Flickr\ Ran Allen)
Travel Tips

10 Tips to prepare for a Road Trip


Road-tripping gives us a new leash of life. It makes us feel alive and free, my husband and I. To our good luck, we live in the United States which is an amazing country to do some great road trips. The love for driving and seeing and experiencing every nook and corner of each and every country-side and city is what drives us and makes us hard-core road trippers. Over the years thanks to the numerous road trips that we have done across the country, there are a few very important lessons that we have learnt and I’d love to share them with you.

10 Tips to prepare for a Road Trip #Traveltips #TravelwithArchie @archanackapoor Click To Tweet

1. The car – your most important companion!


She drives you and takes you along everywhere. Make sure you have her tuned up for every single road trip. Don’t assume that everything is alright. Many a time even new engines fail and the best of cars land up in trouble. You don’t want to be caught in the middle of a forest without help, so an investment in tuning her up completely to ensure she’s ready to take you on a long trip will never be a waste of time and money.

a. Tune her up

Whether you do it yourself or go to a garage, pre-trip auto maintenance is the key to comfortable cruising and long road trips. Check the wiper blades, all fluid levels (oil, water, etc.), belt and hose connections, spare tire, tire pressure, turn signals, horn and headlights. If your car is still not instilling confidence with your own checks, consider an all-out professional inspection.

b. Carry a spare car key

Perhaps this may sound like a silly no-brainer, but we’ve learnt it the hard way and so, please heed to our wisdom.

c. In-car tool kit

A few things need to be within easy reach as soon as you open your trunk door – a tire iron, bottled water, fire extinguisher, first-aid kit and reflectors/ flares. If you are amongst those who constantly hit the road instead of flying or taking the train, these things should be part of your ‘in-car go bag’.

d. Spare tire

It’s not just about carrying one, but about ensuring that the spare tire is in absolute working condition. While I have mentioned this in point a, I am reiterating because it is very crucial to give the spare tire a good look before hitting the road to ensure it is properly pumped and the treads are intact.

e. Gas mileage

Not just from expenditure perspective, but knowing your gas mileage is significant also in deciding whether you want to take a detour along your chosen route. It also helps in knowing when it is important to take a pit-stop to refuel so you don’t land in trouble.

It is easy to calculate gas mileage by referencing a site such as AAA’s Fuel Cost Calculator by inputting your car make and model and your trip’s start and end points to get an estimate of the mileage and overall gas costs.

2. Packing

Packing for Road Trip

We have an entire SUV to our disposal with just two souls traveling more often than not. I love traveling heavy, but for the sake of getting good mileage it is better to lighten the load, so don’t pack everything barring the essentials.

Also read: 10 Tips on How to Travel Light

a. Pack light so there’s room to collect

If you are anything like me you will need a bus or a large truck thanks to the amount of stuff I gather (read: shop, accumulate and hoard) from every city I visit. It will be a bad bummer if your car is too full of suitcases to stow rare finds. I remember on our recent trip from New Jersey to Atlanta, we stopped by for buying wooden stumps. The car was too full to keep them, but we did manage it. It would have been such a pity to let go of them especially at the price we got them.

But remember to pack everything that you think you may need to avoid buying something new that already exists back at home. Remember you have your own set of wheels, so don’t end up under-packing in the quest of packing light.

b. Clothes

You don’t need to pack everything that you ‘think’ you will require. Experience says that you don’t end up wearing half the clothes that are packed in your suitcase. When it comes to clothes, less is more. One big advantage of having your own vehicle is that you have a fresh set of clothes at your disposal all the time.

c. Number of bags

Ideally, the best magic potion is to stick to 1 bag per person. It helps prevent over-packing and at the same time helps you travel light. Preferably take lighter suitcases and avoid bulky ones. Though my preference is a suit case, soft duffel bags and backpacks are ideal for squeezing into limited trunk space.

d. Sleep essentials

Carry blankets and travel pillows if required. I carry my home pillow whenever I feel I may not be able to sleep well on hotel pillows. It is a small one and does not take too much space in the car.

e. Other essentials

Some essentials like chewing gums, hand wipes, first-aid kit, sunglasses and a pocketknife should be within easy reach. Keep them within easy reach of the front seat as these are items that you may need constantly while you are on the road.

3. Food

Snacks - Food

The most important part of a road trip preparation is packing classic road trip eats that will serve you well during the trip.

a. Well-stocked cooler

A well-stocked cooler is the best thing that you can gift yourself for a long and successful driving trip.  We usually stock perishable items, water, colas, guacamole etc.,

b. Munchies

For us it is impossible to imagine a journey without munchies that are available at an arm’s length. Honey roasted peanuts, salted pistachios, chips, cut veggies, cut fruits, trail mix and candy are amongst our top favorites. We also like to carry a bottle of peanut butter and a tub of guacamole as they are easy to spread and it is very filling, especially if food isn’t in sight for long.

c. Bottled water and juice cans

This is a must and on a long trip we ensure that we carry a complete pack of bottled water and juice. It is better to be safe and carry water rather than fill bottles in gas stations and other places. And thanks to the SUV this doesn’t even seem like extra weight.

d. Pack in airtight containers

We have a habit of removing stuff from the plastic bags and storing them in airtight containers or Tupperware, so the freshness is sealed and it becomes easy to pass on and eat in the car, especially for cut veggies and fruits.

4. Music


(Flickr\Ran Allen)

I think our road trips would be incomplete without our music.

a. Carry CDs / Ipod

CDs with your favorite music that you would be comfortable listening to for two – three weeks straight are a real game changer. Avoid skipping tracks and you’ll realise a few months later when one of those special road trip songs comes on at the grocery store or in a bar, you’ll find yourself transported back to your trip in a way only a song could transport you. Isn’t that amazing? We generally have a CD case with almost 30 music CDs and our Ipod loaded with around 1000 songs. Ofcourse most of the times, we even know the sequence of songs that are playing, but somehow even the same set of songs seem to make the journey shorter.

b. Sing-song games

A lot of times we make up our own song games. Either we sing along with the music or stop the music altogether and sing songs. It is a great way to make the journey more pleasurable. Singing also has a very calming effect.

5. Carry cash for tolls

(Flickr\Lindsay Kinkade)

(Flickr\Lindsay Kinkade)

Toll roads pop up everywhere and sometimes even in the most bizarre of places. During our New York trip from Atlanta, up north there were very frequent tolls and some of the fares were much higher than we expected. We generally stock the center console with dollars (tens, fives and ones) and coin rolls. This preparation is really handy and helps in a smooth cross-over through tolls.

Most places accept credit cards as well, but in our experience cash has been the best bet.

6. Maps

(Flickr\Johan Larsson)

(Flickr\Johan Larsson)

Carrying a real map can be a lot of fun as it is amazing fun to track progress on a real Atlas with a Sharpie (marker). It can serve as a souvenir to be hung in the office or study once you are back home. The Sharpie dots will remind you of the great time you had with directions and during the drive.

a. Google Maps

This is our best bet for getting driving directions. Very handy on the cell phone itself, it is a very good tool.

b. GPS

Google maps can betray you sometimes if there is a lost signal and connection especially up in the mountains. That’s where a GPS helps you survive. An investment in a good GPS goes a long way

7. Gas Card

I am a big fan of earning free points. It may come as a surprise but accumulating points through various cards can make the journey really inexpensive. Since it is a driving trip and you will end buying a lot of fuel, a gas card will help translate all those dollars into a lot of free fuel points, cash back on hotels, discounted groceries and much more.

8. Love for the gas station

Initially I did not like the idea of getting food and using the bathrooms in a gas station. And I realised how wrong I was. Not only does it make for a quick pit-stop, but gas stations can be an amazing place to get hot food, coffee, classic candies, clean bathrooms and fuel; all in one. We’ve also found some stellar gas stations where we bought some amazing souvenirs of those cities. Perhaps we wouldn’t have found them in the normal souvenir shops at the tourist destinations of those cities at those prices.

9. Limit engagement with the outside world

A road trip is all about being together, going places, acting wild and igniting the vagabond in you. Road trips have helped my husband and me bond in a very special way as it is just the two of us together spending hours together, driving non-stop sometimes upto ten hours a day in that wonderful space called the SUV. Even if you are with your friends this is an amazing time to bond in the tiny box on the wheels. It is great to be connected with the outside world but that usually takes away my time from experiencing some breath-taking sights on the way. It is always a good option to get to know your fellow travel mates better while on the road.

10. Take pictures

I have always debated on this point, whether or not it makes sense to take a lot of pictures. Because taking many pictures also means that you don’t spend enough time experiencing and soaking in the actual place. Well, as long as you are able to strike a balance and not feel like it was just a ‘photo-taking’ trip when you are back home, every single picture will be worth it.

Also read: To Click or not to Click

I am never usually content with the tips that I write, because there is always so much more to share. In keeping with my practice of ‘extras’ here are some hand ‘Archie special’ tips to make the road trip even more memorable:

  1. Make a plan, but not a rigid one. Be open to changes.
  2. Plan such that the driving time is not more than eight hours a day so that it doesn’t get overly taxing. The weariness will keep moving to the next day and at the end of it, you will be a bunch of exhausted nerves.
  3. Practice making new friends. Chat up with people like the grocery store cashier, someone at the souvenir shop, hotel staff. These are best people to get some great suggestions about the city you are in and will definitely lead you to the best activities in that destination.
  4. Ask locals where to eat if you are open to various cuisines. Being a vegetarian I am a bit hung up about local food, but my husband makes sure he does the research well and we do manage to eat at local joints. Not only does that give us a flavor of that place but it helps in enjoying the place better.
  5. Make up your own road games. My husband and I can get overly creative and come up with anything like even counting a particular make of cars on the way. It makes the journey a lot more memorable.
  6. Stay in touch with people at home just in case any unexpected events happen on the road. People should know where to find you. Make sure you cell phone has roaming and proper countrywide coverage. Speak to your service provider before you leave for the trip.
  7. Follow those weird billboards that you spot on the way. While you may get a feeling that a billboard that announces – ‘most friendly chocolate store in the state’ could lead you to a creepy place, sometimes you may be surprised it may be way too cool and a great experience. You will find such places usually in small-town destinations.
  8. Be a vagabond. Follow your heart and then watch your days turn into amazing sagas of driving and wild road trip whims.

Happy road tripping!

Love, Archie

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