The holidays are here and Christmas (and Hanukkah) is coming up fast. That means a lot of people will probably be taking to the road to visit friends and family. If you're headed out on a road trip this year, you'll want to plan accordingly and make sure your car's ready for the occasion.
Hopefully you've already gotten your car checked out, but if not make sure your tires are good, your brakes don't need replacing (because stopping is really important), you get an oil change and everything else is in good order. Got AAA? Then don't forget to keep your card handy. If one of your credit cards has roadside assistance, make sure you know all the details and know the numbers to call if you need them. Keep an emergency kit in your car, just in case, and a spare gallon of water to avoid overheating. It happens. If you'll be driving where snow or ice might be a possibility, then make sure you have a set of chains or cables for your tires, because sliding all over the road sucks. And not being able to go on without slide protection will suck too.
Once you've made all the boring and necessary checks on your car, it's time to start packing. Even though I have plenty of room in the trunk (and backseat), I still try to pack light. I don't want to drag a ton of bags in and out of hotels everyday and it's nice to have spare room in your car for any purchases your may make along the way.
If you're traveling as a family, space is at a premium anyway. Don't bring your whole closet. One carry-on per person is enough. A cooler with drinks, snacks and sandwich fixings is a must, especially if you're trying to save some money on your drive. Plus, if you go with kids, they always seem to be hungry at different times throughout the day, so having healthy snacks to keep them satisfied is important. Toss a back-up carry-on bag in your trunk for rounding up purchases (or gifts) in one place, and a few reusable shopping bags for grocery shopping, dirty clothes and other miscellaneous things.
The best part of a road trip is the stops along the way. Know some of the fun, obscure, interesting and popular things to do on your route. I plan at least one or two of these per day to break up the monotony of sitting in the car and staring out the window. A great app to use for finding these things on main highways is iExit. It's free and will give you everything from places to eat, attractions, shops, rest areas and even animal hospitals, if you're traveling with a pet. I like that you can plan ahead by using the app without actually being on the road, but you can use it on-the-go. If you're a AAA member, you can order guidebooks and paper maps for free, too.
Sometimes you just need to get out and stretch your legs. Being in the car for long periods of time can make your legs cramp up and make you feel blah. See an interesting turn off? Stop! Run around, take a quick walk, take some pictures, check out a tourist attraction or make yourself a sandwich to tide you over until lunch or dinner. You'll be glad you did.
Dress comfortably. It is so easy to dress comfortably and still look like a person nowadays with fabrics like jersey, bamboo and rayon. Just because you've been in the car for 10 hours, doesn't mean you have to look like a slob. Not only are these fabrics comfy, but they also resist wrinkles and breathe well, too. If you can't live without your trusty jeans, invest in some nice ones with stretch. I have three pair that I paid a pretty penny for, but they are some of the best ones I own for travel.
Bring tunes from home. Don't rely on just the radio, otherwise you'll have times were the only thing you get are Christian and deep country music, if you can pick up anything. I swear there must be radio towers built into the mountains for these stations. If you're a fan of either, you are probably okay, but I still suggest loading up your iPod with some good road tunes, podcasts or e-books. That way you have a variety of things to listen to and aren't forced to listen to Jesus Rock in between static if you don't want to.
Coupons, coupons, coupons! Along the road you're bound to stop at a few rest stops or greasy spoons (including Denny's) and when you do, grab one of those highway magazines that is full of coupons for dining and lodging. You can save a ton off already affordable necessities. Sometimes, you may find discounts for roadside attractions. If not, make sure to browse that rack in your hotel/motel lobby before you do anything nearby.
Now, toss a spare blanket and pillow in your backseat and you're ready to conquer anything...or, at the very least, the road.
Where's everyone traveling for Christmas?