A version of this post was originally published on our Atlantic Luggage blog.
Spring Break is coming up in a few months, and while travel is slowing up, there are still plenty of people who are going to be heading to a Spring Break destination of some sort, even if it’s an Airbnb in Central Florida or a family member’s place in Utah.
Spring Break also usually means a road trip, especially for families. And an extended road trip that lasts more than a day can bring its own challenges and problems. They’re a lot different than those single-day road trips where you drive for a few hours, take a few breaks, and arrive at your destination within 12 hours.
An extended road trip can be more complicated. Staying in different cities and hotels, visiting different people, going to different events: There are a lot more moving parts to keep up with.
We talked with a few people who take multi-day road trips, like our Director of Marketing, Matt, who drives him and his family from Florida to visit his family in the Northeast at least twice a year. I’ve also taken a few road trips with friends to visit different parts of the country.
These are some of the pearls of wisdom that we came up with.
1. RENT A CAR.
If you’ve got an older car, or it’s a little small for a big trip, rent a car instead of putting all the miles on your car on an extended road trip. For example, it’s nearly 1,300 miles from Toledo to here in Boca Raton, Florida. While it may be cheaper to drive your own car, in the long run, you could be taking a month or two off its life just by driving two month’s worth of miles in a single week.
Consider getting a bigger car too. That will give everyone a little more room and help you be more comfortable. But if you’re traveling more than 1,000 miles, don’t ignore the gas mileage. A friend once booked a Nissan for an 800-mile trip and got an upgrade to a Jeep Wrangler. The gas mileage on the Jeep was half that of the Nissan, so his gas costs doubled.
Also, skip the GPS option and the Sirius-XM radio option. You can use Google Maps, Apple Maps, or Waze for your GPS, and you can subscribe to Sirius-XM for a month or even listen to your favorite radio stations on an app like TuneIn or RadioApp. Get a temporary dashboard mount for your phone and use it as your GPS and radio. Just don’t forget the mount when you return the car.
2. PUT YOUR ITINERARY IN YOUR CALENDAR.
Try to plan out your schedule logically. For example, the first place you’re going to travel is your hotel or Airbnb. Block out your travel time and put the address into the notes field. Do this for your car rental location, restaurants, parks, hotels, and so on. (Include the confirmation number for any reservations.)
The reason for this is, once you set your default map app for your phone, such as Waze, you can tap the address of your next location, and your default map app will open up and calculate the route immediately. You never have to remember it, copy the address, or enter it by hand when you’re in a rush. Just open the appointment, tap the address, and start driving.
3. SCHEDULE YOUR DRIVE ON WAZE AND USE THE TELL ME WHEN TO LEAVE FUNCTION.
Depending on where you travel, you’ll run into some rush hour traffic on the way. Waze and other maps will take those expected delays into account, which helps you figure out when you have to leave.
You’ll begin by plugging in your destination address and the time of day you want to arrive. Waze will tell you what time you need to leave to arrive at your desired time. Or if you plug in the time you want to leave, it will tell you what time you can expect to arrive.
You can also schedule your Planned Drives list, so whenever you’re ready to leave one for your next one, you just have to tap the item, and you’re ready to go.
Speaking of Waze preferences, set up your favorite gas station brands, whether to avoid tolls and highways, and even the kinds of alerts you want to hear. You can shut off individual alerts, such as road hazards, so it only tells you when traffic jams or police cars are ahead.
4. TAKE A LAUNDRY BAG ON YOUR EXTENDED ROAD TRIP.
If you’re only taking one suitcase per person, you don’t want to put your dirty clothes back into the suitcase filled with clean clothes. Depending on what you’ve been doing, the smell could get into your clean clothes, especially if you go hiking in the middle of the week or spend several hours outside on a particularly humid day.
Even if it’s just a plastic shopping bag, put your dirty laundry in a separate bag so you can keep them out of your suitcase. It can also help you do your laundry if you have to do a couple loads in the middle of the week. And it makes your suitcase lighter as the trip goes on because you can keep the laundry bag in the car.
5. KEEP THE CAR CLEAN.
One way to make an extended road trip uncomfortable and irritating is to let your car get messy. There’s something vaguely irritating about a messy car that can nag at you without you ever actually figuring out the problem.
Celebrity chef and travel expert Anthony Bourdain’s first book Kitchen Confidential talked exactly about this problem when he talked about a cook’s mise-en-place (“meez on plahs”). He said that when “the meez” is messy, you can’t find anything, and your brain can’t function properly. It can increase your stress level, which can make an already stressful situation worse.
As he said in the book,
"If you let your mise-en-place run down, get dirty, and disorganized, you’ll quickly find yourself spinning in place and calling for backup. I worked with a chef who used to step behind the line to a dirty cook’s station in the middle of a rush to explain why the offending cook was falling behind. He’d press his palm down on the cutting board, which was littered with peppercorns, spattered sauce, bits of parsley, bread crumbs, and the usual flotsam and jetsam that accumulates quickly on a station if not constantly wiped away with a moist side towel. “You see this?” he’d inquire, raising his palm so that the cook could see the bits of dirt and scraps sticking to his chef’s palm. “That’s what the inside of your head looks like now.”
It’s easy to let fast food sacks, empty cups, bottles, and snack wrappers pile up in a footwell or the space between the front seats. If you’re traveling with kids, the few toys and games they brought seem to grow and multiply, and now the car is messier than their bedrooms.
Get into the habit of always throwing away your trash every time you stop. Keep the toys and games in a bag and stow them in the trunk, and only give them one item for each leg of the trip. Switch it out for something new when you stop again. Don’t keep the toy bag in the front seat because then their own stuff is cluttering up your own space, which is also uncomfortable. Even if you’re the only one in the car, practice keeping a clean car, and you’ll keep your stress levels lower, which is important if you ever tried driving through Atlanta during the evening rush hour.
What do you recommend for an extended road trip? How do you manage them and keep from losing your mind? Do you have any funny or helpful stories to share? Tell us about them on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter stream. You can also find us on our Instagram page at @TravelproIntl.
Photo credit: JanBaby (Pixabay, Creative Commons 0)