This week is travel week on my blog! As we prepare for Schlotty Road Trip 3, I am going to kick off travel week with our tried and true tips in case you ever venture off in your car and do your own road trip (is anyone else out there as crazy as us?!).
Did you do road trips as a kid? My parents certainly took us on them and so did Nate's. My mom was telling me funny stories of the road trip my grandparents took them all on out west. It really made me even more excited for our upcoming trip.
1. Get your car checked out pre-trip. We usually get an oil change and have everything looked over before embarking. The place that does our oil changes usually does this anyways, regardless if we are going on a trip or not.
2. Join AAA. We are members of AAA for the discount we get on car insurance and also for the free towing in case we need it, which we have called into use three times in the past three years (never on road trips, however). The nice thing about AAA is that you also get free access to maps and travel guides which are nice to have. We usually also get a Trip Tik of our trip so we have some heads up for construction. Last year, I gave Nate a Garmin Nuvi for his birthday. We definitely bring this along on road trips, but sometimes, you need to rely on a good old fashioned map in the event of detours, etc. The Garmin does come in handy for food, restroom and gas stops though.
3. Make sure you have your license, registration, car insurance and AAA cards in your glove compartment. Thankfully, we have never had to summon these documents while on a road trip (knock on wood!) but good to have just in case.
4. Are you going to run into any tolls? Make sure you have change and or case to cover. Luckily, we have an Ipass that works in a lot of states outside of Chicago, IL. We were able to use that on our entire roadtrip to Cleveland last year and most of our trip this year.
5. Plan your driving time with traffic in mind, particularly if you are going to go through any large cities. Given that we depart from Milwaukee, we usually always have to consider Chicago traffic which means we generally try to leave for trips after work during the middle of a week so that traffic is light by the time we get to Chicago. Doing this means that we usually stay in some off the highway hotel the first night and we never reserve this in advance since we don't know how much driving we will feel like doing. This also works well because then we will make it to our destination midday on the second day and actually feel like doing things rather than being tired from spending a whole bunch of time in the car.
6. We generally try to pick a handful of destinations that we want to stay at while road tripping, find and reserve hotels there. Some people would like to be more spontaneous - we are not those people. Using our current trip as an example, we knew we wanted to see Asheville and Charleston and then go to the beach. Myrtle Beach was not our first choice, but it was the closest so we chose that. For hotels, we search Trip Advisor, websites and sometimes have magazine recommendations. We found our hotel in Charleston after it was written up in some Charleston on a Budget article in Southern Living. Generally, we try to pick one "splurge hotel" to stay in and live it up. This trip, I would classify two of the three hotels we are staying in as splurge hotels because we got great deals. Your AAA card will come in handy here too - a TON of hotels offer a AAA discount.
7. As far as planning the days, we're planners, but not to the extreme. Outside of the hotels, we don't really plan any of the days. We have a list of things we would like to see in each place and then see what we feel like doing each day. Since Nate drives most of the time, my "job" is to comb through the guidebooks and make this list.
What to do in the car...
I have perfected things to do in the car. Nate really enjoys driving and I do not so he does the majority of the driving.
1. SNACKS! Pack snacks. My mom always brought Twizzlers along on our road trips as kids and I still get a family bag of that for ours.
2. Ipod with car adapter. Road trips are a great way to catch up on all of those podcasts! It is also fun to create some mixes for the drive which you can sing at the top of your lungs.
3. Hand held solitaire. My own personal vice. Nate bought me the light up version before our first road trip so I can continue to play when it gets dark outside.
4. Travel journal. We started a travel journal on our honeymoon and continue entries in it for all of our trips. The journal is a good idea on road trips because it gives you something to do while riding. And when you can't remember what that goofy billboard in Oklahoma said three years after your trip, you can alwasy refer back to the travel journal. :)
5. Books, magazines. I usually bring 2-3 books along and save my magazines for a while to bring along. I'll also bring my knitting along.
6. State signs. We did this as kids - stop at the sign welcoming you to each state and take a picture. If the sign is located along the highway (thereby preventing you from stopping) we try to take an action shot as we drive by.
7. Sleep - bring a pillow.
8. I did borrow a personal DVD player once. I hardly used it so I no longer bring that.
9. Crossword puzzles. We are big fans and something we can do jointly.