5 Road Trip Tips: What You Need to Know

Road Trip
Road Trip

The path to road trip success.

As the school year draws to a close and summer gets closer, many of us start panning road trips. To make sure that your upcoming road trip is not an epic fail, be sure to keep these tips in mind:

Check your route in advance

So many of us rely on navigation systems that we don’t research routes in advance. You want to see what’s along the road; for example, if you are passing Yankee Stadium and there’s an afternoon game, you might want to take an alternate route. Last year, I was headed to a destination wedding and when I was getting my hair done, told my stylist about my plans. He knew that the Pocono Raceway had a huge track event that weekend and if we’d taken that route, we would have sat in bumper to bumper traffic for hours. Those “Point of Interest” icons are your friend; use them to see what colleges, sports arenas and other potential traffic causing attractions are nearby.

Don’t pay extra for the nav system

If you are renting a car, there is usually a more expensive option that includes a navigation system. If you have a smart phone, you can dispense with this; rather than enduring the learning curve (yours, and with a voice-activated nav system, their’s) you can just use Google maps on your phone. Bonus: you can pre-program your stops if you use your own device.

Road Trip

Navigating a Germany road trip. Photo: Terri Marshall for AGirlsGuidetoCars.

Be mindful of the time change!

We drove from Chicago to Indiana, and I had a 3:30pm appointment. I was either 3 minutes early or 57 minutes late and – guess what? I was late. I totally forgot that in the middle of Indiana, the time zone switches from Central to Eastern. So if you have somewhere to be, make sure that time zone doesn’t mess you up.

Bring your toll pass

We have an EZ Pass in New York, which is good in the tri-state region, and all the way up to Massachusetts. In Chicago, the toll road accepts EZ Pass, and since we didn’t have ours, we had to go the much longer cash lane. I found out that the wet, crumpled bills my husband stuffs in his pockets don’t feed into the toll machines very well, and lanes weren’t marked to indicate which were manned and which were automatic. To be on the safe side, bring your pass – and plenty of cash for tolls that don’t accept passes or credit cards!

Remember the vegetarian in the car

Anyone with a special diet – celiac, vegan, low salt, low sugar – should make sure to have plenty of snacks. On our recent round trip drive, Chicago to Cincinnati, even our fallbacks failed us: the Subway restaurants and Starbucks en route had no vegetarian options. Remember, a hungry driver or passenger is not a happy companion.

Have an epic road trip fail or fun story to share? Tell us in the comments below.

Judy Antell, who is TravelingMom.com's Free in 50 States editor, lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn, with her husband and... More about Judy Antell