Road trip tips

Today I celebrated that I’ll be doing a repeat of my California road trip, this time to move one of my little sisters into her dream college!

Instead of my friend and me in a car this time I’ll have my mom and two little sisters, as well as a whole dorm room of stuff, in the car. Given that I recently undertook this same journey just for kicks, I’ve been tasked with organizing things. Hibby and I learned some pretty great lessons when we celebrated our spring break with our California road trip, so I figured why not share them for all the other future roadtrippers out there?

1. The Crate.
Hibby and I had a blue milk crate buckled into the seat behind the driver. The Crate held our snacks, first aid kit, water bottles, deodorant, wipes, bug spray, flashlights, hygiene stuff, etc. This was a great way to keep all our chaos contained but within reach. It also meant that when we made camp for the night or checked into a hotel we just had to carry our backpacks and the crate out of the car.

2. Keep everything in the crate, in the trunk, or out of sight.
When we were parking in cities like L.A. and San Francisco Hibby and I had great peace of mind knowing the crate was the only thing visible in the car. There was nothing in the car that people would see and think was worth stealing. While this may seem like overkill (Literally nothing in the car – maps, jackets, etc. everything was in the crate or put away) it’s great to know in the back of your mind that your car is a little more secure. This also forced us to maintain a level of organization throughout the trip. This isn’t necessary for everyone, but since we had some nice camping gear we’d borrowed we wanted to keep it as safe as possible.

3. Air freshener/car scentsy/ something that smells good.
Hibby and I were lucky because we could spread out driving out over nine days, and air the car out in between our drives. If you’re in the car for a long haul things start to smell a bit funky, even if you shower every day. Get something that all passengers like the smell of to cover the smell of people when you aren’t able to air the car out.

4. Paper maps.
We got ours from AAA. On backroads or in small towns your GPS won’t work and your phone won’t always have service. If your road trip takes you into some less populated areas you’ll probably use this at some point. It can also be nice to get a nice big look at your surrounding area since phone screens can only show you so much.

5. Google maps (or whatever your map app of choice is) and saved locations.
To save data Hibby and I would pin locations we wanted to stop at on a specific map, then download it so we could access it off-line. This is a great way to save data and battery power and also means you don’t have to carry a map around in bigger cities because the downloaded map saves the surrounding area for each pin.

6. Assign each roadtripper a job.
For Hibby and I, this meant that one of us was better at dishes and setting up the inside of the tent (Hibby) and one of us was better at packing the car and cooking (me). The passenger was always in charge of checking how charged our phones were, plugging them in when they got low, making sure data was turned on or off, and responding to text messages of phone calls if we got any. For another road trip, you might have one person in charge of filling all the water bottles in the crate before it goes back in the car, one person in charge of emptying the garbage at each pit stop, etc. Figure out what needs to be done on your trip and assign jobs accordingly.

7. Slush money envelope.
Hibby and I didn’t do this since there were only two of us. We just alternated who paid for what. The slush money envelope is the home for whatever predetermined monetary amount each member of the trip contributes for things like gas, ice, parking structures, etc. If you have a large group and you’re worried about keeping track of who’s spending more or less, or you’d just like to save time by not having the “who pays for this now”  conversation every time you buy something, this is the way to do it.

8. There are websites out there to tell you where the nearest rest stop is.
Pre-planning where you stop might be a bit much, but I liked that I could check where the nearest rest stop was whenever one of us needed to use the bathroom. Hibby and I could then decide whether we wanted to wait until we made it to the stop or pay for something at a gas station to use their bathroom.

9. Bring CDs.
Online options like Spotify or Pandora only work where there’s services, and even if you pay for off-line play you don’t always want to want to waste your phone battery on music. Spend some of your planning time burning CDs with your own playlists on them or have each road trip member contribute a CD or two.

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