According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), more than one-third of Americans planned vacations for 2017. Road trips account for nearly 80 percent of those vacations, wrote Julie Hall, manager of public relations at AAA, in a press release.
If you’re one of the Americans who plans to pack up the family and hit the open road this summer, use these tips to ride in style. This list will help you stay organized, keep your car clean, and maybe even save you some money. Enjoy the dusty trail!
1. DIY Phone Holder
There’s nothing worse than fumbling for your phone when you’re lost in a new city. Without the phone, you don’t get directions. Without directions, you stay lost.
You shouldn’t ever fiddle with your phone while you’re driving, but if you don’t have a co-pilot to navigate for you, setting your phone in a holder so it’s easily visible is the safest option. Just make sure to pull over before you type in your destination.
What’s that you say? You don’t have a phone holder handy? Make your own with nothing but a soft grip binder clip and some rubber bands.
First, use pliers to bend the ends of the binder clip inwards—this creates a lip to secure your phone. Wrap two rubber bands around the outside of the binder arms to hold them tightly together. Finally, place the clip onto one of the vents in your car, using the binder arms to grip the edges of the vent. Choose a vent that’s in your direct line of vision—remember, eyes on the road. Once the clip is set, push your phone between the binder clip arms. Now your phone is in a safe, visible spot, keeping your hands free while you drive.
2. Get Your Charge On
It seems like everyone relies on electronic devices for music or navigation during long drives. When you’re on a trip with multiple people, this can lead to fights over the charger. Get a multi-port charger and never escort your passengers into a dead-battery wasteland again.
These products can reach all the way to the back seat, and they give everyone in the car their own personal charging spot. Forget about playing rock, paper, scissors, and get plugged in.
3. The Clean Bathroom Bat Signal
It’s hard to find a clean restroom on a road trip. After a few of those dirty gas station pit stops, in which you have to carry a key attached to a brick to a dimly lit door in the back, you start to think you’ll never experience a nice bathroom again. Thanks to this app, though, you will.
SitORSquat is your phone’s first bathroom-finder (at least, it’s the first one we’ve heard about). Not only does it direct you to the nearest restroom, it rates them according to cleanliness: green for “sit” and red for “squat.” How was this not the first app ever invented?
4. Gas Up For Less
Another road-trip must-have app is called GasBuddy. This app will tell you the best gas prices near you, whether you’re in the U.S. or Canada. You can search for stations by distance or by price. Heck, you can even enter to win $100 of free gas every day. With more than 60 million users constantly sharing information, you really do get the best deal.
5. Munch on the Go
One of the best parts of a road trip is eating at interesting restaurants along the way. Someday, we’re going to take a road trip for the sole purpose of trying out roadside greasy spoons.
Until then, though, we might have to rely on fast food. When you don’t have time for a sit-down meal, drive-throughs are the next best option. But be careful; you don’t want to drop your meal or drink in the car.
Plastic shower or cleaning caddies are perfect meal holders for eating on the go. Burgers, drinks, and small sides fit snugly in the compartments, plus the handles make them easy to pass to backseat passengers.
6. Get Organized
Before setting off on a long trip, pack all of your essential items into one, easy-to-reach location. This is especially helpful when traveling with younger children. You don’t want to pull over every time the little one needs a particular book or toy.
Over-the-door shoe organizers keep road trip items organized and easy to reach, at least for the backseat passengers. Hang them from front seat headrests, and anyone in the back seat can grab what they need, when they need it, without bothering the driver.
7. Stay Hydrated
We all know it’s important to drink water during long drives, but it might be even more important than you think. A 2015 study from the journal Physiology & Behavior found that dehydrated drivers made as many mistakes behind the wheel as people who drove under the influence. It’s not like the drivers hadn’t had any water in two days; they were only “mildly” dehydrated. This study suggests that even a small thirst can have a big impact on road safety.
It’s not like the drivers hadn’t had any water in two days; they were only “mildly” dehydrated. This study suggests that even a small thirst can have a big impact on road safety.
So that’s our soapbox. Drink water on road trips. Instead of purchasing expensive bottled water, though, invest in a reusable bottle and refill it at each stop. This will help you save money without risking the perils of dehydrated driving.
If you prefer chilled water, just fill a bottle halfway with water and lay it flat in a freezer overnight. In the morning, you’ll have instant ice-water (just add water). At least, you will until the ice melts.
8. Pack An Emergency Kit
It’s not fun to worry about all the bad things that could go wrong during a trip, but it’s important to be prepared. Stay prepared by stocking an emergency and keeping it in your trunk all the time. At the minimum, your emergency kit should include flares, jumper cables, motor oil, a flashlight, and some water.
If you travel long distances frequently, AAA is another good investment. The American Automobile Association offers its members 24-hour, 7-day-per-week roadside assistance. Even if you never really need it (which we hope you don’t), just knowing you’re covered can relieve a lot of stress.
9. Drop A Pin
Your phone offers a great way to save all the best spots you discover on a trip. You could use a notes app and write down each place you visit, but there is an easier way.
Most navigation apps offer this feature, but we’ve only tried it with Google Maps. Just open the app and drop a pin where you find an amazing restaurant or a beautiful scenic look-out. This will save the spot forever, so next time you can find it, no problem. Pro tip: Dropping a pin is also helpful for remembering where you parked your car in a new city.