Summer has arrived and is in full swing. Students are out of school and people are on the move. Sound like it might be time for a road trip for you? Follow these tips to make your trip the best it can be. It doesn’t matter if you are in the United States or somewhere else, I can guarantee that there is an endless amount of visually-stimulating places that you can visit by automobile. These tips are in no particular order so make sure you read over all of them!

1. Prepare. Prepare. Prepare. “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go astray”. If you haven’t heard this quote, it basically says that no matter how much you plan, you should always expect the unexpected. In order to counter this issue, think worst-case scenario. Plan your route and where you want to make your stops. Just like boaters have float plans and aviators have flight plans, a route plan is essential in order to both keep you on track and to let a trusted friend or family member know where you are going to be at all times. Chances are that you will stray from your original plan somewhat, but at least someone will have a rough idea of where you are should something happen.

2. Getting started. Fuel up as soon as you get on the road. Or, if you are leaving early in the morning, fuel up the evening before. In addition, pack everything in your vehicle the night before as well. Check all fluids in your vehicle and ensure that they are within the manufacturer’s specified levels. Also, check both the condition of your tires as well as the tire pressure in each tire. DO NOT inflate tires to the pressure indicated on the tire. This is simply a number provided by the tire manufacturer and does not take in to account the weight of the vehicle, etc. In either your owner’s manual or on the placard on the bottom side of the driver door or pillar, tire specifications and pressures will be indicated. Correct tire pressure is of the utmost importance. Not only for safe operation of the vehicle, but it will also ensure that you get the best fuel economy possible.

3. Clean as you go. Depending on the type and length of road trip you’re taking, you’ll want to make sure that you keep your vehicle clean – both inside and out. By keeping the vehicle clean inside, you’ll cut down on the amount of clutter making it easier to find things as well as keeping the vehicle more comfortable for yourself and your passengers. Keeping the outside of the vehicle clean also helps to ward off potential criminals. Studies have indicated that vehicles that reflect that if the thief perceives that an owner does not care for his vehicle, the likelihood of being able to break into the vehicle with ease is higher. In short, people who don’t care for their vehicles are more likely to leave their doors unlocked or windows partially open making it a breeze for criminals to steal your valuables. In addition to these tips, make sure that you store all valuables out of sight if you are away from your vehicle.

4. Take cash and backup credit cards. Make sure you bring enough cash for normal expenditures as well as a surplus for emergencies. If you plan on using credit cards, make sure you contact your bank and let them know that you will be traveling and to what areas you will be visiting. This will help avoid any potential problems on the road. Also, make sure you take at least one or two extra credit (or check/debit) cards just in case your primary card/s are lost or stolen. Traveller’s checks are not bad to have, either, but many places are not accepting them any longer due to the excessive amount of fraud involved with using them.

5. Take a GPS and get an atlas of the area you are traveling. Your smart phone may have a GPS or you may have a GPS unit that you take along with you or you may even have one built into your car. Those are great – as long as they work! Loss of signal is the largest contributing factor to GPS units having issues. An atlas will, at the least, help you figure out where you are and get you back to where you need to be should something happen to your GPS unit/s. GPS units don’t typically go bad, but remember Murphy’s Law – if it can go wrong, it probably will..

6. AVOID highways. The whole purpose of a road trip is getting to your destination and getting home. You should NOT be in a hurry. Stopping on a whim to see something you didn’t know was there is the best part about a road trip. All too often, we find that we have an amazing array of options close to us or even within a day’s drive. By taking backroads or just avoiding highways completely, you’ll not only see things you never knew were there, but you’ll be able to take your time, stop when you want to, and keep your stress levels to a minimum! Road trips are, at their core, made to be fun and educational, not stressful!

7. Bring entertainment. I’m a music person. All of my music library (about 15,000 songs) are held in my “vault” of a laptop. Under most circumstances, it isn’t feasible to bring a laptop on a road trip. Enter the era of flash storage and portable music devices. If you have an ‘i’ device or similar, you can take thousands of songs with you on the road as well as other forms of entertainment. My iPhone holds music, videos, as well as tv shows, etc, that I can play through my vehicle’s stereo system. If this is an option for you, take full advantage and load up before you leave!

8. Go on the trip with someone you love, like, or can at least tolerate for hours on end – and share the driving responsibility! Driving for hours every day can take a toll on even the most seasoned drivers. State and federal laws mandate the amount of time that people in driving professions are allowed to be on the road. There’s good statistical data and plain common sense that tells us that we need to rest. This goes hand-in-hand with not using highways. If you’re always waiting for the next exit with gas, food, etc, you may be waiting longer than is safe for you to be behind the wheel.

9. Pack your own food, drinks, and snacks. One of the most expensive parts of a road trip should be the fuel. Most times, it’s not. Stopping for every meal along the route of your road trip can rack up the dollars you’re spending in a hurry. Do some research beforehand and pick out a few local or regional well-rated restaurants or view a few episodes of Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives on the Food Network or you can click over to my other blog, Taste of the Sac to check out some great restaurants along your route. I highly encourage trying at least a few local eats type places as each area, just about anywhere in the world, will have its own blend of distinct cooking styles and flavors authentic to its respective geography.

10. Last, but certainly not least – Have fun!!! Road trips date back as far as individual motorized transportation came into being. The true draw of the road trip is the state of mind that taking one invokes. The attitude of not being in a hurry to get to any one point in a specified amount of time is liberating and highly relaxing. All too often, we are faced with deadlines or in a hurry to get something done or to get somewhere by a certain time. A road trip releases us from the daily clutches of our lives and allows us the freedom to do what we want when we want. We often find that we drive right past some amazing things every day. Slow down and look around. You’ll be amazed what you see.