Summertime is right at the doorstep – the time for cottages, camping and road trips. We love road trips, maybe more than the average couple. From sleeping in the car in Germany, or scooting from Chiang Mai to Pai in Thailand, no matter where we go we try to get a road trip or two in the itinerary… we’re almost always planning a road trip. We’ve been on so many it’s hard to keep track. There was our spontaneous road trip to New Brunswick for a long weekend and then there was the time we took our rental car from southern Spain to the northern city of Pamplona. With all this booting around in a car over the years, we’ve learned many road trip tips and want to share the knowledge we’ve gained. You can also head over to our tips for a long weekend road trip if you’re looking for some more tips for an even quicker trip!
11 Great Tips For Planning A Road Trip
Here are some of our tips for things to bring as well as other travel hacks for planning a road trip to make it a cheaper, easier and less stressful trip!
1. Download Sit or Squat and Gas Buddy
These days it seems like hundreds of apps come out a day. We’ve found two that might be useful on the road trips you take this summer depending on where you’re travelling. If you’re the type of person who needs a clean washroom or else you won’t go, or at the very least just want to be prepared for what you’re getting yourself into, Sit or Squat is going to be your best friend. Sit or Squat allows users to add toilets anywhere and lets you know if you can “sit” (the washroom is clean) or “squat” (the washroom isn’t clean).
Gas Buddy is another useful app this time providing a list of the gas prices around you. By knowing your location, Gas Buddy is a key road trip travel hack that will save you money (even up to 20 cents per gallon) by showing the cheapest gas near you. Users can also collect points by submitting gas prices themselves.
2. Use a Car Charger Adapter That Will Even Charge Your Computer
An inverter converts car battery power to household electricity so you can charge your electronics without a car charger. Bringing a power inverter is always a great idea and is probably the number one road trip hack that we follow, only because we bring our laptops with us everywhere we go. But it doesn’t stop at laptops, a travel power inverter can power almost anything, from camera batteries to powered coolers for your food and drink, there are a ton of useful items you can bring if you have something to power them up with.
No matter what inverter you decide to go with, make sure to choose the right voltage and wattage for your products. If you don’t pick the proper voltage for your electronics, you can cause big issues.
3. Portable Charger
Yes, we just told you how important an inverter is to have in the car to charge your electronics, but what about those times you are away from the car exploring? Or when you don’t have the car running? Or the car battery has died? For this reason, we never travel without a portable charger, no matter where we go or what our mode of transportation is. GPS on your cell phone and the ability to make emergency calls or look up information while on the road can be essential. Gone are the days when road maps and pay phones were found at the side of the road or at rest stops. Now, having functional electronic gear can be the difference between being lost for hours in unsafe conditions and enjoying a stress-free trip on four wheels.
Our portable charger of preference is ReelJuice 5X Portable Power Bank by Lynktec. Sturdy and reliable, it can charge your device 5 times – that’s enough power to last you for 2 days of charging! We also have cords aplenty to tangle when we travel so the retractable cord on this power bank is something we have appreciated on the go. The other thing we love about taking this with us, especially on a road trip, is the ability to charge both the power bank AND our cell phone at the same time with the pass-through charging option so we don’t have to worry about waiting for one item to charge before we can charge the next. This power bank combined with an inverter means we’re set for all our electronic needs on the road!
4. Use Google Maps Offline
We use Google Maps everywhere we go, no matter where we go and no matter how we travel. Google Maps works in almost any country and is usually accurate while working offline. This makes it an amazingly handy tool to have bring on a road trip as it is basically the new age of a paper road map. As long as you’ve got a charge, you can open the app and navigate to your destination. The icon identifying where you are can be used as a compass of sorts and will even move with you as you go.
The other great feature we use constantly is the starred location feature. When you do have data, like when you are planning a road trip route at home or have stopped somewhere with WiFi, you can find a location or point of interest on the map and star it. That way, when you are offline again or, as was our case once in Thailand, in the middle of nowhere and without a signal, you can still see the star on the map and find your way there.
5. Need A Mattress? Try An Inflatable Pool Raft
Sometimes on long road trips we like to take turns driving while the other one sleeps. At home (in Toronto) we have an SUV and by laying the back seat down we have a so called bed, you can lay down some blankets so it doesn’t feel so hard, but we like to take a pool raft to lay down to make it a bit more comfortable. An air mattress would probably do the trick as well, but a pool raft is quickly blown up, deflates to a smaller size, and can be re-purposed as, wait for it, an actual raft if your destination involves water. This may sound like a strange road trip tip but it can make all the difference!
6. Grab an Adapter That Plays Through Your Radio.
Nothing makes a road trip great than a great road trip soundtrack. Creating that soundtrack from the constantly fading in and fading out radio stations as you drive however, is not so great. Instead, getting an adapter allows you to just download songs on your phone (or stream if you have data and a good connection) then plug and play. Radio adaptors are a savior on road trips, the further you drive from cities, the more you’ll have to change those radio stations & avoid static.
We’ve mentioned having your own personal soundtrack as one of the reasons to take a road trip in Europe but having some great music in the car really does enhance the experience. Music is also a great provoker of memory and associating the songs to the memories you are making will create a lasting connection.
An adapter like iClever Wireless FM Transmitter, will not only play your music through your phone, it will also keep your phone charged so you’re not draining your battery in the process!
7. Already Paid For Parking? Sleep in the Parking Garage in the Car!
In larger cities, you’ll often find underground parking or parking garages the norm. If you’ve already parked in one to explore the city, you’ve just given yourself an amazing accommodation opportunity – Pull out that inflatable pool raft and enjoy the extra security of the parking garage and a night’s stay already paid for.
We ended up in Heidelberg at one point during our Germany road trip. We had detoured because we wanted to check out a castle in town but we had no plan on where to stay. We parked our car close to the castle and spent the day walking around the castle and town. We loved Heidelberg so much we ended up exploring a lot longer than we expected… until 10 pm. After searching for places to stay we realized that the available hotel rooms in the area were out of our budget, so we decided to stay in the car in the parking garage that night since we had already paid most of the 14 euros it would cost us for 24 hours. We put down the back seat (in the Volvo) and used the trunk cover to block the remaining light from our eyes and had an amazing night’s sleep believe it or not!
We should note that since we were in Europe, we were not able to bring our trusty inflatable pool raft and STILL managed to get comfortable.
8. Avoid Conflict. Use Apps like Venmo to Split the Cost of Gas & Food.
Going on a road trip with others can cause some awkward moments when it comes time to gas up or pay for other expenses. There’s the “oh I’ve got this one” and the “I’ll grab the next one” then there’s the “well you paid for the last one and it was twice this bill… so I guess I’ll grab this and the next”. No one means to forget to pay someone back for covering a cost or end up paying a lesser share of the total cost, but it happens. No one in the car may mean to short the other but it’s not uncommon when trying to cover costs of travel between two or more people. It can leave everyone feeling a bit uncertain of their place on the financial side of the trip… but it doesn’t have to.
If you think you are able to keep an accurate tally of the costs, or all the receipts, you can simply designate one person to pay all the expenses, divide the final tally by the number of people on the trip and get a per-person amount to be paid back. If you’re looking for a bit less hassle, you may just want to download Venmo.
The app Venmo allows you to split costs with ease without having that awkward moment of asking for money. While there is still one person who foots the initial bill, gas, restaurant bills, and the like can be split and paid back on the spot through the app.
Note: The transfers are NOT instant so there will be a delay and you’ll want to make sure you’ve set up your account and all is functioning before you hit the road to avoid any problems.
9. USB Charger
If you haven’t noticed it yet, we’re all about power. When you’re on the go with electronics it is a must have. Nowadays very few people don’t carry at least a cell phone with them, and like we mentioned before, it can be very important to have functioning electronics on certain road trip routes. Added to that is the inability to use the apps we’ve mentioned, and have yet to discuss, should you run out of juice while on the road.
When you’re on a road trip with multiple people you might need multiple USB chargers so everyone can charge their phones and tablets, because let’s be honest, we may highlight the importance of having a device charged for safety reasons but most people don’t want to go without a working cell phone or tablet. Whether you go for a car inverter or not, having a USB charger that powers everyone’s electronics Anker 40W 5-Port USB Car Charger can be a great tool that keeps the peace in the vehicle and allows for a smoother ride.
10. Know The Rules of the Road.
This may sound unnecessary but we can’t tell you how many times we’ve heard stories about tickets received or errors made while driving in a different province, state, or country. A huge part of planning a road trip should involve figuring out what you need to know if you’re driving in a new province, state or country. Whenever we rent a car in a foreign country, aside from searching for rules online, we now ask the car rental company if there are any rules that we should know about. They are a great resource for information as they will have heard the mistakes that other renters make on a regular basis.
You don’t want to come home and, a few weeks later, receive a large traffic violation in the mail. Trust us, it’s what happened to us in Germany. While coming off the autobahn we didn’t slow down enough and didn’t know that every off ramp has speed cameras. We might have known if we asked the car rental company about any tips to know or common mistakes made. When we rented in Spain, we asked about the rules and were given a lot of great information about traffic violations, typical mistakes and even information on highway names and numbers to avoid accidentally taking a toll route.
11. Look On Instagram (Follow us! @OneModernCouple)
Instagram is a fantastic way to find restaurants, attractions and accommodations in any place. Just punch in the hashtags for that specific city, town or country and watch the magic happen. Instagram is a great travel hack we use pretty much everywhere we go. We’ve even made many friends by finding fellow travellers in the area. We met another blogging couple in Taipei Taiwan and they took us on a hike to a place called Teapot Mountain, someplace we would have never known about it if we weren’t on Instagram.
Are you a foodie? We also have a food Instagram account – @OMCeats – come join us there too and find some great suggestions for where to eat!!