About the Post

Author Information

Tania is currently the Founder & Editor-in-Chief of The Hudsucker, and Senior Editor at the Nashville, Tennessee based PopCulture.com. With past writing and editing credits with Womanista, Quietly, the International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF) and NBC Newsvine, she is currently a member of Indianapolis based, Society of Professional Journalists — one of the oldest organizations in the U.S. that promotes and represents journalists. She is an avid Indianapolis Colts, Elvis Presley and baseball fan as well as a lover of pancakes and fine cheeses, film, and music. Tania is a Hoosier at heart with a passionate wanderlust for always traveling and giving back to those in her community. She is currently studying at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. Follow Tania on Twitter: @westlifebunny.

Life is an Open Road: Essential Tips for Road Trippers

{Image Credit: Tania Hussain}

I love to travel. It is one of my favorite priorities in the world for not only is it the key to enjoying pleasurable adventure, but forms an important part of one’s education and personal growth. Travel is a ‘teacher’. There’s much mental richness in traveling. For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved visiting new places and experiencing the charm, color and culture of small towns and big cities. Through my journeys, I’ve learned how travel is a powerful tool for personal development and enhancing connectivity to people and the cultural diversity. Travel teaches one patience, time management, appreciation, adaptation, acceptance, understanding and spontaneity in life.

While every mode of travel has its unique charm, road tripping can be a pleasurable experience as you drive through villages, towns and cities. For starters road travel puts you in command of effective time utilization and provides an exhilarating sense of freedom on the open road. As well, the resultant effect of road travel tends to work on our sensory and perceptive senses to lessen stress. Today more people in North America travel by road due to unforeseen delays in air travel. The lure of the road is undeniable and probably in our genes.

There’s nothing more exciting and rejuvenating to our spirit than getting into the car with your best friends, family or even pets, heading out together on fun adventures! There have been countless films over the years celebrating the culture of road trips—some good, some bad, but all setting their sights on the mystery and excitement of the open road. Now road trips are as American as apple pie, and traveling by car has long been an institution, remaining a classic pastime for many. Despite increasing gas prices, road trips aren’t something that will go out of style anytime soon because there’s no better way to experience a place than from behind the wheel and comfort of your car. Driving through states or provinces isn’t just a romantic journey through the countryside, but an indescribable thrill that beckons a thirst for life with an equally rewarding experience.

As the weather gets warmer and summer peaks soon on the horizon, many will be getting into their cars this sunny season! Before you get behind the wheel of your car and out of the driveway, here are some tips to maintain the romance of road tripping while minimizing the rigors of the road:

What’s Your Budget?

{Image Credit: Fotolia}

Let’s be honest. Worrying about money can be stressful when you’re out on a trip. It’s important to keep in mind how much money you’re going to keep aside for traveling so it’s important to keep note of how much cash you want to keep and if your credit cards are up to date. When planning, keep money aside not just for food but lodging and admission fees for attractions. A great tip for saving money while road tripping is to check out your destination’s travel board website. They are constantly updating with not just events taking place in the city, but sharing tips on where to head if you’re budget conscious. Sometimes the sites and their social networks like Twitter or Facebook even offer discounts and coupons for travelers. Keep an eye out for free events taking place too, along with any roadside attractions that may catch your eye! That being said, don’t forget to consider the costs of any tollways—and if you’re crossing the border, don’t forget your passport and the proper currency.

Food can be tricky to budget accordingly, but set price limits for yourself if dining in restaurants or allow yourself a total daily food budget to ease your financial worries. Don’t forget to set a contingency for anything like emergencies, car trouble, souvenirs or even stumbling upon a new found sight. The last thing you want is wondering who to call collect and have wire you money if your car breaks down.

Research Your Destination:

Pack lightly and neatly. It’ll be easier to find exactly what you’re looking for. {Image Credit: Andrew McCaul}

Wherever you decide to go, research it. It’s important to get a good grasp of where you’re heading and what would interest you upon your travels. If you are eager and spend more time planning your trip, you will find that you will get more out of it once on the road. With researching, you’ll be able to experience your trip exactly like one of the locals and take advantage of all the fun without feeling like an outsider.

While researching for your trip, be sure to check out what the weather is like too as you definitely want to keep that in mind when packing. One of my favorite things to do is check out what events are taking place at a potential destination during the month of travel. I want to be able to have fun and get the most out of my time while finding myself. As sights and attractions are a big deal when driving cross-country, you want to be able to see the very best. Roadside America is a great site to help you find those one-of-a-kind and quirky destinations! Sure some of them are odd like Tiny World, a miniature town for cats in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, but they are nonetheless fun(ny) and make for an interesting trip either alone or with friends.

Food is important to research, especially if you’d like the local experience and want to take a break from fast food. Two great sites to help you find the best small town eats on your map comes care of Road Food, a useful tool for helping you find regional meals along the highways; and a featured eateries locator for the Food Network show, Diners, Drive-Ins and DivesIf you’re in a pinch, find the whereabouts of the nearest grocery store to your hotel. Not only will you find healthier food options, but you’ll be saving money too.

Booking Accommodations Well In Advance:

Road trips can be exhausting so it’s important to make lodging reservations as soon as possible. Especially if you’re heading out during a busy season—let’s say, Indianapolis in May. Keep in mind the events held in the city, like the famed Indy 500. Do you want to just show up at a hotel and demand a room? No. Driving down to the city and then realizing you can’t get a room isn’t just frustrating, it’s downright stupid. You’re going to want to well in advance book your room at the hotel of your choice. During vacation season’s prime, hotels, motels and even campgrounds fill up very quickly in the hub of tourist zones, with some even selling out months ahead.

Planning and Writing Up Your Itinerary:

Not everyone does this, but it is a great way to time yourself and take advantage of everything you want to see in the amount of time you have available. You may want to impulsively hit the open road some days while blasting Lana Del Rey or Creedence Clearwater Revival and not care where you end up, but all journeys need a destination. You need to be able to identify why this trip is necessary to take in the first place. It’s vital to figure out the allotted time you have for traveling and where you want to go with it. Some road trippers make the mistake of driving off too far in a short amount of time, which is why picking a destination according to time is essential. Be sure to map out the potential mileage of your planned route and consider the time you have.

{Image Credit: Martin Leigh/Getty Images}

In addition, figuring out the fastest route from home to your personal oasis won’t always be the best way to see the unseen. The whole point of road tripping is to set yourself free and see foreign sights and attractions. Driving through those out-of-the-way-attractions or even through lone countrysides can be fun and thrilling, so don’t be overly ambitious with your drive and not get out every once in a while. With that in mind, always make sure you double-check your route and occasionally deviate to some of the sights you find interesting. Manual maps may help, but a GPS is ideal, especially since it’s hard to maneuver a paper map while driving. Whether it’s a handheld or automotive GPS, or even an app via your phone, do update them every time you take a major trip.

Shop Locally:

One of the best parts of traveling is the shopping and dining! As someone who appreciates a good find and yummy food, I’m always keen on local stores and the regional cuisine that I might not get back home. It’s all about the experience, and again, you want to get the most out of your trip and that means authenticity.

A pretty and vibrant Main Street in the Midwest. {Image Credit: Panoramio/Urbanitas}

A great place to start for your shopping and dining needs is traveling down to the city centers or Main Streets. While the city centers are always hustling and bustling, some of the Main Streets may look like strip plazas out of No Country for Old Men. That being said, I can assure you they are perfectly lovely little gems, harboring the warmest of people, along with work and art from locals—not to mention, carry the most perfect one-of-a-kind souvenirs! And not only will you find sweet items for keepsakes from your travels, but you’ll be supporting the communities in the towns you visit and some areas definitely rely on tourism for flourishing economies. In any understanding of local businesses, those that are hired usually have a better understanding of the products they’re selling, while taking more time to get to know the customer. Isn’t that an experience you want? A lot of towns and cities rely on their one-of-a-kind businesses for showcasing a distinct and unique character to tourists, so wherever you end up shopping, eating and having fun, it makes it a stronger and more wealthier community—and that’s a win-win for all!

Get Your Car Cleaned and Serviced:

Do you still have napkins in your car from ordering at Wendy’s? Okay, well now it’s time to clean out the car. Before hitting the road on your trip, you’re going to want to create a nice atmosphere and that means, emptying out the unnecessary receipts, change, and wrappers under the seats. If your car is dirty while driving, you’re not going to feel good, especially for long hours in close quarters. If possible, vacuum your car and give it a nice car wash too!

Before heading out, be sure to service your car. There’s nothing worse than starting out that well-planned and much anticipated drive, only to have your car break down in more ways than one. It could be the engine, or the A/C stops working, or you hear a funny, creaky noise coming from the left side. Or was it right side? This has happened to a lot of people and you can lose days being stuck in a small town, or worse—the boonies! Be sure to get your car looked at well in advance by booking an oil change, plus safety checks on the battery, brakes and brake lights, air filters, windshield wipers, fluid levels, tire tread and pressure, and anything else you feel would be necessary.

If you’re a big road tripper like me, consider becoming a member of AAA or CAA. With these roadside assistance programs, you will get access to automotive roadside aid that includes 24/7 assistance, along with battery assist. Some of the perks of membership include discounts at hotels, free travel guides, and discounted attraction tickets too.

Get The Right Music:

{Image Credit: Business Wire/Getty Images}

Music has always been a big deal for me while driving cross-country. Getting the right tunes for your road trip is a good way to set you in the mood and help you reach your destination. Since music is a useful tool in aiding our psyche, it’s important to get tunes that really connect with you while commencing such a long journey. Picking out carefully-selected tunes will help your trip go smoothly. The last thing you want is to hear something you don’t like, or pointless banter by the Radio DJ about that one time he met someone famous but they just turned out to be an impersonator. One of my favorite things to do is create a road trip CD or iPod playlist that beams of your destination. You want to be able to set a mood because that’s what’s going to get you there safely. Another great musical addition to have is a satellite radio subscription. With hundreds of channels to cater your needs, it’s a gem. I can’t go anywhere without my Sirius XM! And the best part, you don’t need to switch over to FM/AM because SiriusXM features traffic and weather for more than 100 cities.

* * * * *

With everything mentioned, some useful tips to keep in mind are to always have your vehicle registration papers on hand and any documents necessary for travel. You never know when you’re going to need them, so keep them in a safe spot. If you get backed up in traffic on the interstate, make sure your cellphone is 100% charged. The last thing you’d want is burning fuel on half a tank and ending up not making it to the next town without a charged cellphone to reach roadside assistance. If you’re traveling with friends or family, take turns driving if you’re feeling cramped up; and always, always allocate time for traffic.

As you ready yourself for the road, there are so many tools and apps out there for helping organize your trip like TripAdvisor and TripIt, but a notable mention goes to RoadTrippers—the first of its kind to be devoted strictly to the glory of road tripping. Since its inception in 2012, the web app has been creating quite a buzz online with road trip enthusiasts. RoadTrippers is a neat tool available for free online and as an app for iPhone and Android devices. Unlike Bing or Google Maps where you can’t really find attractions or nearby eateries, RoadTrippers takes you on the adventurous route! Not only do they provide guides for you, ways to plan your trip, and find the best lodging and attractions in North America from Route A to B; but RoadTrippers can also help you with your total budget costs. Budgeting is important and something to pay attention to. With the help of RoadTrippers, you can be economically savvy too with the gas-tracking feature. It’s incredibly accurate too and one of my favorite features. A very cool example is if I were to take a trip from my current destination to say, South Bend in Indiana, I would roughly need $82 for gas on 475 miles—a trip that will take 7 hours and 23 minutes on 23 MPG. Helpful, right? Once you set a route, you can add up to 28 destinations and print out a concise and clear version of your itinerary.

{Image Credit: Derek Jensen/Wikipedia}

What I love most about traveling with my car is that it reminds me who I am—the kind of person I want to be or evolve into. It reminds me of my passions, my loves, things I want in life. I love the feeling of driving into a new state or province, seeing that welcome board while driving into a piece of the city’s culture, and wondering about the people and where they live. I have learned to become patient through driving and allowing my life to flow more organically as there are certainly things I can’t control, like traffic or bad weather. Most importantly, I’ve found that road tripping has given me a quick look at myself while inviting the opportunity to face my fears of the unknown. I’ve been able to really understand myself and open my heart to new experiences and I’m thankful for my car because of that. The world is much more fun with people of varying interests and beliefsSo get on out there and embark on a new adventure! Traveling is an experience, and not being able to get out and see the world is by far the worst punishment imaginable. As Rumi best put it hundreds of years ago, “Travel brings power and love back into your life,” and who wouldn’t want that?

Connect with Tania Hussain on Twitter and Google+!

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  1. Life is an Open Road: Essential Tips for Road Trippers | westlifebunny - April 22, 2014

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