Tire-Tested Road Trip Tips

The impending Memorial Day weekend and extra day(s) off work means many of us—yours included—will be leaving town on short adventures. Mine happens to be a trip to Milwaukee for a wedding shower, but gifts and brunch aside, what I’m looking forward to most (don’t tell the bride) is just the weekend-long female camaraderie—including the actual ride.

road tripThat doesn’t mean it will be smooth sailing though: I’ve punctured a tire on a rural South Dakota road; searched for gas in Nowheresville; lost clear radio contact just an hour in, with all my CDs at home. So naturally, I’ve learned a few things along the way that could help you, too:

Clean your ride. Yes it will get messy again, but start things off right and do an initial cleaning. Then bring a bag to toss trash in as you go—and empty it at pit stops. Anything to avoid that lingering fry smell, so you feel more fresh when you arrive.

Check your route. There’s nothing like a closed highway or major construction to slow you down and suck major momentum out of your carefree mood. Not all delays can be averted, of course, but it’s worth a little advance reconnaissance and possibly planning an alternative path. And by all means, bring a map—an actual map. The Best Invention Ever Made can’t get you out of hills and valleys and lonely roads notorious for bad reception.

Bring entertainment. Electronic options are aplenty of course—just don’t tilt that laptop or iPad toward the driver seat, it’s too tempting. My personal favorite are books on tape. I grew up stretched out in the back of a conversion van, listening to the low, calming voice of Garrison Keillor tell his small town stories—but that’s not for everyone. You can find comedies, dramas, live acts. Half Price Books is a great place for discount buys—though don’t forget your local library is free! Of course, a good “pieceless” car game and Minnesota Music Mix does wonders, too (just please refrain from singing one of those songs). Tip: If you lack a cord to hook your iPod/MP3 player to your car speakers, just bring a bowl to drop it in. Does wonders, I swear.

Set your cruise. I’ll admit it, I have lead foot. Couple that with Minnesotans’ notorious risk-taking driving across our Western border, and it’s better to play it safe. Yes it will take longer, but a speeding ticket will definitely get you down—and possibly kill your trip budget.

Avoid meltdowns—hopefully. Fellow Journeys blogger (and mom) Chrissy Sarinske has some good tips.

Prep for problems. Do you have someone to call if you need road-side assistance? Jumper cables in the car? Phone charger? An extra tire and air pressure gauge? How about a First Aid kit? It’s a verifiable fact that if you prepare all these, chaos won’t come. Right?

Lastly, relax! Travel is rarely 100 percent easy breezy, but it can be a great adventure if you give yourself time, appreciate your company, and enjoy the journey along with the destination.