We may be in the days of Google Maps, cell phones, and Yelp reviews, but that doesn't mean that you can just decide to have an epic road trip and just wing it. To plan a trip that doesn't end up as a reenactment of Lord of the Flies, it's important to realize that even in our digital age, a little foresight, planning, and smart packing can make or break a trip. For future roadies who are looking to embark on a trip that makes for excellent, stress-free memories (as well as a Facebook photo album for the books), I've compiled a few tricks and tips that I've gleaned from my recent trip through the Pacific Northwest with Mommy Wang. Lessons learned, below.
Map It Out — Most likely, the path your road trip takes is guided by your appetite (for food or clothes), and Google Maps makes is super handy to save locations under "My Places" for future viewings (it's especially handy in urban locations, so you know which places are close to one another). However, the iPhone Google Maps app doesn't allow you to access it on your device. To get over this hump, download My Maps, which downloads your saved Google Maps locations onto its own map. It's a little clunky to switch between My Maps and Google Maps, but this feature is worth it, if only to save you those moments where you realized the shop you wanted to visit was where you just were…and now an hour away.
Books On Tape — Because reading in moving vehicles makes you carsick, and not everyone can agree on a station, books on tape are an excellent way to turn long drives into an adventure. Download some salacious novels, or listen to free podcasts for a quick hit of entertainment.
Credit Card Rewards — Check to see if your credit card offers a rewards program and really take advantage of it. For our trip, we used American Express' Membership Rewards program to — within 30 minutes — pre-book our hotels, buy our plane tickets, and even pick up vouchers for car rentals. With just 250,000 points, we were able to book five nights of hotels, buy two round-trip plane tickets, and rent a car that took us 300+ miles. There were even enough points left over to pay for tickets to a movie we would have made if someone didn't take so long eating her polenta.
Avoid Trucker's Tan — Just because you're behind glass doesn't mean that you can't get sunburned. Since you're in an enclosed space, use an unscented sunscreen with at least a SPF 30 so that you don't get inadvertently fried.
Phone Car Charger — If you don't already have one, get one. Between mapping out directions, looking up the lyrics to the latest Usher song, and settling that bet about whether the largest ball of twine is in Minnesota or Kansas, your phone battery is going to get drained. Avoid 3% battery situations with an inexpensive car charger.