I’ll show you travel hacks for a road trip that has the potential to make travel a breeze.
If you were to ask me 10 years ago, whether I found travel hacks useful, I wouldn’t know what to say. It’s because I didn’t know any.
This time I am going to share with you travel hacks that I have found and gathered over the years. They will be mostly focused on travels that revolve around car trips.
Best travel hacks for a road trip that made my life 99% easier
Now that I have brushed up on my knowledge on how much simple tricks can change comfort, I haven’t been lazy with implementing some of the road trip hacks I am going to introduce you to.
This is a thorough article that took me weeks to write, so if you enjoyed it, consider sharing it on social media. It helps more than you’d think.
#1 – Use Fly vs Drive website
Before embarking on a long journey, I’d advise making sure that you know the costs of driving by car vs flying by plane.
Depending on your destination, planes may be cheaper.
However, that is not always the case. Just like Forbes says, you have to take into consideration hotel stops. On top of that, the biggest price change comes from how many people come with you.
If there are more than 3 people, it might be cheaper with a car.
I personally use the FlyvsDrive website.
It takes into consideration the number of travelers, the cheapest airfare price, extra costs, gas price, fuel efficiency, the time factor, and much more.
#2 – Download an Offline Map
Google Maps is amazing.
Although it is scary to see the monopoly they have nowadays, I can’t deny the fact that they have style:
Being practical and free.
Google Maps have received numerous updates over the years that have made my life that much easier.
One of the updates was the ability to download an offline map.
On your phone’s Google Maps app, type in ‘ok map’ to get an option to choose the area you want to download.
Depending on the size you choose, the megabytes will be lower or higher. So make sure you have enough space, as some reach gigabytes even.
#3 – Take motion sickness medicine beforehand
Although you can use ginger roots that have medicinal effects, I prefer to take official medication (it’s best you choose it for yourself).
Why I might need it, you ask?
You might not. It depends on whether you are behind the wheel or not. If you are not, then you probably are going to check your phone, read books, watch movies, and whatnot.
That creates motion sickness for most of us.
I’ve been there many times where I want to read a book or check the news in peace, and then I get this killer headache that makes me wish I was anywhere but in a car.
It is because our inner ear doesn’t align with the shakiness that our eyes see. That makes our bodies think that something is wrong, and it tries to make you puke so you throw up the poison.
Our mind is quite extraordinary in that way.
Nevertheless, it doesn’t hurt to be extra ready for situations like this. You’ll thank me when the time comes.
#4 – Make your own seatbelt pillow
Apart from providing protection, a seatbelt conveniently runs past our necks, which makes seatbelt pillows a reality.
You can make or take your own pillow to put there. Just make sure that it is not too thin and not too thick.
Otherwise, you’ll have difficulties with positioning pillows around the seatbelt.
Another option is to go with the paid option.
There are some great travel pillows, as well as seatbelt pillows (more towards kids).
Seatbelt pillows allow you to have more space behind the neck, but neck pillows let you rest your head on both sides.
I prefer certain neck pillows, but both options may do their job.
Here is what I use often for car travels:
#5 – Take snacks you haven’t tasted before
Whether you are with kids, teens, or adults, everybody likes some tasty food.
By getting something new, it creates another memory from the road trip. Tastebud memories are very strong and they can bring enormous nostalgia when you think about them.
What I usually do is, go to the nuts category, as well as the sweets category, and then search for something that my eyes haven’t seen.
In terms of health, you can go with whatever you want, but it’s ok to try sweets, as long as the consumption is in moderation.
#6 – Buy a personal fridge
Fridges come in all shapes and sizes, so they’ll fit in your car like a glove.
I’ve taken them almost exclusively because I really truly enjoy cold drinks in a heat of the day.
I drive quite a lot, and I prefer to set climate control cool to a minimum. That obviously makes the car hotter than the pouch of a kangaroo (not that I know how hot it is there…).
Cracking open a cold Coca-Cola Zero makes my eyes watery.
Drinks aren’t the only reason to get it. It’s also good for various fruits that you pick along the road.
In a way, a portable fridge is essential.
Here is what I recommend for you to get:
#7 – Choose the right restaurant
In case you are in the US, I can advise you to check out the Roadfood.com website that focuses on making reviews for restaurants that provide authentic and regional food.
They are oftentimes tastier than mainstream restaurants, but there are some places that trap tourists with bad food.
What I would do is, find the restaurant that you like, and then type in the name (for the US only) and see if there are any reviews of it.
If you like some famous restaurants that TV shows like Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives have visited, check out tvfoodmaps.com instead.
It’s always more interesting to eat at locations that you can find later an episode on.
#8 – Use the phone’s Lock Screen the smart way
When we travel, our mind tends to wander about many different things.
I speak from experience.
What we usually check when we are at home, we don’t when we are on road trips. Checking phones could be one of them.
So, in case we leave it somewhere accidentally, it is useful to change the lock screen to something that helps finders locate you.
It could be an address to the hotel, or even better, a number to a person that travels with you.
Most people are not thieves and don’t want a stranger’s phone so that means, when they turn on the screen, they know immediately what to do.
Note: Please share this article if you find it useful. It helps me more than anything 🙂
#9 – Hang your iPad with thin ropes between your car’s headrests
That technique is useful for people that are sitting in the back seat.
What I have tried was putting the tablet in a transparent bag and using the bag to connect the ropes. This technique is best when there are 2 people but only 1 tablet.
The only issue that I’ve run into was that during acceleration or braking, the screen started to swing back and forth, making the viewing a bit annoying.
You could connect the bag with lower ropes as well so that you won’t have movement issues.
If the person is sitting alone, I find that it’s better to wrap the iPad around the one headrest. That ensures that there are zero movements, making it a similar experience to modern buses.
#10 – See something fun? Stop!
Make sure not to fall into a trap of being too focused on your goal.
Usually, for road trips, the goal is to reach the destination.
Even though we may like it when everything is according to plan, a little bit of chaos in our trips is a great way to make memories.
In fact, in my opinion, it’s THE best way to make memories.
Most of what I remember vividly in my travels happened during the trip. I have a theory that it’s because of the tension in us to face something unknown. When we conquer that, we feel the release of tension.
That is what’s great about traveling. Conquering your fears by facing the unknown, and making great memories from that.
Seeing sightseeings is just a bonus.
#11 – Save an awesome music playlist
Having great music puts people in a great mood.
Road trips can really drag from time to time, and one of the best ways to endure that (especially for drivers who can’t use eyes for entertainment) is to listen to a piece of music you enjoy.
If the driver enjoys it, the chances are that everyone else will also.
A good mood is infectious. All that creates a good atmosphere to be in, which results in a great trip!
Just make sure not to listen to your favorite songs for the whole duration of the trip. Otherwise, it’s not going to be your favorite any more 😛
#12 – Bring enough headphones
Whether you are with kids, teens, or adults, there will be a time when you or someone else will want some quiet.
That’s the perfect time to whip out your headphones.
It also ties to the previous road trip hack – saving some of your favorite songs to a playlist. That way you won’t bother others, and listen to whatever you want.
I personally listen to Joe Rogan podcasts more than I’d like to admit.
My travel partner has had enough of Joe Rogan, so she is sometimes glad of me having headphones as well.
It also works great with children as well. Whenever they act up, headphones usually calm the whole situation down.
Try it out.
#13 – Sticker notes have many uses
To add to the topic of children, we can use stickers to control the behavior.
What is mean by that is, travel can be very slow – especially for kids. There is a reason people say the older you get, the faster the time goes.
To make it more tolerable for younger ones, create stickers that have written something behind it. Each sticker represents one hour.
As you probably figure out, it only works on smaller children. For older ones, it’s more of a nuisance that some activities are restricted behind hourly stickers.
But younger ones would gladly wait with anticipation to either get a new snack, play a new game, see what place they visit next…
Another way to use stickers revolves around punishment.
If they act up, one sticker is removed. That particular sticker may have small punishments like no electronics for one hour, or something along the lines.
Don’t make it too punishing, as the goal of the road trip is to enjoy it, after all.
#14 – Giving Google Maps to kids is a good idea
Most kids nowadays have their own phones or tablets.
That means, they probably have Google Maps installed by default.
To make the question “are we there yet” stop, create the starting point and destination for them, so that they can monitor where they are and how long it takes to arrive.
That way you benefit from fewer questions and they benefit from learning new places, how long is the trip, and the overall time management.
They can even tell you where and when to turn! That gives them a feeling of being needed.
I wish I had something Google Maps when I was younger.
#15 – Travel at night
I actually talked about this in my article about “travel hacks with kids to make trips easy”.
Do you want some calm time?
Then travel at night when others are sleeping. You can organize your trips in a way where you cover the biggest area at night.
That way you have enjoyed some quiet time, and others have skipped the long drives.
#16 – Take an inflatable mattress with you
An inflatable mattress is for those that sit behind and want to get some sleep.
People in front can usually adjust their seats to their liking for sleep, but the ones behind have to get creative.
That is why an inflatable mattress can increase the enjoyment of road trips a lot.
They are ten times comfier and spacious.
#17 – Try taking off shoes
For some interesting reason, people feel more relaxed when the shoes are off.
I guess it’s related to a feeling of us being at home.
I know that you have also taken off shoes in the car. I am sure you remember the feeling of more comfort along with slight vulnerability.
It’s actually quite cozy and nice.
Just make sure you have a place to put shoes (or socks) in a bag so that the car space isn’t filled with a nice aroma of smelly feet.
#18 – Dryer sheets are very useful with road trips
Speaking of nice aroma – Try out dryer sheets.
Dryer sheets can either be placed inside the vent holes in your car or if the smell becomes too overcoming, put dryer sheets under the seats.
The smell they give is a lot less “in your face” compared to car fresheners, and it’s very cheap.
Plus, they are very practical!
You can clean the bugs from the windshield, clean your phone screens, remove pet hair, etc.
#19 – The value of Back Seat Organizers
Another place you can stash dryer sheets is in a back seat organizer.
Actually, you can place whatever you like in there. It is a great tool to organize all the things you take with you, starting from electronics, food, and ending with random items.
It also encourages people to keep everything clean and simple. They make it so that everything is within reach and exactly in front of you.
#20 – Make use of Roadtrippers app
Roadtrippers basically map out your route and shows what the best places to visit are.
We often drive in one direction, and sometimes we aren’t even aware that we just passed a place that many pay thousands just to see the place one time in their life.
I use this app. I have found amazing places that wouldn’t have been aware of, had I not checked the route through the Roadtrippers Plus version (it’s 29 bucks a year).
If you want to test it out, you can try out the free app version here, or the website version.
#21 – Use Google Maps to find your car
One awesome feature of Google Maps is the ability to put down a marker.
That is a great way to find your car.
Usually, we use other methods to memorize where we parked, but with this Google Maps hack, you only need to do a couple of things to completely forget about the fact that your car is parked somewhere in a strange place or city.
- Open Google Maps.
- Place your finger on a location where your car is.
- Make sure the marker is in the right place.
- Click on the marker.
- Save it and name it “My car”.
- Make sure it’s private and not shared.
#22 Binder Clips can be great phone/GPS holders
For that, use rubber bands with a binder clip to create a gadget that is free and looks awesome.
When the holder is complete, place it inside the air vents.
That way, it also makes sure that your phone is not overheated and your battery lasts longer 😉
Here is a good guide on how to do it!
#23 – Make sure your car is ready before the trip
According to the AAA, summer can push your car to the limits due to the heat, so it’s a good reason to make sure that not only you, but the car is ready for long drives.
Visit a local mechanic that checks all the important bits.
That way there won’t be any unpleasant surprises down the road you travel.
#24 Know how to jump the car
According to NSFord.com, a dead battery is the leading cause of breakdowns.
IF, despite the check-ups, you still ended up with a dead battery, having jumper cables around can save you the hassle of dealing with car haulers.
If you have jumper cables, you should remind yourself how to use them.
Here is a good article that helped me to remember as well.
#25 – In case of accidental dents on your car
Whether is your car, a rented one, or it belongs to your friend, it’s always unfortunate when you damage the car on road trips.
In these cases, it’s a good idea to take a plunger with you.
Just throw it in the trunk and forget about it.
In case you or someone else does create a dent, you can avoid paying hundreds of dollars for repair with just a few simple steps.
- Find a way to get some hot water.
- Pour the hot water slowly over the dented area.
- Take a plunger and carefully suck the dent out.
There might be some paint damage, but it’ll be much cheaper in comparison to geometrical damage.
#26 – Hand Sanitizer is great for icy doors
Depending on whether you are going on road trips in summer or in winter, it’s a good idea to take hand sanitizers with you.
Actually, I am writing this article in the middle of the Covid pandemic. It’s always a good idea to take hand sanitizer with you!
But apart from it being an effective sanitizer, it actually melts ice reasonably fast.
Typically, hand sanitizers have alcohol in them, and that helps to melt the key locks from ice.
#27 – Toothbrushes are great for dirty headlights
If you don’t take hand sanitizers with you, I am sure that toothbrushes are with you at all times.
They are very effective in removing dirt from headlights compared to regular cloth.
You might not want to use your own toothbrush, but at least they are easily bought from any store. Coupling a toothbrush with hand sanitizer make headlights extra clean, so you’ll be ready for long travels with perfect vision.
#28 – Your remote key doesn’t find the car?
Use your head, literally. Our head is apparently a great conductor, so that means we can use it to boost the signal.
Here is what you do. You put the remote against your chin and you press the button.
For some reason, even opening the mouth will further boost the signal.
Here is an old article from NYTimes about it.
It’s a pretty cool hack, so I am going to add it to my list of coolest travel hacks articles.
#29 – Let the sun charge your phones
As we are reaching a point where solar is the cheapest energy in the world, we should take advantage of that by using technology that can produce said energy in a portable way.
This one does the job quite well.
We don’t have access to power all the time, but by having a sun power catcher, we can leave our cars wherever we want, and go camping in the forest with no fear of our phone running out of juice.
#30 – Can’t decide? Roll the dice
If you are going somewhere and there are disagreements on where to go, when to go, or how to get there, then it’s better to leave it to RNG to stop arguments.
Rolling the dice will tell you whose plan you are going to follow.
You might say that there is no room to roll dice in the car.
Well, it’s ok, because you can make your own dice roller that is contained in a transparent box.
You can make your own, but what I liked to use, was an empty container for grapes. Cake containers can also work, so it’s really up to you what you prefer.
#31 – Five-port Car Charger is a lifesaver
Although newer cars have ports for every seat, it isn’t the case with older cars.
Here is where these kinds of gadgets come to save the day.
We always need to charge our phones, and thanks to 5-slot USB chargers, it can be done for all road trippers.
#32 – Send things beforehand
I have talked about this option in one of my previous articles on how to lighten your carry by about 80% for travels.
One of the tips was this.
Sending your items to a destination beforehand can be extra useful when there are too many people in the car and too little space.
I’ve had hotels accept my shipments (doesn’t always work) or if you have some friends up there, let them do it.
Not only is there more room for passengers but you spend less fuel due to weight reduction.
#33 – In case of working remotely, check out this app
Many of us, road-trippers, need to work remotely. That means the quality of the WiFi signal has to be spot on.
It ain’t cool when you are in a meeting, and half of the time you are skipping the conversation just because the WiFi signal is spotty.
To avoid that, you need to find an Airbnb room, that is “remote-work” friendly. However, the issue is that it’s annoying to find since it’s hard and time-consuming. That is why one of us has created this Chrome extension that helps to find rooms equipped with good WiFi on the Airbnb site.
This Offie Chrome extension works perfectly by taking guest reviews into consideration when checking the WiFi quality.
#34 – Apply to a gym membership to get access to a bathroom
Get a month-to-month gym membership, like for Planet Fitness for example (if the road trip is in the US).
By having the membership, you don’t have to get a hotel room just to have a decent wash. Many of us are road-tripping just in our car, so having an option to use a clean bathroom/shower/toilet without the hotel prices is nice.
If you already have a gym membership that has buildings all over the country, then you get to clean yourself basically for free! No one will bat an eye if you don’t use the gym itself. You are already paying for the shower, so why not use it.
It’s actually a clever idea that I haven’t thought of until someone pointed it out in the forums.
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