10 Tips For The Perfect Road Trip

Posted by Cassie Ryan on Jul 15, 2020 1:39:01 PM

10 Tips For The Perfect Road Trip

If you’re in need of a change in scenery but airline travel may be out of the question, a good old-fashioned American road trip could be just what you need to vacation responsibly and on a budget. Whether this is your first foray into multi-day road tripping, or you’re a seasoned traveler in need of a refresher, here are some basic tips to make sure your trip goes off without a hitch.

 

1. Check Your Vehicle

Most likely you’ll opt to take your own car (or a friend or family member’s) when you hit the road. Before you roll out, it’s a good idea to get your car checked out and serviced. Make sure you’ve had a fresh oil change and your tires are in good shape.

Another option you might consider is renting a car for the drive. Maybe you need something with a little extra space, or maybe you don’t want to add extra miles to your own car. You could also consider renting a camper van so you don’t have to use hotels or bring your own camping gear.

 

2. Plan Your Route

Steelie Magnetic Phone Mount

After deciding where you’re headed (National Parks make for great destinations), you’ll want to map directions. You might consider taking a scenic route and hitting some points of interest along the way. Check out the site roadtrippers.com to discover fun places to stop and see along the way – all you need to do is enter your start and end points. You can even edit your route accordingly on the site. When you’re ready to hit the road, load it up into your Google Maps.

You’ll also want to keep your phone handy for GPS and music without causing distractions while driving. Steelie magnetic phone mounts are perfect for the job, with several options to fit your needs. My personal favorite is the Steelie Orbiter Dash Kit because the metal plate lays flat on your phone case. If you’re renting a vehicle, you can use the Steelie Vent Kit, which just clips right onto the vent of any car.

 

3. Book Your Accommodations

Road Trip Tips

Whether you’re opting to camp along the way or take advantage of some local stays, planning your accommodations ahead is important. For camping (or van camping/RVing) you’ll have to research where you can stay, and make reservations. (Don’t count on walk-up sites being available, especially in the busy summer months.) If you’re relatively new to camping, we have a great guide to help you get started here.

You can also check vacation rental sites like Airbnb or Vrbo to check for any unique and budget-friendly stays along your way. There are a plethora of hotel deal websites out there these days, but when I don’t have a specific hotel in mind, my go-to is Hotwire. They don’t show you the name of the hotel until after you book – just the area it is located in and the review score – but the deals are worth it if you make sure you book one with great reviews.

 

4. Curate The Ultimate Playlist

No road trip is complete without an epic soundtrack. Take some time before your travels to curate your playlist on iTunes or Spotify. You can also ask your travel buddy (or buddies) to make their own as well so you can take turns and share your favorite songs (although generally speaking in my car, the driver gets to pick the music). You can also download some of your favorite podcasts, or an audio book for the ride to add some variety to your listening.

If you’re using Spotify, keep in mind that cell service could get spotty on the drive, so it’s best to download your playlist directly to your phone to keep the tunes rolling.

 

5. Prepare for the Unexpected

Car Emergency Kit

Although fingers crossed you won’t need it, it’s important to be prepared for things that could go wrong. Make sure to keep a first aid kit in your car (we have a handy guide on making your own here). You should also keep jumper cables, a backup phone battery, blanket, flashlight, knife, and a few other essentials you can read about in our Emergency Car Kit blog here.

I also check that my AAA membership is up to date in case I run into any car trouble.

 

6. Hit the Grocery Store

I always stock up on my favorite Trader Joe’s snacks (and lots of water) before a road trip. I like a balance between healthier snacks like nuts and dried fruit and some indulgences (for me, cheese crackers and chocolate). We also like to pack some beers in a cooler so we have a cold refreshment at the ready when we make it to our destination. (Pro tip: how many times have you arrived at your hotel room equipped with brews only to find there’s no opener? Save yourself a failed party trick and clip an Ahhh… Bottle Opener onto your cooler.) I often prep some PB&Js and stick those in the cooler as well, in case we get hungry while driving through an extended stretch of nothingness.

 

7. Pack It Up Pack It In

Road Trip Tips

Without going into a lengthy list of items to pack (I found a great one here), I do want to talk about how to pack. It seems whenever it’s time to hit the road, I always have a hard time fitting everything in the car (add in a dog and a kiddo or two and it gets even harder). My RunOff Waterproof Packing Cubes are now a must-have when it comes to consolidating my clothes. As a notorious over-packer, these have saved me on numerous occasions. They keep my clothes organized, and I can compress them down to fit inside my suitcase or duffel bag.

Still running slim on car space? If you have a roof rack, you’re in luck. Strap some luggage on top and secure it with a Dual CamJam Tie Down System to be sure it doesn’t become roadkill.

 

8. Bring Your Furry Family Members

Road Trip With Dogs

When I’m traveling by car instead of plane, I try to take my dog along for the ride if possible. If we’re camping, I double check the campground’s website to make sure dogs on leash are allowed. If I’m booking a hotel or Airbnb, I look for places by checking the “pet friendly” filters. A handy site to bookmark if you’re traveling with dogs is bringfido.com. You can put in the city or town you’re visiting and it will give you restaurants, breweries, stores or parks you can visit with your pooch in tow. They also have an app that gives you on-the-spot results based on your location!

If this is our dog’s first road trip or you’re not sure how he or she will do on the ride, check with your vet beforehand and they might prescribe a sedative or something to settle an upset stomach. Make sure the drive is safe for them too, by investing in a dog seatbelt or car seat so they don’t go flying if you have to make an abrupt stop. When it’s time for a bathroom break, a Pack-A-Poo on your leash will make sure you’re ready to clean up the mess. Before you load back up into the car after a pit stop, offer them some water (they need to stay hydrated too). I keep two of the RadDog Collapsible Bowls in my dog’s travel kit – one for water and one for food. They pack down super small so you don’t have to worry about large dog bowls taking up space in the car. Last but not least, clip a SpotLit onto your dog’s collar before you set out so they can be visible after dark for nighttime walks and potty breaks.

 

9. Carry Cash

If you’re anything like me these days, your wallet carries a lot more plastic than paper. It’s always a good idea to have cash on hand while traveling in general, but especially when you’re on unfamiliar roads. Not all highways are free, and there’s a chance you could run into some tolls, so it’s best to arrive prepared. Not to mention that many National Parks and campgrounds accept cash only.

 

10. Document, Document, Document

Hitch Phone Anchor + Tether

Last but not least, make sure you take lots of photos along the way. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve regretted not taking enough pictures on a trip, and when I do stumble upon photos from vacations 10-20 years ago, it’s always a welcome reminder. The FlipOut Phone Handle + Stand is great for snapping perfect selfies or scenic shots, and the stand comes in handy for catching up on your latest Netflix binge once you’re ready to relax at your destination. I’m also a big fan of the Hitch Phone Anchor + Tether, which acts like a “leash” for your phone. This helps me carry my phone around on my wrist when my hands are full, but also ensures that I don’t drop it off the side of a cliff while trying to capture the moment.

 

Now that your vehicle is in top shape, your route is planned, the car is packed, the tunes are cued up, and your snacks are in reach, it’s time to hit the open road. My final word of advice? Watch out for speed traps, especially in rural areas. Keep note of speed limit signs because if there’s one thing that will ruin your fancy-free vacation mood, it’s a speeding ticket. What are your road trip tips? Share with the community in the comments section below. Have fun and stay safe out there!

Topics: "travel", Steelie, camping, vanlife

Favorite Vanlife Products From a Full-Time Vanlifer

Posted by Cassie Ryan on Jan 22, 2020 9:27:04 AM

By Guest Blogger Colin Boyd of Afuera Vida

Favorite VanLife Products From a Full-Time VanLifer

While every van dwellers’ home is unique, we all suffer the same challenges found in a nomadic lifestyle. A few that come to mind are - illumination, keeping our home strapped/tied down for bumpy drives, and keeping our kit organized. When planning to write a guest blog for Nite Ize I simply began looking around our 1978 Mercedes 508D converted fire truck for inspiration and realized that Nite Ize was quietly sitting in the background, providing us with greater ease with smart and effective solutions for the van dweller. So for those of you looking to increase your satisfaction with van life or wondering what application one of these nifty products may be used for, here is a list of our top six products in no specific order.

 

1. RadDog All-In-One Collar + Leash

RadDog All-In-One Collar + Leash

This smart and user-friendly collar constantly saves our butts. When we pull over in any new spot, we are comfortable letting our dog Lola hop out and do her business knowing if there’s leash laws or other dogs passing by, we’ve got her covered. I can’t tell you the number of times we couldn’t find a leash, but the collar was already on - letting us go ahead without searching every corner for it. Hands down, if you own a dog that behaves just as well on or off leash, you need this product.

 

2. RadDog Collapsible Bowl

RadDog Collapsible Bowl

Over the past year we’ve covered over 18,000 miles in every corner of the states and we  love to take our young family out on adventures when and wherever we can. With two toddlers - both of which who typically need a lift on any walk over an hour - we have little space for extras and Lola (our dog) is usually left to finding her own water or slurping out of a water bottle and my hand with most landing on the ground. The packable dog bowl is lighter than a toothbrush and literally takes up less space than one. It has kept Lola charging longer and makes it way easier to keep her happy on the trail.

 

3. Radiant 314 Rechargeable Lantern

Radiant 314 Rechargeable Lantern

When your family of four lives in less than 120 square feet, any light can affect bedtime routines and early mornings. With three dim settings, a handy clip, and a USB charge port out, the lantern is a swiss army knife for the van and mobile charging. I’ve found myself packing this during the day if we need extra cell phone juice and also having enough light to read bedtime stories at night. Since it’s lightweight and super durable, we often use it out of the van to light up our camp for the night and give it to the kids to play with.

 

4. Gear Ties

AfueraVida-4

The Nite Ize Gear Tie is quite possibly the most useful item in our gear kit. I have this holding bananas and books in place, my shower nozzle on, organizing my electric cords, and strapping our backpack guitar to the ceiling. In some of these instances rope may work, but with the simple twist and the guaranteed hold up over time, I’d find myself reaching for a Gear Tie over rope in many low consequence circumstances.

 

5. Radiant 300 Rechargeable Headlamp

AfueraVida-5

Light is so critical and I never know when I will need it most. It could be a break down at night, taking our oldest out for a pee in the middle of the night or heading out on a backpacking or biking adventure. In any case, a Radiant 300 Rechargeable Headlamp is always close by and since I have USB ports all over the van, recharging is easy ensuring I’m all set for the next night.

 

6. INOVA T8R PowerSwitch Rechargeable Flashlight

AfueraVida-6

I retired my Maglite after firing up the INOVA T8R PowerSwitch Rechargeable Flashlight. Bringing 762 lumens to the dark sky in a pocket sized light, this beast is my new best friend. Just the other night, we found ourselves (typically) arriving at our planned destination well after dark. The dirt road deteriorated quickly and we were entering what appeared like rock crawling terrain in the desert. With the high beams on, there still wasn’t enough light to assess if we’d be able to get out if we drop any further along the single lane track. With the INOVA T8R  in hand, I tripled my vision out the window and on further inspection by foot scouted the rest of the track and the campsite from over 300 yards away. In the past, I would have likely opted for the safe route and just shut it down before getting myself too deep up the creek without a paddle. With the INOVA T8R I feel so much more confident showing up to difficult boondocking sites at night. 

AfueraVida-7

As a practicing minimalist, I am very picky about what makes it into my space, and all of these truly have saved me time and energy over the course of the past few months. Literally from the moment I received a grip of Gear Ties, they went to use and the Steelie is literally my steadfast driving companion in any driving situation. If you are a van lifer or are looking to buy something for one close to you, consider any of our top choices as none will sit idly in a cabinet as the utility for the van life application is the perfect fit.

Topics: LED Flashlights, Gear Ties, Pets, dogs, camping, headlamp, vanlife

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