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Road Trip Essentials

Road Trip Essentials

Ready to hit the road? Really??

Well, if you’ve committed yourself/partner/kids/friends to two weeks or more away from creature comforts and the safety and security of a home or a hotel, then you need to have done more homework than googling a random ‘top ten’ prep list.  

So, here’s our Road Trip Essentials – some less obvious than others, but all ESSENTIAL – trust us; we’re the professionals, exclusively focussed on making your American Road Trip one to remember (with nothing to regret!)

Are you legal/covered? - Road Trip Essentials

Most road trippers from Europe fly into a major US hub and hire cars or RVs to travel an average of 900 miles of American highways and byways. Of course, there are those who use their own or friends’ or families’ vehicles, but we’re basing this guide on a hired vehicle of any kind.

Taking out car rental insurance is non-negotiable! Besides, all US states require liability insurance, so ensure your hire car deal includes comprehensive insurance – alternatively, you can buy it online as an add-on. It may be that your own car insurance covers you for overseas rental liability for some or all eventualities, so just triple check what you’ll need to add on and budget for.

Inspect the car before you leave the car lot! Take photos of any dents, scratches etc.

Read your rental contract, and keep a copy of it in the glove compartment!

Carry passports with you! it’s proof of ID – essential in a multitude of situations.

Pack your Apps

Pack your Apps - Road Trip Essentials

Half a century after Jack Kerouac made his infamous road trip, we’ve got the technology, we got the apps! It goes without saying to ensure your mobile is chargeable all the way, so as soon as you hit US soil, get loading – many of these essentials are only available Stateside:

Tollsmart : Calculates toll costs across all tunnels, bridges and toll roads on your route anywhere in the United States and Canada. $2.99 a month.

GasBuddy : Not only does this app locate the closest gas stations, it gives you the prices at each one and customer reviews! Billed as ‘the world's largest community-based fuel app’, with 60 million downloads worldwide. Free.

iExit : Essential for interstate driving, it’ll tell you what you'll find at the next exit — restaurants, gas stations, hotels, shops etc, enabling you to plan your pit stops. Free.

Roadtrippers : A really useful route-planning app, enabling you to plot your route and search for all the places to eat and stay, as well as top-rated attractions along the way. Best of all, you can set up a personalised map. Free.

FlushToiletFinder : A ‘must have’ on a road trip! This ingenious app pinpoints public toilets in your vicinity – it actually lists over 190,000 restrooms around the globe! Free.

Waze : A truly useful app for steering you clear of traffic jams. It aggregates user-generated traffic and road-condition info to highlight the fastest route, and it sends alerts about accidents or other hold-ups along the way. Free

RepairPal : Hopefully one you’ll not need! But if you’re unlucky enough to break down, you simply put in the make of your car and the problem and it comes up with local area mechanics and an estimate for repair. Free.

NPR (National Public Radio): Find and tune local radio stations – a great way to feel the ‘vibe’ as well as useful local news, weather, traffic etc. Free.

Please note, that whilst these Apps are largely free, data roaming charges will still apply and can be quite pricey. So ensure you are connected to Wi-Fi or that roaming charges in the US are included in your mobile tariff. You don't want a nasty surprise bill when you get home!

 

Road Trip Essentials

Health and Safety - Road Trip Essentials

It’s common sense to pack a fully checked first aid kit and plenty of your regular meds. But here’s a few less obvious extras for both passengers and car:

Mosquito repellent – creams and/or burners

Mosquito nets (for summer campers)

Antihistamine cream and/or pills

Antiseptic

Sanitizer/wipes (useful for food on the move)

Sunglasses (a year-round essential)

Sunscreen & block (again, seasonal extras)

Watercooler bag also useful

Loo rolls and tissues

Painkillers

Travel sweets (sugar fix for fighting fatigue)

Antifreeze (a seasonal essential)

Screen wipes

Plenty of motor oil + engine water

Stimulation and entertainment - Road Trip Essentials

Even accounting for regular leg-stretches and pit stops, spending hours, days, weeks on the road can be mind-numbing. Again, there’s plenty of ‘top ten tips’ out there on loading up on music, podcasts, audiobooks etc. Beyond the obvious, here are some stimulating on- and off-line ideas to add to your virtual ‘playbox’:

StarChart – A free app used by 60 million stargazers across the globe. A virtual planetarium in your pocket! It also works in daylight, but the big night skies on the open road are awesome, especially if you can identify “that bright star up there” or the names of unfamiliar constellations.  Stimulating, fun and educational – what’s not to like?!

Road Trip Bingo - Free, download-and-print bingo games. Versions of US road signs, number plates, State symbols and so on make it totally relevant every stretch of the way.

Car Karaoke - OK, you need nothing but the music and enthusiasm for this one.  Just turn down the volume and get points for tuning back in without missing a beat – extra points for accurate lyrics.

Good ol’ fashion car games - There are hundreds of them, and all free! We’ve picked these two for guaranteed competitive fun eating up hours and countless miles:

The Minister’s Cat: A big favourite in a world before apps! Just work through the alphabet, only moving to the next letter when no one can think of another adjective beginning with A, B, C etc., (you’re out or lose points for being stumped) “The Minister’s cat is an Adorable cat”, “The Minister’s cat is an Affable cat” etc.

The Name Game: Someone starts by shouting out a name or any theme of proper nouns (cities, countries, celebrities etc); the next person has to say a name that begins with the last letter of that name. The next person picks a name that begins with the last letter of the second person's choice, and so on. No duplicates allowed, and they must all be real names.

 

Tech Kit

When all else fails (especially with the little people), it’s movie time! Entertainment tech has come a long way to deliver quality connectivity and content on the move.  Here’s some kit worth investing in:

Seagate Wireless Plus:  One of the best systems for digital video; a portable hard drive with 500GB to 2TB of storage that can be used to stream music, movies and TV shows to tablets, smartphones and laptops. The drive is capable of streaming to three different devices at a time via built-in WiFi with a battery that lasts up to 10 hours, making it an ideal companion for long road trips.

Headrest mounted entertainment: If the car doesn't have a built-in entertainment system, you can easily fit your existing iPad/tablet to create high-end video entertainment with the Arkon Universal Tablet Headrest Mount. It attaches a tablet to the back of a front-seat headrest. This makes for easy hands-free watching, especially if kids are sharing the screen.

Wi-Fi on the go​

WiFi can be hard to come by when you're on the road. Although most of us can turn our smartphones into wireless hotspots, that can gobble up your data plan in no time. Instead, try the Karma Wi-Fi Hotspot. There's no contract or monthly fees with the Karma; you pay for data as you need it.

We wouldn't recommend using it to stream Netflix, but it's a great way to check email or keep up with your social networks on the go. Just be sure your travel area is within Karma's coverage area before you buy.

Right then, you’re all set!  Bear in mind, it’s the journey that counts!

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