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You. Your car. And the open road. There’s nothing quite like an all-American road trip. Whether you’re traveling thousands of miles from skyline to coastline or a few hours for a quick rendezvous, being prepared is key. Between the chaos of organizing your itinerary, packing your bags and everything in between, it’s easy to overlook planning for your actual time in the car. Below are some simple tips to help make sure your adventure is less about the destination and more about the smooth, care-free journey.

RELATED: This is the California beach road trip you’ve always dreamed about

Prep your car

This one might seem obvious, but beyond topping off the gas, you’ll want to make sure your car is in top shape to take on the bumps and curves of unfamiliar territory. It’s a good idea to get a fresh oil change and routine checkup (ensure tires are properly inflated, windshield wipers work, etc.). Plus, if unexpected surprises happen along the way, knowing how to jump start your car or change a tire can easily save the day.

Prep an emergency kit

Pack a generous emergency kit filled with water, a first aid kit, a flashlight, batteries and extra phone chargers. Flares are helpful, too, just in case you have to pull to the side of the road. Be sure to also toss in a few blankets and pillows in case you have to do some last-minute car camping.

Gather your documents

This is also an ideal time to make sure your car’s registration and insurance is up to date. Double check to see if you have adequate coverage and make adjustments as needed. Get familiar with your insurance company’s roadside assistance program—many include towing. Look for coverage that will help you get out of a jam if anything happens along the way. It may come in handy if you break down in a not-so-great area. Once you’ve got your insurance set, print out your ID cards or have them ready on your smartphone. Heads up: Some states don’t accept electronic ID cards as proof of insurance, so it’s smart to have a paper copy.

ALSO: Earn CheapCash on select flights, use it toward hotels—it’s that easy!

Download the best apps

Your smartphone is a wealth of knowledge. Use it! You can navigate your entire trip through GPS or Google maps, but if you’re headed to a rural or mountainous area, be sure to download your map so you can use it offline: Just search for your destination on the map and then tap the name or address of the place, select “download” and voila! Another great option for road warriors is a travel app like CheapTickets—book last minute hotels or even activities in destinations along the way, with just a few taps. Plus, sign up for CheapCash and you can earn rewards on select flights that you can use toward your next hotel, right in the app. Plus, you can stay in the know with real-time updates. And while technology is great, it’s always smart to pack a paper map, just in case. No cell phone service could mean no directions … and that would be no good.

Load up on healthy snacks

We’ve all been there. You’re driving along when suddenly hunger strikes. It may be tempting to pop into the nearest convenience store or zip through a fast food restaurant, but a lot of times, that means extra time, money, calories and the much dreaded road-trip gut rot. Save time by saving any major stops for lunch or dinner when you need to take a real break. The best snacks to pack are non-perishable, easy-to-transport items like trail mix, nuts or pretzels. If you have room for a cooler, toss in a few bottles of water, fruit or cheese. Remember to grab napkins and hand sanitizer and you’ll be set.

Tune your playlist

Every epic road trip needs a great soundtrack, right? There are plenty of “car-inspired” songs out there, but assemble a playlist with tunes that you know your passengers will love, too. If you’re heading somewhere warm, maybe reggae or tropical tunes will get you in the mood. Or if you find yourself on a bunch of dirt roads, try some country. There are always podcasts, audio books or comedy channels if you get sick of music. Try downloading some of these to your smartphone beforehand so you can still listen to them if you find yourself in the middle of nowhere and lose your coveted cell signal. And if nothing else, you can always usually count on the radio to offer, well, something.

Finally, hit the road!

Your bags are packed, the car is ready and it’s time to take on the open road. Go confidently knowing you’ve got everything covered. Happy travels!

Alicia Liken is a senior copywriter at Esurance, writing about all things related to auto insurance. She spent most of her career in the Detroit advertising community before making the move to Chicago and most recently, San Francisco. She’s road tripped all over the United States but her favorite excursion will always be Michigan to Florida in the spring.  

 

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Tagged: Cheap Tips, Family, Tips & advice, Types of Travel

Alicia Liken

Alicia Liken

Alicia is a senior copywriter at Esurance, writing about all things related to auto insurance. She spent most of her career in the Detroit advertising community before making the move to Chicago and most recently, San Francisco. She’s road tripped all over the United States but her favorite excursion will always be Michigan to Florida in the spring.
Alicia Liken

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When you’re prepping for a flight there’s a few things you always know to bring: a few magazines or a book to keep you busy, headphones to listen to music or drown out any annoying neighbors and a phone charger. These are crucial, but there is so much more you can do to make traveling go as smooth as possible without breaking the bank.

Luggage cup holder Juggling a suitcase, a purse, my boarding pass,and an ID while navigating an unfamiliar airport should be an Olympic sport. Add in a cup of coffee and it’s a recipe for a disaster, or at least a few stains. Now you can buy a traveling cup holder  from a company called tugo that attaches to the handles of your luggage to free up a hand without sacrificing the caffeine. Price: $12.95

tugo drink holder on suitcase

Photo courtesy of Tugo

Portable charger Trying to find a working outlet that hasn’t already been overtaken by other people is some sort of airport Hunger Games. Some places are awesome and have ample outlets, others not so much. If you’re going to an airport or terminal you aren’t familiar with, always bring a portable charger just to be safe. There are a ton of these on the market and cost about $10 and up.

anker portable charger, ultra compact silver

Photo courtesy of Anker

Digital luggage scale There is always that person in your group who overpacks for a three-day trip or gambles with the luggage weight requirement. A very cool way to keep stay on track with packing, especially for the return journey if you picked up some souvenirs, is with one of these Balanzza digital scales. It’s small enough to fit in your pocket and costs less than most baggage fees, around $20 online.

Headphone splitter  If you’re traveling with a group, or especially kids, it’s smart to bring an earphone splitter so you can watch movies or listen to music with others. Instead of just being able to plug in one set of headphones, you’ll be able to share with a buddy. The tech company Belkin makes several of versions of these, with a splitter for two headphones or a wheel for five. Either way, it will run you somewhere in the neighborhood of $5.

Belkin headphone splitter white

Photo courtesy of Belkin

Tech stand   Nothing will distract you from a two-hour movie like having to hold the phone up to your face the entire time or the glare from looking at an angled screen. Invest in a stand to prop your smartphone or tablet up on your seat tray so you can watch through the flight with ease. For a solid combination of study and compact, try a the GripTight Micro Stand from JOBY. Price: $29.95

How to Use the JOBY GripTight Micro Stand from JOBY Inc on Vimeo.

Tagged: Cheap Tips, Flights, Tips & advice, Uncategorized