More often than not, a road trip takes more planning than a trip by plane or train, whether you are using a personal vehicle or a car rental service. You must rely on your own navigational skills and organizational skills, plus you have to plan for rest and eating times. No matter if your journey is cross-country or just across your state, these car trip tips will help you get there worry-free.

Rental Car vs. Personal Car

Using your own car may seem like the obvious choice when taking a car trip, but there are several factors to consider:

  • Using a rental car prevents racking up mileage on your own car
  • Personal cars don't have to be returned by a certain date
  • If your car isn't in tip-top shape, a rental may be more reliable
  • Choosing a hybrid rental can save on gas money
  • Renting a car is an extra travel expense
  • Using a rental prevents extra wear and tear on a personal vehicle

Navigating Your Trip

There are several ways to navigate a road trip, from a high-tech GPS system to a good, old-fashioned map.

If you don't already have GPS, you can rent a car that has one from sites like Enterprise or Thrifty Car Rental. Another alternative is to use your smartphone's GPS capabilities. If your smartphone doesn't have GPS capabilities, try using Bing Maps' free app on your phone.

Okay, so maybe you don't have access to GPS and you don't have a cell phone. In that case, chart your route using Google Maps and print off a map and the directions. Also, make sure to print off directions on how to get back home; reading directions backwards can be confusing. As you're driving, have your navigator cross off each step of the directions as you complete it, just in case someone forgets what the next step is.

No matter what you use for navigation, make sure to have a standard map of the location you will be driving in as back-up. Sometimes electronic and online navigation systems can be wrong, and you don't want to be left without an alternative.

When planning your navigation and travel time, allow for several pit-stops along the way. This doesn't necessarily mean stopping at dirty truck stops. Most highways have comfort stations every few dozen miles that include a place to park for a nap and restrooms. Signs announcing the amount of miles until the next comfort station are posted along the highway at regular intervals and you can usually find these locations on maps and GPS systems.

Packing for Car Trips

Over packing is a big problem when it comes to road trips. You may not have to pay for each bag to get to your destination, like with plane trips, but you do have to make sure that everything fits into the car's storage area.

To make clothing fit into a smaller bag, try putting clothing into vacuum sealing storage bags. These bags, when attached to a vacuum cleaner hose, will suck the air out of the clothing, ensuring that they take up much less room.

For even more bag space, nix items that your hotel supplies for free, such as blow dryers, shampoo, conditioner, hand and bath soap, an iron and hand lotion. Many hotels carry these items however some do not, so you may want to call your hotel in advance to see what they have on-hand.

With these tips in mind, you will be able to enjoy your road trip with less stress and more fun.

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