Ah, road trips. To a romantic thinker, a road trip might seem as easy as packing your bags, filling up on gas, and heading off into the exciting unknown. But a well-executed road trip takes forethought and realistic thinking. Let’s say you’re making the 12-hour drive from Beaumont over on the Lousiana border to El Paso, the flagship town of West Texas. You have to decide whether you want to stay on I-10 the whole way or stray off into roads less traveled. You have to decide whether you want to stay the night somewhere or drive straight through, hopefully switching off with one of your travel partners. Here are some other things to consider and ways to make your road trip go more smoothly:
If you’re from out of state or live in the city, you might not know or have forgotten that Texas cops mean business when it comes to speeding. It’s so tempting to push 90 mph or even faster when you’re on those long, lonely strips of Texas highway, but keep your cruise control around 80, or make sure you have your license and registration when you get pulled over.
Keep your car clean
Clutter piles up when you’re in the car for multiple days straight. Be sure to throw out any trash whenever you stop, or you’ll lose sight of your floorboards and your back seat after a while.
Anticipate high-traffic areas
It’s important to time your trip carefully. You don’t want to pass through Houston, Dallas, or any of the metropolitan areas during rush hour, which is roughly 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. as well as lunchtime. Especially in cities like Houston where there’s always a wreck or construction going on, timing your passage through these areas can make the difference of an hour or two.
Download an audiobook or stream a podcast
I don’t know about you, but my iPod and FM radio can only get me so far when I’m on the road for hours at a time. A great solution is to download an audio version of a book that you’ve been dying to read but haven’t had the time. Guess what — you’re on the road, and you finally have the time. Audible is a good website to download audiobooks from. Podcasts are another awesome way to pass the time, since most podcasts have all their episodes online to be streamed for free, and you can scroll back to find a particular episode you want to hear. Happy listening!
Bring an actual map
These days, many of us are slaves to Google Maps. But Google Maps and even your GPS can sometimes put you on the wrong road or neglect to show you less popular routes that will have less traffic and more scenic views. This is why it’s important to do your research to find the best route for the experience you want, but it’s also crucial to have a physical map in your car with you. Yes, I’m talking about that paper thing that folds up. It won’t lead you astray, and since it doesn’t have a battery or rely on data usage, it can’t die on you. Your map is your No. 1 trusty friend.
Don’t let your engine overheat
I know it and you know it — Texas is HOT. But we don’t always consider our cars on those days when temperatures break 100 degrees. Overheating is a very real danger for a summer road trip, so make sure you’re not low on coolant and that the radiator cap is on tight. It’s a good idea to get your car inspected before such a long trip anyway, so ask a mechanic to make sure everything is looking good before you hit the road. You can also turn off the AC if you notice your car getting too hot. It goes against instinct, but running the AC on high makes your car work hard and pushes it toward overheating even faster. It’s best to just pull over somewhere in the shade and let it cool down on its own.