The Best Road-trip Hacks: Everything You Need and Nothing You Don't

Road-trips, road-trips, road-trips! Have you noticed that this is my most recent infatuation? I am so excited for summer -- not for the weather, because I actually love chilly, rainy winter days, but because I have been absolutely dying to take a road trip. I'm in the process of planning mine, and if you're smart then you should do the same!

I've already outlined the steps you should take while planning and prepping for your road trip. These are the basic essentials: picking your car and preparing it for long distances, creating a budget, and other general road-trip best practices. What that blog post doesn't discuss is HOW to road-trip. And you know I love to share travel hacks.

So here we are: a collection of my favorite road-tripping tips, tricks, and hacks.


1. Use storage bins to keep your stuff organized

This has got to be one of my all-time favorite travel hacks... I actually use this every time I camp, as well! Use storage bins or towers in the back of your car to keep your things organized -- clothes, accessories, food, whatever!



2. Use dryer sheets for freshness

Keep some dryer sheets in your luggage, shoe bags, and even around the car to ward off that inevitable road-trip smell that happens when you keep a group of dirty people in a car for too long.

3. Pack your snacks and meals

To avoid spending a ridiculous amount of money eating out and buying gas station snacks, pack some food in a cooler ahead of time. Opt for healthy snacks like fruits and veggies, nuts, yogurt, sandwiches, and lots of water. Too much junk food along the trip will have you feeling bloated and gross by the end. TIP: Use a car cooler for added convenience and super fresh snacks!

4. Get a gas card

You'll be buying a lot of fuel on the way, so you may as well benefit from all that money you're spending! Gas cards will reward your gas purchases with cash back, points, and even hotel credits.


5. Use a cereal container as a car trash can

As you can probably imagine, the trash builds up quick on a road-trip. Before you know it, the car will be filled with garbage: food scraps on the floor, wrappers stuffed into the cup-holders, empty water bottles and soda cans crunching under-foot... ugh! Use a plastic cereal container lined with a plastic bag to keep the trash where it belongs.


6. Bring a handful of change

Somewhere along the way, you're bound to hit an unexpected toll road. Toll roads are great for road-trips for a few reasons: they can make the trip faster by taking shorter routes and avoiding traffic, and they are often more scenic than the typical freeway. You'll need some spare change to use these toll roads, so scavenge under your couch cushions before you leave the house.

7. Keep your luggage organized

Use gallon bags or packing cubes to keep your stuff organized while you travel. It's easy to just stuff your clothes into your suitcase all willy-nilly when you're lazy or in a hurry, but packing cubes really help keep everything in its place -- including keeping your dirties separate from your cleans.

8. Buckle up!

Don't roll your eyes -- I'm not talking about while you're driving (although you obviously need to buckle up while driving, too). I'm talking about when you get out of your car in the middle of the afternoon to explore the local area. Before you leave the car, buckle your seat belt behind you. This will keep the metal buckle away from the window, where it typically soaks up the sunny summer rays and then burns the ever-loving goodness out of you when you get back into the car.


9. Mount your phone

If you don't have one already, you should definitely consider investing in a car phone mount. You will probably be using your phone for navigation along the way, and it's crucial to have your map in plain view while you drive, while complying with the hands-free law. If you don't have time to buy a real mount, you can make your own using a binder clip, duct tape, rubber bands, and some string.



10. Use a shower caddy for mess-free meals

Even if you do plan on packing a lot of your own snacks and meals, you're still bound to go through a few drive-thrus. If you keep a little shower caddy with you, you can store your food without worrying about spills or messes. Just load it up with your fries, burger, nuggets, sauces, drinks, etc., and snack away!

11. Hang a shoe organizer on the back of your seat

Keep your gadgets, maps, books, games, entertainment, snacks, and everything else organized by storing things in the pouches of a shoe organizer on the back of your seat. Never lose your earbuds or playing cards again!

12. Eat like a local

Check out Road Food to find cool, local places to eat when you get tired of Big Macs. Part of the fun of road-tripping is trying out different restaurants and local cuisine, so plan to stop at a few unique places! To give your phone battery a break, you can also buy the book to bring with you.

13. Download a gas app before you go

road trip, road trip hacks, how to road trip, planning a road trip, road trip planner, california road trip, USA road trip, cross country road trip, 

There are lots of different apps, but my favorite is Gas Buddy. Use it to find the cheapest and closest gas stations along your route to help keep gas costs down.

14. Be prepared to sleep in the car

If you want to save on lodging costs, or just pull off the road for a quick nap, pack a car air mattress so you can sleep in style. You really never know when you might get stuck without a hotel -- or maybe you just want to pull into a campsite. Trust me, a car mattress is so much better than sleeping in a cramped, partially-reclined seat.

Here's a great video that will help you get in the road-tripping mood with some fun and simple road-tripping advice.