Essential road trip tips

Essential road trip tips

Deep in the middle of the summer is a mighty fine time to grab some friends and hit the open road. You may recall that last January we did our own road trip from Nashville to Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronic Show. We affectionately named our journey CES Bound.

Since it’s high season for road trippers, I thought I would ask the CES Bound crew for their road trip tips:

  • Two words… Trucker’s Arm Rest. – Jay
  • Souvenirs – always buy at least one useless souvenir every city or state you stop in. Mexican wrestling masks come highly recommended. 😀 – Jackie
  • Memorize a handful of absolutely horrible songs so you can annoy your fellow roadtripers. Just make sure they don’t get any video footage because this will be perfect blackmail material. – Bradley
  • Always know where your registration and insurance is, at all times. – Mark
  • Use social media to interact with your friends along the way (Jolie O’Dell has some great tips here). – Dave

WindowSeat HandsFree

We’re giving away our new WindowSeat HandsFree to 10 lucky winners!

Leave us a comment with your personal road trip tip. We’ll randomly select 10 winners next Thursday (August, 5th after 12 pm Central). Good luck!

159 responses to “Essential road trip tips”

  1. Fred Bals says:

    Best road trip ever: The Apache Trail, AZ with the wife from Phoenix to Globe. 40 miles of steep, winding and mostly unpaved road. Then over the Rim and on to Flag and the Grand Canyon. Started out in shorts, ended up driving through a blizzard.

  2. Iain K. MacLeod says:

    Road trip tip: stock up your iPad with kid movies, tv shows and apps for your 3 year old. Games of “Eye Spy” and “Punch Buggy” will only get you so far with tech savvy kids.

    Personally, I will make sure I have an emergency energy drink in the car for our long voyage to Montreal tonight!

  3. Laddie says:

    Pick up one of those questions and answers books or word puzzle books you find in roadside shops along the way. They may look like they’re for kids, but you’d be surprised at just how much your fellow passengers wont know!

  4. clang says:

    Road Trip Tip: Always make sure each passenger window is unlocked and operates in order to allow for individual venting of certain smells quickly.

  5. ChatsMcGee says:

    Pack a first aid kit – you never know when you will need it!

  6. Atpuga says:

    Bring a book of jokes that your passengers can share…

  7. zmacman says:

    Oh man, I never leave without a cat5 cable and my airport express (and sometimes my Griffin AirBase). Real bummer when you get to a hotel and you can’t get wifi or you have to go to the lobby.

  8. Ohciel says:

    Never forget your chargers for different electronic appliance, laptops, cameras. Always bring a double of batteries for cameras, etc… you don’t want to be stuck somewhere not having a 2nd charged battery in the middle of a field. when you go back to your hotel, charge the depleted battery while using the spare one. and it’s a rotation system that always worked for me :)

  9. Derick says:

    Stash an extra car key somewhere inside your car. If you lose your car car key, you can have a tow truck driver open the car, or worst case smash the window. Either option is a lot cheaper and quicker than a replacement key.

  10. Daniel Muller says:

    My personal road trip tip is: If you do not need to arrive at your destination as fast as possible, try to avoid the highway and take backroads. While these roads may not be nearly as fast as traveling on the highway, they allow you to better experience the nature and wildlife in the area you are traveling through.

    Example: I was traveling up in New York and had no interest in being gridlocked on the State’s highways as it was getting close to rush hour. I took a strange route through the forests in the State and drove across an entire herd on deer drinking by a little pond. I had never even seen 1 deer before that day let alone 30+ all at once. That moment was the highlight of the entire trip.

  11. Myoblithe says:

    I try to always stop and eat at crumbly shady run-down places… You know, the one packed with all the local’s cars….because the food is amazing (usually). If it’s not amazing (and inexpensive) then It was still an adventure that you just don’t get from a generic McD’s or Denny’s.

  12. Donald Bullock says:

    Watch the borders. When crossing country borders check your iPhone or second-best smartphone to make sure you don’t use data roaming you don’t want to pay for. If you don’t want to pay sometimes extraordinary data costs, disable data roaming. If international, get a list of WiFi hotspots for locations you will visit.

  13. cloudcover says:

    Call dibs on the music so you don’t have to listen to others’ lame playlists!

  14. Bring a fold-up windshield shade and a sleep mask to be able to tap a nap break on the road.

  15. Jon Henshaw says:

    Bring a cooler or a bag that has a cooling section. Throw in some bottled water and fruit, and you'll not only save money at convenience stores when you stop for gas, you'll eat healthier too!

  16. Foofoo109 says:

    I think road trip is the best thing to have so when radio is out of area and all static you can listen to your own music. And hands free is safer to and in some states avoids a huge fine.

  17. Alan D. says:

    This looks awesome! I could use it on my frequent trips between MA and NJ/NY…

  18. Cooler, napkins, handiwipes and ziploc bags… trust me.

  19. Jeff Adams says:

    Whatever you do, don't become verbally combative with border patrol on your return trip from Mexico.

  20. Brett says:

    With 2 kids (8 and 5) we:

    a) load up our old iPod Nano and/or Shuffle with kids music and bring headphones along; and

    b) have both our iPod Touches along with kids games on them.

    I also have them pick one movie each and I load them onto the iPod Touch (one on each). All-in-all, three different things to keep them occupied, not to mention old fashioned things like books. Makes the 3.5 hour drive to the grandparents really smooth!

    Of course, all eyes are on an iPad or two with the same strategy :> !


  21. Mike King says:

    I am road tripping from Washington State to Texas. I'd love to win a WindowSeat!

  22. BearsFan34 says:

    Always keep a canister of Wet Ones or the like cleaning wipes. They're GREAT for removing stains on car upholstery, and even better on your clothes. I've saved many a shirt/pants having those wipes around after a trip through the Drive Thru.

  23. Chris says:

    Essential road trip tip…don't forget the camera!

  24. Dave Delaney says:

    That's a great idea!

  25. Dave Delaney says:

    Great call Jon, thanks. I'm going to do this next time we're on the road with the kids.

  26. Dave Delaney says:

    Yikes! There's a story there that I'm afraid to ask about.

  27. Dave Delaney says:

    Oh Fred, I hear you! That's some of the same way we drove on our road trip. Check these out:

  28. Dave Delaney says:

    Great ideas. Have a blast in Montreal too, it's one of my favorite cities.

  29. Dave Delaney says:

    I love it. No WiFi makes me sad too.

  30. Shelby says:

    One essential road trip tip is to have plenty of charging options, and maybe turn off the cell radio on your iPhone when you give it to your 3 year old, so that he's not surfing youtube, draining your data plan, and watching inappropriate videos.

  31. bdr says:

    a. Watched a whole season of 24 on our Powerbook on one road trip. Power inverters are a must.
    b. Comfy pillow for ultimate rest between driving shifts.

  32. Chris Etling says:

    We have a cooler bag that we take on all road trips. Throw a couple ice packs in there and some soda and you are good to go for the day!

  33. Rolene says:

    Make sure you have enough snacks & water for these long stretches where there isn't a place to shop from…

  34. Ian Aberle says:

    I love stopping at the tourist info center when crossing the border into a new state and picking up a free map of the state. Plus, they usually have clean restrooms.

  35. Nick Triano says:

    Put some of those podcasts you've been waiting to listen to (helloooo, This American Life!) back on your iPhone/Pod for the trip, rather than having to listening to whatever talk radio is available.

  36. Jason Power says:

    load up the i-device with plenty of music and podcasts, (keep it easily accessible with a windowseat handsfree), keep the camera close by, have your co-pilot use an ipad 3g or iphone for gps, urbanspoon (we've found some great places using that app), and on-the-go research for diversions and geocaching along the way.

  37. Robb Fladry says:

    The wide mouth bottles on the one liter sodas are there for a reason.. sometimes you just don't need to stop for a bathroom break.. do you?

  38. Michaellane says:

    If you have a metal dashboard, you can attach your WindowSeat HandsFree to that instead of your windshield

  39. Dave Delaney says:

    Funny, you're reminding me of Crazy Heart: Good movie too!

  40. Brian says:

    Get a good audiobook – helps the time fly by!

  41. Dave Delaney says:

    All great tips! Thanks.

  42. Dave Delaney says:

    All great tips! Thanks.

  43. Dave Delaney says:

    I love podcasts too!

  44. Sequoyah says:

    Update your GPS with local POIs

  45. Adam LaPrade says:

    My personal road trip tip is this: Don't be afraid to take a small detour from your trip to check out something that interests you. It might not always make things the trip better, but it almost always leads to some interesting stories!

    Example, a monument, a food joint, a tourist trap, etc..

  46. Dave Delaney says:

    Oh that's so true! We ended up in Bedrock City and Williams, AZ. Check it out:

  47. Dave Delaney says:

    Oh that's so true! We ended up in Bedrock City and Williams, AZ. Check it out:

  48. Donald Bullock says:

    Take an airport express so that you can use a single wired connection to connect multiple WiFi phones and laptops (if there is no WiFi in your hotel).

  49. Bradford says:

    My personal road trip tip is: Use the application YELP to search on your phone or PC for good places to eat (we found some of the best coffee shops)! this made our last road trip awesome.

  50. Matt D says:

    Road Trip Tip: If youre driving an RV, ignor the impulse to use cruise control to walk back and make a sandwich.

  51. Dave Delaney says:

    LOL! Please tell me that was a joke. Oh gosh, I really hope so.

  52. Dave Delaney says:

    Great tip. I was going crazy on a recent trip to Toronto. As soon as we crossed the border my iPhone was in airplane mode for the duration of the holiday.

  53. Dave Delaney says:

    Great point. My wife and I always ask the server at our first restaurant or pub stop. The servers always know the best local joints.

  54. Dave Delaney says:

    I love it! That's a great story too. Thanks.

  55. Dave Delaney says:

    Oh! That's a really good one. Thanks.

  56. chris says:

    make sure that you have plenty of caffeine handy

  57. Kirkmendoza says:

    Bring CASH! I cannot tell you how many times I've gone somewhere in the past and assumed that my destination only to find out it's Cash Only (not to mention all the in between stops). I'd even go as far to say a variety of increments too, especially smaller bills, because some places have said “Sorry, I don't got change. Got anything smaller?” YiKES!

  58. My road trip tip: have a GPS application on your phone (let it be iPhone or anything else) with maps preinstalled. Don't wanna be caught in a dead spot with no data to tell you where to go!

  59. Guus says:

    For people outside US (like me): go to America!

  60. Keep a small cooler in your car for water and easy snacks… keeps the car moving with fewer stops. Bring headphones if you are the passenger so you can zone out (or not listen to what music the driver is playing).

  61. Joseph says:

    The best trips combine rocking out in the car, with the great sounds of nature at the final destination.

  62. Queenmarylady says:

    When I go on road trips with my best friend I am the “co-pilot”. It is my job to have the snacks available, the music to pass the time away, and the drinks for refreshment along the way. One thing I ALWAYS pack besides this is a roll of toilet paper. Sure, there are places you can stop here and there with bathrooms, but you never know when the roll will be empty.

  63. Queenmarylady says:

    Always bring a camera. Take lots of photos. The memories are priceless. =)

  64. Queenmarylady says:

    Hmm..I was reminded more of the movie “Dumb and Dumber”, Dave LOL

  65. footinmouth says:

    Bring some anti-bacterial wipes in case you need to use a rest stop toilet.

  66. Dave Delaney says:

    Great movie! LOL

  67. Dave Delaney says:

    Is there where I fit in a shameless plug for MyPhones? 😉 Thanks Joy!

  68. Dave Delaney says:

    It's true. Driving is really a way of life in the States. One would guess that the concept of a road trip was likely created in America too.

  69. Sangori says:

    I make lots of road trips to make sure all the grandparents (who all live in different cities and states) get to see their one and only grandson. With a toddler in the back and the road ahead I could really use some handsfree help!

  70. vandric says:

    Be aware the gasoline is very important! I have once stayed with tank empty and couldn't move on.

  71. Webgalpat says:

    I always keep an emergency bag in my car with candles, matches, lighter, water, some nuts & grains, flashlight, blanket, first aid stuff, a jacket, etc. It's with me all the time, even when I go to work.

  72. pithy says:

    check for free wifi hotspots

  73. Louie Lee says:

    I usually carry a picnic basket stocked with plates and utensils along with a couple of blankets for the impromptu picnics! Requires very little planning. Just stop by a local sandwich shop for the food, and use the GPS on the iPhone to locate a nice park in an unfamiliar city!

  74. Louie Lee says:

    And if the WindowSeat doesn't obstruct the camera, I'll take a timelapse movie to show friends & family what my roadtrip was like!

  75. Louie Lee says:

    With the WindowSeat, my iPhone camera will always be in easy reach for the “Kodak moment”!

  76. Audiobooks. I've listened to four Dickens novels in the car. (They're about 30 hours each.) A great way to pass the time on long work routes and car trips.

    PS – Dickens audiobooks are usually performed by great actors, who sometimes are required to do 50+ voices.

    Also highly recommended: Tim Curry's reading of the Lemony Snicket stories.

  77. Neal D says:

    Drive safe, and always buy Griffin products. They are the best!

  78. Donna B says:

    Bring crayons and coloring books for the kids along with their favorite blankets; snacks; water; wet wipes; favorite music.

  79. Kent13 says:

    Have an emergency kit which includes Duck Tape or Gorilla tape.

  80. What would make this better? Hands free and FM Tuner. But still a great product

  81. roswello says:

    always have a camera that is chareged or has fresh batteries handy as soo many times we have seen something amazing and didnt have one with us , neevr know when big foot might cross the road lol

  82. Jeff W says:

    My best (or worst roadtrip – depending how you look at it): I was out in Las Vegas at a conference with my family over September 11, 2001, and was summoned back to work in Atlanta by my boss in two days. No excuses for not being there, even knowing there were no flights and no rental cars available. I finally managed to get a rental, and then spent nearly 48 hours straight driving across the country on interstate 40, alternating shifts with my wife and son and listening to the latest news about the attack on NPR. We finally pulled into Atlanta about 5:00am, and I had to be at work in two hours. Talk about no sleep. Very scary times, but looking back, the trip and time with my family will be something I'll never forget. Thanks to Griffin for a great giveaway and for continuing to make fantastic products!

  83. My personal road trip tip is make sure you load up lots of ZZ Top on the iPhone, turn the volume up, drive at night and roll the windows down! “I'm bad, I'm nationwide…”

  84. Dave Delaney says:

    Wow, that sounds like a horrible journey. Being with your family was of course great, but that's a long drive in a very short time.

    Thanks for the note.

  85. JC says:

    Two words: TOILET PAPER!

  86. Having just driven 1800 miles, I recommend a few things:

    1) Create a Google map of your trip as you're going along, and post images directly to the map from your mobile device from places you stop.

    2) Get off the highways, and take back roads. You will see some of the coolest sights, plus can often get fresh fruit and vegetables from roadside stands.

    3) Drive at night at least once, especially when there is a full moon. There is something about driving under the summer skies that is magical.

  87. mediaprod10 says:

    For long trips with long stretches of driving or large groups, have a vehicle-wide “happy hour” prior to a stop and dig in to the drinks & snacks. Outside of this hour, keep drinks to a minimum. This helps to prevent unnecessary pit stops.

  88. jckchn says:

    play one song over and over. like in How I Met Your Mother where Marshall plays that one song and only the one song for the decade or so he had the Fierro.

  89. Dave Delaney says:

    but keep that driver sober too.

  90. Dave Delaney says:

    Great Dawn. Did you notice, if you drag the map upwards on you can see how we did that too. Cheers.

  91. Dave Delaney says:

    I agree 100%! “La Grange” helps too, as does “Mellow Down Easy”:

  92. the captain says:

    I pack four main items for all trips:
    1) extra water for everyone on board
    2) First Aid kit
    3) Sunglasses
    4) Sunblock

  93. Fiza says:

    I remember we we went to Canada about 2 weeks ago. 15 hour drive with about 16 people in the big van. It was quite fun but we did a speeding ticket. well not my dad but my dad's friend was driving. He was going 61 on a 40 construction lane. If we had WindowsSeatFree Product we would have known what the speed limits are around here and the gps support could have helped up through iPhone/iPod. Well he kept on tapping the GPS and that was quite dangerous while driving. We didn't take many highways it was pretty local. but overall it was a wonderful trip and I would love to do it again except the police part.

  94. Dave Delaney says:

    Sounds like a fun trip. Where in Canada did you go?

  95. Darius says:

    Never drive tired! Pull over or let your friend/family member take over the wheel when you need a break.

  96. James says:

    Leave early in the morning and drink a large amount of coffee.

  97. rsinclair says:

    If you can't afford a cool dash-mounting system, use velcro to attach your iPhone or iPad to the dash for use as a GPS and/or music-playing system.

  98. night road trip tip: have your passenger keep an eye out for deer, and instead of saying “oh oh oh there is a deer over there” just say “deer”, otherwise by the time you get the first comment out it can be too late.

  99. Chris W. says:

    With two small children under 5, we keep plenty of easy snacks / juice in the passenger area, fully stocked diaper bag with extra plastic bags to contain 'used' diapers, plenty of toys and kids music on the car's iPod. Luckily, our girls tend to sleep easily in the car, so we occasionally get to listen to adult music, though at a very low volume.

  100. When traveling with kids, go to the dollar store and buy a small present for every hour of the road trip. Wrap the presents and let them pick one gift every hour on the hour. A 10 hour road trip costs you $10 per kid, but it gives them something to look forward to for every stage of the trip.

    Don't forget to buy presents for the way back. And since you are traveling with kids, be sure to buy a few extra since delays are likely.

  101. pack plenty of bottled waters and crystal light packets in various flavors to turn plain ol' water into delicious teas and juice drinks!

  102. Martha says:

    Road Trip Tip: ALWAYS have a camera (or iPhone). That way you can document the bus load of 100 manpri and baret wearing Frenchmen sightseeing at the Bagdad Cafe in the middle of the desert. Otherwise no one will believe you!!

  103. never drive in unfamiliar territory without and ipad mounted to the dash running trapster.

  104. Rhazelrigg says:

    I recently had a road trip to North Jersey where I show'd off my Elan Passport Wallet for iPhone 4 to some executives at a major clothing retailer. The retailer loved your product so much they are going to start selling them in their stores…

  105. georgeangelo says:

    Road trip tip: In an hour-long car ride, don't ever debate your Italian uncle's recipe for chicken cutlets.

  106. Dave Delaney says:

    I LOVE happy endings! Thanks for this.

  107. Dave Delaney says:

    A picture or it didn't happen, right? Great call Martha. Thanks.

  108. Dave Delaney says:

    Thanks a great idea for those 14 hour drives to Toronto. Yikes! :) Thanks Jackson.

  109. Dave Delaney says:

    Should I shamelessly promote MyPhones here? :)
    I have two under 5 as well, so I understand completely. Thanks Chris!

  110. Dave Delaney says:

    Good tip Peter. Thanks.

  111. Dave Delaney says:

    Or WindowSeat (shameless plug!) :)

  112. Always know where the clean bathrooms are along the way.

  113. Chris W. says:

    Since our 23 mo. old wants everything her older sister has, I'm not sure we're ready for the MyPhones yet, but I'm all for giving everyone their own music in the car. Thanks for showing me (yet another) great Griffin product.

  114. Dave Delaney says:

    I can understand. No worries. Cheers Chris.

  115. Tim Williams says:

    Davids BBQ Sunflower seeds. Must have.

  116. Be a good co-pilot – stay awake and talk to the driver

  117. When roadtripping with the kids: make sure you have enough movies available that you can tolerate over and over – there’s nothing worse than being stuck with Dora or Diego for those long trips.

  118. go to the bathroom before you leave. I hate stopping!!! Make sure you have sirius radio blasting.

  119. Road Trip Tip: Be nice to truckers, they have the original on-the-go social networking medium and can make your road tripping life miserable!

  120. Vanessa Diaz says:

    For some reason me and road trips always equal dram! with a capital D. Took a road trip to Washington got lost for 6 hours. Took a road trip to Las Vegas and we weren’t even on the road for 15 minutes when we got pulled over by highway patrol who gave us a 500 dollar ticket. Something always happens when I take a road trip! but dang it I’m not going to stop taking em! I’m sure the WindowSeat HandsFree can help me with not getting lost cause it can turn your iphone into a GPS! awesome! thanks for the chance! following at twitter @vmsweet123

  121. Miki Ballard says:

    Always carry spare batteries for your camera, never know when you might find that perfect shot!

  122. Goose2460 says:

    Never leave without enough music to last you there and back :-)

  123. Anthony Cheung says:

    Always make sure there is more than 1 licensed driver in the car! Having the sole driver get either fatigued/bored/cranky, or a combination of those, does NOT make a good road trip!

  124. Stephan says:

    After taking the month of June off and traveling the south and west, I have many. Top three are:

    1) Stop every few hours. We visited 12 Nat’l Parks in 20 days, hit numerous landmarks, and learned a lot along the way.

    2) Look out the window once in a while. We have a very beautiful country!

    3) Get local recommendations for eating. Mom & Pop places have amazing food. And never be nervous to try something new.

    One more:

    4) We had a few CDs and three iPods. A variety of tunes is important.

  125. jjudy05 says:

    Leave the kids at home ; ) jk

    My tip would be to have plenty of good snacks and activites onboard.

  126. Rick15jk says:

    Don’t take the kids

  127. Paul Adams says:

    Green means “drive fast,” yellow means “drive faster,” and red means “you should’ve driven faster.”

  128. Chance says:

    Next road trip? It’s probably going to be to Houston, for business reasons, if fun ones!

  129. Z Noras says:

    The best way to arrive on time is to get up early :)

  130. Chance says:

    Oh, road trip TIP. I misread the post! I always make my road trips at times that have me passing through major cities at night, whenever I can. If you don't know the traffic patterns of a given area, that's an easy way of giving yourself the best possible odds.

  131. Ashweb says:

    If your child is still within the window of 6 months before, during or after being potty trained, it's okay to put Pull-ups on him/her and yell, “Just GO already in your Pull-up!” when he/she cries wolf from the back seat.

  132. Bob Loncaric says:

    A portable DVD player and plenty of Blues Clues discs make for a happy 2 year old on a car trip

  133. AdamS says:

    Ask a CC company for a number that you can use while overseas.

  134. Madalena says:

    Planning in advance where to stop and rest can be very beneficial. Abrupt stops usually end up costing more than expected.

  135. Frezkee says:

    Top Tip I can give: Although you would like to get to your destination as fast as possible, do not forget to take breaks to circulate your body's blood flow.

  136. J. P. says:

    Driving alone, it's imperative to have lots of good stuff to listen to and to eat and drink–and the willingness to just pull over and rest whenever needed for safety. When I did a 12+ hour one day drive in 1995, I did not have a cell phone, so I didn't have the option of being able to continuously talk to people as I might today if I were doing the same thing.

    My dad and I did a 3,000 mile trip in a big rental truck in three days in 2007 and I still remember it as a good experience precisely because we had each other to share the driving and conversation.

  137. rick says:

    Find great places to eat along the way

  138. Dave Delaney says:

    Great tip! Thanks J.P.

  139. Dave Delaney says:

    So true! We forgot to do this recently going to Canada. Thanks!

  140. Dave Delaney says:

    Good point! Who doesn't like Blues Clues? :)

  141. Jediah c says:

    Plan on finding a few places along the way to stop and take pictures. One of the best parts of the great American road trip is the sights along the way. take advantage of the flexibility of ground transport and enjoy America at it's best!

  142. Daz says:

    Personal tip for an amazing road trip, is get your passenger to bring along many music CDs so you can tirelessly debate each individual track as the journey progresses….

  143. So many comments that I can't keep up! I travel a lot so one of my tips is don't try to drive too long in one day. 10-11 hrs should be the absolute most you drive (and only after a good night's sleep). Beyond that and you seriously run the risk of being too tired. Additionally, you should be sure to stop if you start to get tired. BE SAFE! :)

  144. Eric Lott says:

    Sunflower seeds!! So you draw the short straw and get night shift or even worse the after lunch shift and everybody else is passed out from food comma or driving all day. How are you going to stay awake? Sunflower seeds! By some chimical reaction, natural compound, or macigal power these seeds not only will keep you awake but the act of eating them gives you something to do too. So grab an empty bottle to spit you shells in and a bottle of water to keep your mouth from drying out and be the hero of the trip and volunteer to take that killer shift.

  145. Willis says:

    Always bring drinks and snacks. They make driving long hours much more pleasant.