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What are your tips for traveling by car?

I travel by car for a long time and have a couple of things that I always take with me. For example, napkins or car seat protector/. There are very important things because I travel with children and the interior of the car is constantly getting dirty. And what are your tips for traveling by car?

Posted by
7173 posts

My suggestions for rental cars are to leave them behind if at all possible and take the train. But if you just can’t function without the car then get darned good insurance.

Posted by
20634 posts

Traveling by car --- where??? That makes a huge difference. My first reaction to traveling by car in Europe, especially if it involves major cities is, Don't!!! A car is useful in Europe for country side travel in areas not well served by public transit. Even when traveling in less populated country side, parking in even the smallest of town can be a problem. Especially if you stumble into a market day or some type of a festival. Although we have never had any problems with theft, conventional wisdom is to keep luggage out of sight when using public parking areas. And finally know absolutely where you are going via GPS, etc., so you can avoid restricted zones and speed zones.

Tim suggestion for good insurance is excellent. I would not rely on the generic credit card coverage.

Posted by
11432 posts

Tim , your assuming he’s means Europe , however nowadays he may be referring to domestic travels . As far as I am a ware train travel is not that easy cheap or convenient in North America .

Op -

When we traveled with our children - lots of non messy snacks ( but we never obsessed about crumbs etc as with three kids we picked out battles and crumbs etc was not one of them )

We traveled before internet / phones / iPads etc - but we did invest in a mini portable DVD player that helped .

Wet wipes

Posted by
1163 posts

An obvious one - paper maps. If you're sticking to a rigid itinerary then a SatNav or other GPS gadget might be good enough to get you boringly from A to B; but the great advantage of travelling by car on holiday is the flexibility and you can make the best of this by having a proper road atlas or similar as you plan your own route and see what's around for excursions, stops and side-trips as you drive along.

Also, plastic bags - they come in handy for all sorts of things.

Edit - I forgot - coins in the local currency. Some places still have parking meters which take only coins, no cards or mobile phone payments.,

Posted by
1095 posts

Disagree with paper maps. They are fine for an emergency back-up, but for every day use nothing beats a good GPS (Over the years I have used both in Europe). As for GPS, bring one from home that you are familiar with (used daily would be best). No fumbling around with strange GPS in a language you do not understand. You can pre-load it at home with your hotels and sites you want to visit.

Posted by
11432 posts

I also agree paper maps ! GPS led us down a dead end road and told us “ you have arrived at destination “ when we were doing a road trip last year in our province .

Posted by
1169 posts

I always bring two things when traveling domestically:

I am hesitant to plug my phone into the USB port on rental cars. You may also want to bring a small Bluetooth speaker for your phone if you like listening to audiobooks or your own music.

Other things that make my life easier:

  • water bottle
  • some sort of cooler for drinks/food (this depends on the type and duration of the trip)
  • wipes
Posted by
20634 posts

Kind of laughed with Bob's postings. For years, because of the military and boy scouts, I was a paper map and compass. I could go anywhere as long as I had both. A few years ago the sons give me the cheapest, standalone GPS unit for Christmas. (Figuring he isn't going to use it and why throw away money on an expensive unit.) They were correct. Didn't use it for always a year and then decided I have to learn a new trick or two. For a while used all three and then one day burned the map. Still carry a compass when traveling. Do like to keep my orientation. But Bob is correct. We live and die with the GPS on our phones.

Posted by
5258 posts

Paper maps, wipes in ziplock bag, bottled water, phone charger, gum, small flashlight, Kleenex, coin purse.

Posted by
6236 posts

What are your tips for traveling by car?

Make sure you have enough gas to get there, where ever there is

What I take for the 5 mile trip to Costco is a bit different than what I take for the 800 mile drive to Yellowstone.

Some context for your question would be helpful

Posted by
23587 posts

It all depends on what season and in which country.

I am not at all convinced that this thread is about either North America or Europe.

Posted by
20634 posts

Nigel, you are probably correct. Strange first time posting and also under technology so wondered if they was asking about devices such as GPS. Need a little clarity.

Posted by
1095 posts

"I also agree paper maps ! GPS led us down a dead end road and told us “ you have arrived at destination “ when we were doing a road trip last year in our province ."

We still get a laugh about ending up in the middle of a cow pasture in Ireland back when we were using a paper maps.

Posted by
4214 posts

I like GPS but I also want a paper map to help avoid following the GPS blindly into stupid routes. Also, enough gas to get where you're going. And with kids a car may be more comfortable and convenient, and cheaper, than going by train.

I agree that it would help for the OP to offer more context.

Posted by
1138 posts

And with kids a car may be more comfortable and convenient, and
cheaper, than going by train.

Not necessarily cheaper as child tickets can be really cheap on many trains. On SJ a child ticket can cost as little as 5 kr (€0.5). And it is a lot easier to keep children from getting bored on a train.

Posted by
20634 posts

And if you travel in Texas or a couple of other western states, make sure the gun rack is secure. It is troublesome when it comes loose while your braking hard. And make sure the barrel is pointed away so that if one of the kids accidentally hits a trigger no damage is done.

Posted by
27 posts

Frank: My Eagle Scout son studied abroad in Switzerland, and ALWAYS carried his good old Scout compass. He said the second he got off a bus or train in a new city out it would come so he could orient himself. He never, ever got lost.

Posted by
155 posts

Frank...and that is why I don't go to Texas. ha ha

Posted by
9 posts

Beware of phone mounts! They were prohibited in the car I rented in Pisa. I fully AGREE with the 'paper map' people. Cannot go wrong. Traveled by myself and the paper map was still the way to go when seeing the countryside.

Posted by
53 posts

Agree with paper maps. They can be back up. At the same time you can also download offline maps wherever available. You can do this with Google Maps.

Posted by
231 posts

In our car, there is an ongoing debate regarding paper map vs GPS. My thought is that they both have their place and both are invaluable when traveling. We very often will double check our GPS directions with a paper map. Just last week the GPS told us to turn left when we needed to turn right. It was obvious that we were in the wrong place when we ended up in front of a grain bin. On the other hand, driving in Dallas with a GPS was a nightmare, but I'm sure without it would have been impossible! As far as tips for car travel, the best help is, as with any trip, to research not only where you are going but also what is near the area. In my opinion, the best perk of car travel is that you can be more flexible. We are kind of off the beaten path kind of travelers. So how wonderful to drive a few miles out of your way to see something of interest that you would otherwise fly over, or whiz by in either a train or bus. So putting in a bit of research before filling the tank can really enhance your adventure.

Posted by
3318 posts

Approaching this as domestic car travel in my own vehicle.

First off, I will review the route I am going to take using Google maps to see what would be nice places to stop for the night or meals during the day. Also look for unique road side attractions. I prefer to at least act like I am familiar with the area when I arrive :-)

I have been keeping camping food in my car since I moved to Colorado. You know those freeze dried dehydrated meals in a bag you add hot water to and then "enjoy"? I have never found myself in a position to need those when traveling in the car, but have used them when actually camping. In the summer when going on longer road trips, I will also include a couple cans of Spam and whatever canned vegetables look good. I also have a sleeping bag and tarp in case I decide to turn the trip into a campout.

Beyond that, I always have bottled water, paper maps, cell phone charger, flashlight with extra batteries, the high visibility road side emergency kit that came with the car (including flares and a flag to display out the window to attract help if needed). A can of Fix-A-Flat in case I am too far out of cell phone range and can't contact AAA. And a package of toilet paper, just in case. I have thought about carrying an extra can of gasoline too, but that can be dangerous so have not done so yet and just stop more often at gas stations along the way.

Happy travels.

Posted by
1169 posts

Beware of phone mounts! They were prohibited in the car I rented in Pisa.

???

How would they know? Mine mount to the air vent. Others use a suction cup.

I acknowledge that different states have different requirements on where they are mounted. You need to check that. Italy also has hands free laws, like most US states.

Posted by
8631 posts

My best tip for traveling by car......get a chauffeur. This way you can sit back and enuoy the scenery.

Posted by
23587 posts

It seems that our original poster has come, posted, and left the room.