Probably the most exciting thing of last year’s trip was the fact that I was going to rent a car on my own and drive a lot – also on my own. Most of you might know that you have to be 25 to rent a car in the US or you will have to pay a fee to ensure them that you’ll bring back the car in one piece. So obviously the last time when I was still under car-rental-age, I was not allowed to drive the rental. Picture my excitement this time! I seriously love driving, especially when it is an automatic car! I started planning my road trip almost right after I had booked my flight and I also rented the car at that time. However, there are still things that I couldn’t totally prepare for, some of them I even had to learn the hard way. Read about my “5 things to bring with you on a roadtrip”:
1. Bring your own GPS!
I know most rental car companies offer them in addition to the car, but bringing your own GPS ensures that it is updated and has all important addresses pre-programmed. Insert all the places that you want to stay right away, as that will save valuable time. After most days I didn’t feel like sitting on the bed and type in my addresses for the next day, when there is either so much going on around you or you are simply dead tired and you just want to go to bed. I used my old TomTom that I bought in 2009 and updated the maps for USA and Canada beforehand when I had enough time at home. It cost me around 25$ and an evening of installing, but I had a GPS that I (kind of) trusted and knew how to work with.
2. water, water, lots of water… and snacks
It’s really important to stay hydrated while driving and always have a bottle of water next to you. I started driving in Boston after a few days exploring the city with a bad sun burn and just my luggage on me, no water, no snacks. The thing is that you will have to focus a lot on the road and on the unfamiliar car so that you forget to drink and eat or that you are hungry in the first place. It’ll hit you the moment you leave the comfy air-conditioned car… so stock up on your supplies!
It’s nice to travel alone but it can also get really quiet in that car when there is no one to talk to. I enjoyed listening to the radio for a while but when you drive longer distances you’ll notice that the channels change a lot and you’ll probably get annoyed as well of the static sound echoing in your car. So it’s a great idea to make your own CD beforehand, and that will even increase the excitement!
4. Knowledge of traffic rules
Brush up your knowledge of the local traffic rules and look up how to react in certain situations. The first minutes after renting the car, I met a school bus on the road and I actually had forgotten that it is a big NO-NO to drive past it when it stops. Everyone honked at me and scared me so much that I almost drove into a fence. I felt like I would get arrested after that, so that was terrifying! Avoid that by spending 10 minutes before the trip googling traffic rules!
5. Lots of money… cash and credit card
Even though gas is a lot cheaper in the US, a road trip can still get pretty pricy after a while. So try to calculate beforehand how much you will have to spend on gas and make sure to have enough money on your credit card. Also, try to find out how much you will have to pay on tolls. I actually had to leave the interstate in Manhattan during rush hour and drive through some really sketchy neighborhoods in order to find an ATM because I had only 3 $ left. The next toll bridge ended up costing 17 $ so I was actually glad I did find an ATM. Try to plan ahead and maybe ask some locals about how much it will be!