The sandhill cranes are back along with other migratory birds, signaling the return of spring, one of my most favorite times of the year. The days are getting longer and the sun is getting warmer, causing a resurgence of energy and motivation to get out and hit the road!
When we think about road trips, we often think about piling everyone into the family sedan, but road trips can entail many modes of transportation – each with their own set of considerations and challenges.
Have you ever considered heading out on a road trip on a motorcycle, an RV, or even a rented convertible? What are the additional things you need to take into account when choosing different forms of transportation?
Here are just a few thoughts and tips on choosing your mode of getting around this summer.
Of course, there are considerations you need to take into account regardless of what vehicle you choose. This includes:
- Service & clean your vehicle – including tires, oil, suspension, fluids. Taking care of this before you go is your best prevention towards trouble on the road
- Ensure your insurance is up to date. If you’re renting, make sure you know what’s covered – and what’s not
- Pack a first aid kit and an emergency kit
- Have printed maps – you never know when your phone/GPS dies or has no service
- Cash on hand when credit won’t do
- Water – stay hydrated
- AAA, Good Sam, or other roadside assistance plans
- Spare key – and put it somewhere you can get it
- Laundry supplies – travel sized
- Sunscreen & insect repellent
- Weather app or emergency radio
There is something unique and special about hitting the open road on a motorcycle. Motorcycles can come in two or three-wheel variations and fully immerse you into the riding experience.
On a cycle, you are exposed to the elements. Wind, dust, rain, insects, smells, gravel, potholes, and anything else the road wants to throw at you. You are at the mercy of other, much larger vehicles, and road hazards often ignored by them become life threatening to you.
Cycles only have so much space. You can get luggage racks and even pull a trailer with some models, but, for the most part, you are bringing along what you can carry. Packing light and packing smart is critical here – think multi-purpose & laundry stops!
On the other hand, you will need to bring along things on a cycle that you wouldn’t necessarily need with another vehicle. This includes:
- Tire plug kit with CO2 inflation
- Extra riding gloves
- Full rain gear
- Riding jacket & fleece
- Bungee cords for securing your load
- Bike tools – only the essentials!
- Hat to wear for ‘helmet hair’
- Neck warmer or balaclava
- Zip-lock bags
RV or Motorhome
Whether it is a Class A, B, C, or just an oversized van, probably the best thing about taking a road trip with an RV is that you will always have a place to sleep for the night.
However, that convenience doesn’t come without a price – mainly issues due to the sheer size of the vehicle as well as the ‘moving parts’.
The size of the vehicle comes into play when navigating winding roads and finding a place to park for sightseeing, tourist attractions, even eating and bathroom/stretch breaks. Some campgrounds and State Parks aren’t very accommodating to large RVs, so you’ll have to do some research ahead of time on where you can stay for the night. Most Walmarts will let you stay overnight in a pinch.
With all of the accessories that come with an RV, you need to maintain and pay attention to more ‘stuff’ – both on the road as well as during setup and take down. This adds to your time and can result in mishaps on the road if you forget something – like stowing and securing your stabilizing jacks.
Here is a checklist of what you need to consider when taking an RV on a road trip:
- Research your route and destinations to plan ahead for roads, parking, and camping
- Ensure batteries are charged and working properly
- Ensure LP tanks are full. Shut them off when not in use.
- Distribute weight evenly and secure all cargo – including the fridge!
- Fill and empty water/waste tanks
- Secure awnings, stabilizer jacks, wheel chocks, antenna, power cord, steps
- Turn off lights, fans, furnace, A/C, water heater, water pump, pilot lights
- Bring or attach a level to level the unit on the site
- Close all windows and vents
- Check tire pressure often
- Check your supply of rubber gloves
Renting A Vehicle
Renting a vehicle for a road trip can be a great idea. When renting, you can choose the vehicle for your purpose – whether it’s the size, the fuel economy, or the joy of a flashy convertible, selecting the right vehicle for the job can make your road trip more enjoyable.
A road trip adds miles and wear and tear on your vehicle. If you’re leasing, you may want to limit the number of miles you drive. Future repairs and maintenance can be delayed by putting the miles on someone else’s vehicle.
It may be just as economical to rent a car as it is to use your own. The IRS figures 54 cents a mile for ‘wear and tear’ on your vehicle. You can use this to calculate the comparison in addition to fuel economy factors.
If you have your own insurance or use a major credit card to rent, look to see if they also cover the rental for any damage that may occur. If they do, don’t purchase any additional insurance from the carrier.
Renting also lets you ‘try before you buy’. If you’re thinking of getting a new vehicle – specifically for road trips or just as your daily driver, renting that model will give you some great insight on what works and what doesn’t for your needs. Ever wanted to try that new brand or feature? Now’s your chance!
Personally, I like to use a full size SUV for my road trips. It gives us plenty of space, includes entertainment options, extra storage areas, and 4-wheel drive when we need it (some of the best hiking trails and views take you down some pretty crazy dirt roads!).
If you’re driving a full-size model like we do, sometimes you run into parking issues in large cities with low clearance parking ramps. We’ve learned to work around this by parking outside of the city and taking public transportation in. This not only avoids the parking issue, you can eliminate the traffic delays ad annoyances and it’s also a great way to immerse yourself in the city culture.
Vans can offer you the space of a full size SUV and some may prefer to drive one, but often they don’t come with 4-wheel drive. If seating beyond 8 is needed or SUVs are just not your thing, a van may be the answer.
Nostalgia may be the biggest player here, but if your family sedan is your ‘goto’ vehicle for road trips, you’re not alone. I’d say most people have sedans and most people will take it. You will probably also get better fuel economy. Your space may be limited, but your sense of adventure will probably make up for it. If that’s what you have and that’s what you like to drive, taking the journey will be well worth it!
What vehicle will you drive on your next road trip? Any other tips or ‘gotchas’ that we didn’t think of? Let us know in the comments below!
As always, thanks for reading!
Kristi, aka The Trippy Tripster