Road trips are made for summer. Summer is made for road trips. I'm a musician with several tours under my belt so, yeah, you guessed it, I love road trips and summer. But braving the heat while living in an automobile isn't very cool if you aren't prepared. Before you pack your vehicle so tight you can't open the backseat doors without spilling pillows and sun block all over the scorching rest stop parking lot, make sure you have your summer road trip bases covered.
Summer's biggest pitfalls aren't mysterious. Mostly there's the heat and the sun, which can be two separate problems to combat. Precisely how to conquer the road while dodging the wrath of summer is a practice best perfected by experience, so here are some tips birthed from experience, not in any intentional order.
1. Plan your route wisely.
Where you're going matters. As you might suspect, planning a summer road trip that will take you through the South is dangerous territory. With that said, I've done it, plenty of people have, but be mindful of the regional summer climate when planning your summer trip. Give yourself more time for rest than you think you need. The heat has a way of corroding away a traveler's soul. If you think you can manage full-day drives during the summer, that's fine, but make sure your schedule is flexible.
2. Prepare your vehicle.
It's absolutely essential that you make sure your vehicle is adequately prepared for a summer road trip before embarking on one. If your air conditioner is broken, get it fixed. If the car's interior material is the kind that easily gets sticky and hot, bring thin sheets to cover the seats with. And oh yeah, those windshield sun blockers? Definitely a bright idea.
3. Pack the right stuff.
What you pack will prove to be important during a summer road trip. During any road trip, no matter the season, what you bring along with you more or less accounts for your home for the trip. When road tripping, your vehicle is your home. Remember that. Aside from the regular to-bring items (first aid kit, anyone?) a few essentials to remember when packing for a summer trip are:
But the real question to ask yourself is: what helps you feel comfortable in the summer? If having an on-the-go folding beach chair around has been handy for you in the past, go ahead and slide it into your trunk if there's space.
Dean Herrera, guitarist for metal band, The Human Abstract, is especially behind including a swim suit on the pack list.
"Always have some swim suit ready to go. You never know when you might drive by an unexpected river or lake that would be perfect for a quick dip", said Herrera when I asked him for his own summer road trip tips.
4. Avoid afternoon driving.
Tolerating the heat, especially in the South, can be a challenge. Avoid driving in the height of the afternoon if you have a chance. People siesta for a reason in warm places! You should take this tip via tradition to heart. Drive at night, dawn, or dusk for the most pleasant temperature and traffic-free experience. Not only will you be more comfortable, but you'll probably save a little on gas money while you're at it (it takes less gas to cool your car when the outside temperature drops).
5. Stay clean.
It's easy to become a stinky sweaty mess when traveling during the summer. Deodorant is important, but it won't ward off all of the nasty scents of summer road tripping. I used to always have my shampoo, conditioner, and a jug of water around so I could quickly wash my hair in a parking lot if necessary. But public showers do exist.
"Truck stop showers are typically very clean", says Anthony Shustak. "Don't be afraid to use them if you need... just be sure you've got some sandals". Anthony Shustak is a touring veteran who has traveled with acts like Meg and Dia and LIGHTS as an engineer, tour manager, and general-good-guy-to-have-around.
6. Protect your engine.
"If your van or car is on its way to overheating and you don't want to or can't, stop, blast the heater and open the windows. It helps keep your engine slightly cooler", says Herrera who, at this point, has probably circled around the United States in a van enough times to equally circle to world a few times.
7. Stay rested.
"Sleep!", says Shustak. "Coffee only does so much. So, before you get to the point on that 14 hour drive when you're on your fourth cup of coffee in six hours and your arms are shaking, pull the car over and take a nap! Even if it's just half an hour".
8. Tune in and tune out.
Shustak has some advice on which electronics matter. "Have a fully stocked mp3 player, a camera at the ready, and turn your phone off for a day or two--or at least limit yourself to one or two "message checks" per day. Your e-mails will miraculously still be there when you wake up the next day", he suggests.
9. Embrace the road less taken.
"Make sure to go off the beaten path", advises Shustak. "Don't be scared of the locals. Ask questions... especially when it comes to finding out the best places to eat.
10. Get some alone time.
You're much more likely to want to strangle your travel companion, be it your spouse, colleague, or Craigslist rideshare partner, while crammed up together in a hot car for hours upon hours each day. Make sure to take breaks from your road buddy as frequently as possible, even if just for 15 minutes.