Road trip tips

Thanks to Tynan’s continuing feature on the nomadic life, Gadling’s been receiving an influx of requests on tips for big road trips. Those of us who are not quite as daring as Tynan might want to start with a cross-country trip, for example. There’s much to consider before you embark on such a journey, so it’s important to keep these things in mind:

  • The company: Road trips are not for the faint hearted. If you’ve ever seen “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” or “No Country for Old Men” you’ll know what I mean. If your road trip is longer than a week, choose your company wisely. S/he better like the same music as you, you better have something worth talking about for hours on end. Ultimately, you should determine beforehand whether you can tolerate this person’s antics or not.

  • The car: You’ll definitely want to get your car pimped out thoroughly before the journey. On my most recent 3-week trip from Florida to California, my boyfriend bought an old Chevy van that we called “Vanzilla.” He didn’t tell me at the time, but it cost him only $500. We pushed “Vanzilla” a bit too hard one evening and slept through a freezing cold evening in shopping mall parking lot in Flagstaff, Arizona. The next morning, the radiator blew. Little disasters and problem-solving is part of the package when it comes to road trips, so be prepared!
  • Stuff in the trunk: Little thought has to be put into what to bring. As long as you don’t bring your most valuable stuff, the rest is fair game. Stuff it in the trunk and hit the road! Whatever you forget to bring, you can buy at Walmart or a roadside gas station.
  • The route: If possible, you should have a rough outline of the route you’re taking and the stops you plan on making. GoogleMaps has a great feature where you can drop pins and calculate driving time and distances (click on the “My Maps” tab and then “Create new map”). Most likely you’ll be visiting friends along the way, so make it a point to tell them you’re coming, so they know roughly when to expect you.
  • It’s not all fun and games: The purpose of a road trip is not to drink and drive — at least I hope you’re not endangering other people by thinking the road is such a playground. You don’t want to do anything stupid. My friends got caught somewhere in South Dakota with weed in their car and ended up in the slammer. You can imagine their parents reaction when they got the “Please Save Me” call. Have a great time, but be responsible.
  • R & R: Rest and relaxation is definitely possible when you’re on the road. Take some detours. If you see a strange sign and it makes you curious, follow it. You can also stay clean on the road by utilizing the trucker stops, which have fully functioning hot-water showers. Some are quite clean! If you’re really road trippin’ you must try it. As for the famed roadside motels, you might try one or two, but you might end up preferring the comfort of your reclined seat in the car. You can always pack a tent, too, and just camp it in a rest area if you’re desperate.
  • The memories: My Florida-California Vanzilla trip was designed to be a woman’s version of “Travels with Charley,” as I brought my pug Iris with me. Keep a blog (you can read about our journey HERE), take tons of photos (the photos from this article are also from this trip), and make great memories!

Enjoy your road trip — and let me know if there are any other tips I’ve missed!

Five Great Road Trips From Around The World

Australian newspaper The Age has put together a list of five of the top drives from around the world. These scenic byways encourage drivers to get behind the wheel, explore, and, as the article says, take the long way home.

Some of the roads that make this exclusive list include the Hana Highway in Hawaii, which is lauded for its 80km of winding road, that includes 56 one lane bridges, that meanders past beautiful beaches and up and down rolling hills, with small ocean villages and spectacular waterfalls as a backdrop.

For something a bit longer and more epic, the Pan American Highway from Lima, Peru to Santiago, Chile is offered as a suggestion. This stretch of road is more than 3000km in length, a mere fraction of the 48,000km total distance of the Pan American, which runs from Alaska to the tip of South America. Running along side the Pacific Ocean for much of the way, this route wanders past the famous Nazca Lines and up into the high desert of the Atacama, all the while weaving in and out of small Peruvian and Chilean villages along the way.

The classic road trip is still one of the best ways to see any country, and each of these drives will not only show you the scenic side of the places they run through, but also get you immersed in the unique cultures of those places as well. So, jump behind the wheel and take in one of these amazing road trips for a travel experience unlike any other.

Budget Travel: Three steps to a cheaper car rental

Three main components go into any vacation package: Hotel, Airplane and Vehicle bookings. Once you can get around and have a place to sleep, activities and food can just fall into place as the days roll in.

Here at Gadling we’re covering all of the niches of vacation bookings in our Budget series. Earlier in the week was plane tickets. Later, will be hotel bookings. Today’s focus? Getting a good deal on your car rental.

It’s not as difficult as you think. The same booking engines (Kayak, Expedia etc.) used to find your bargain basement airplane tickets can be used to find cars as well. But with car rentals, the strategy is a bit different. Most of the time, airfare prices that are quoted from a search engine are fares that you’re stuck with until the bitter end. With car rentals, that’s the point from which you start.

From that marker, you optimize you booking in three ways:

  1. Join the club
  2. Get a coupon
  3. Be Flexible!

We’ll start with Joining the Club.
Like most hotel, airline and credit card brands, car rental companies will do anything they can to hook you into their product. By making you believe that you’re loved, you’re more likely to stick around, identify with them and feel better about yourself. Happiness is money.

National‘s Emerald program, for example, means absolutely nothing. Anyone off the street can join, get the card and walk to the Emerald Aisle when booking, it just takes time to follow the right links, sign up for service and fill in the forms.

Being a member, however, affords discounts. Coupon codes for Emerald members float around the internet freely, and by being in the “club” you’re entitled to these rates.

The same applies for basic membership in many other rental agencies — sign up for basic service and you’ll immediately see the benefit. Furthermore, you get the added bonus of getting through the line at the counter faster (or often bypassing it) and earning points, so it’s a win-win situation.

Get a Coupon

The internet is RIFE with coupon codes for car rentals. If you want a good place to start, check the repository at, where coupons should be filed under each specific agency.

As a word of waning, remember that different policies and insurance coverage come with each contract code or coupon. You might get a great deal by renting under the Missouri Alligator Hunters contract ID, for example, but after you get into that fender bender, you also might find out that all insurance is waived. Just make sure you read the fine print and know what you’re getting yourself into.

That said, many a coupon code that we have found online have resulted in huge (40-50% discounts) over the rack search engine rate. Never, ever book without a coupon.

Be Flexible

Being flexible in pickup time, location and vehicle has its benefits, but some days, your favorite car company just doesn’t offer the best price on your itinerary. It’s difficult breaking free from your preferred carrier when you’ve worked so hard to earn that “granite status” that gets you the free windshield wash fluid, but you have to remember: most car rental agencies are charging you way too much to begin with. If they can’t offer a competitive rate, you can’t let their perks sway you. Join the competitor’s rewards program, do the research and book the cheapest fare. Hey, you might like the vehicle that you get to drive.


The nice thing about vehicle rentals is that getting a good deal is less time dependent than in working with airplane tickets. There is almost a higher supply than demand for cars, so usually a near term rental isn’t much more expensive than a reservation that you make three months out. Airplane seats, conversely, often sell out.

So take your time. Book your airplane tickets first, hotel second and spend a while shopping around for car rentals. Get the perfect convergence of membership rewards and coupon codes lined up, and you just might drive away with a bargain.

Mint offers New Yorkers cheap hourly car rentals

I really don’t encourage anyone to try driving in New York. Aggressive cabbies, near-constant traffic jams and a variety of video game-worthy obstacles conspire to keep drivers in a near-constant state of anger and anxiety.

But for locals and visitors alike, there are times when nothing but a car will suffice. Conveniently enough, this week marked the launch of a new pay-as-you-go rental car service in New York called Mint. Like competitor Zipcar, the upstart company provides members with on-demand vehicles they can rent for periods as short as one hour up to several days. Mint has also upped the ante by offering to waive their $25 application fee for members of other car-sharing clubs and starting hourly rates as low as $2/hour from now through June 2009. Pretty sweet.

So what’s the real difference between Mint and Zipcar? Not all that much as it turns out. As a rule of thumb, Mint plans are generally cheaper than Zipcar plans in terms of hourly/daily rates, though it ultimately depends on which plan you have and the time of day you’ll be driving. It’s best to take a look at the options and see what works best for your particular needs. In any case, the extra car-sharing competition is sure to be welcomed by price conscious rental car drivers everywhere. Check out Mint the next time you’re in NYC and need some temporary wheels.