Avoid Maintenance Mayhem
Before you put the pedal to the metal there are a few things you need to keep in mind. First, get your car checked, especially filters, fluid levels, and belts -- also make sure you've changed the oil. Check your tire pressure and the condition of your wiper blades, turn signals, brake lights, and high and low beams. Examine your tire treads and make sure your car is prepared for any kind of weather you might be headed for. You might need more antifreeze, some snow tires, or to recharge the air conditioner -- you don't want to be on the road on a roasting summer day and find the AC on the fritz!
Wheeling Into Motion
Before you hit the road, bring out the suds and bucket for an old-fashioned car wash with your sweetie -- a clean car is a good way to start a long trip. Make sure you have a detailed map on hand and a planned route. Don't forget plenty of water and munchies for the ride -- it'll be much cheaper to buy at the grocery store than to pay convenience store prices. Blankets and pillows for a sleepy passenger is a must. In addition, pack an emergency kit, including a battery-powered radio and extra batteries, flashlight, jumper cables, first aid kit, spare tire, tire repair kit and pump, and flares.
You don't want to ruin your romantic adventure with road trip boredom, so prepare some on-road entertainment.
Rev Up Your Rental
If you are renting, agencies like Hertz (www.Hertz.com) and Avis (www.Avis.com) have lots of locations, while online travel sites like Orbitz.com, Travelocity.com, and Priceline.com can offer good rental deals (often in conjunction with booking a hotel and a flight).
If you need to rent a car abroad, get an international driving permit (IDP) at your local American Automobile Association (AAA) office or call (800) AAA-HELP for the forms. If you're renting a car overseas (especially in Europe), keep in mind that most models come with a manual transmission. Call well in advance to reserve an automatic if you can't drive stick shift (since they might not have many on hand), and be prepared to pay more. And if you book online, print out a copy of your confirmation number and all the particulars (like the price, model, length of usage, and whether it's an automatic or manual). Also, cars in Europe tend to be smaller than in the States, so don't expect much trunk space -- leave the bulky luggage at home!
Are We There Yet?
Planning for the time spent in the car together can be just as important as packing your essentials. The last thing you want is to ruin your romantic adventure with road trip boredom, so prepare some on-road entertainment. Include games and music, or even a few audio books. If you find yourself in a lull during your journey, here are some highway hints to keep the long drive interesting.
- Car games They're not just for kids! No road trip is complete without a round of "I spy" or "the license plate game."
- Story time Instead of curling up in a corner and reading to yourself, share the story with your sweetie, and read aloud.
- Create an on-the-road scrapbook Take pictures of the funny sites you see from the car window. Then, create a scrapbook or photo album for your pics and fill your album as you drive along.
- Tunes for the trail If you're addicted to your iPod, buy an FM transmitter to play your collection through your car radio. Griffin Technology's iTrip Auto fits any iPod model, so no matter which highway or country lane you're on you won't be without your favorite tunes.