In spite of what popular media might tell you, going on a road trip isn’t something that you should do spontaneously or on a whim.
A bit of preparation can mean the difference between a successful trip and getting stranded somewhere on the side of the road without cell service.
If you’re planning on taking your BMW on a road trip sometime soon, here are some tips to get you started.
1. Start at the Shop
Before you head out onto any road trip, your first step should be to make a trip to your favorite mechanic. Have them give your car a once-over and ensure that everything is in good working order. Start with an oil change and tire rotation, unless you’ve had it done recently.
A multipoint inspection should cover the rest of your bases, from cooling and other fluids to brake and all other major systems.
It might sound like a simple step but if you want to ensure a successful trip, don’t skip your pre-departure inspection.
2. Pack Smart
You’re going to need to pack everything that you’ll need for the trip into your BMW, but don’t just start shoving supplies anywhere that they might fit.
You need to be able to easily access the important stuff like food and clothing, without having to dig through your entire car trying to get your hands on the things that you’ll need. Plan out how you’re going to pack your car, and don’t overfill your cargo spaces.
3. Skip the Fast Food
Fast food is convenient but it’s not really what you want to eat your entire trip. Instead of filling your car with McDonald’s burger wrappers, consider finding a nice quiet spot and breaking out a portable grill. Not only will your food taste better, but you’ll save quite a bit of money by not eating out.
If you’re worried about being able to clean up the grill after you eat, pack some aluminum foil. A ball of foil on a hot grill can work wonders and while it won’t be spotless, it will be clean enough to eat off of or cook on again when you’re ready to stop for your next meal.
4. Plan Your Route
Just jumping in the car and driving might sound like a fun way to be spontaneous, but in reality, it’s a good way to get yourself stranded miles from the nearest gas station when you run out of fuel. Take some time to plan out your route.
Even if you don’t want to plan the entire trip, leaving your final destination up to the whims of the highway, take the time to plan out your day or your next few hours. Pay attention to what’s along your route, from tourist attractions to food and fuel stops to keep you from getting stranded.
5. Figure Out Where to Stop
Stopping often isn’t just good for stretching your legs. If you’re traveling alone or you’re the only driver, you need to have plans in place for stopping for the night. You don’t necessarily need a hotel or motel in every city.
There are plenty of places that allow overnight parking if you’re camping in your car or using a car tent. Just don’t push yourself too hard — driving after being awake for 24 hours is roughly equivalent to driving with a 0.10 blood alcohol level, according to the Sleep Foundation. You might not get a DUI, but your reaction times and judgment are just as impaired.
6. Plan for Exterior Storage
If you’re planning to sleep in your car, make sure you have a way to store your supplies safely and securely outside your vehicle. Otherwise, you might find yourself jammed into whatever extra space you can find, which makes it more difficult to sleep comfortably.
If you have the option, a cargo rack or roof container can be incredibly useful. If that isn’t an option, a locked box and a bicycle chain to lock it to your vehicle could be just as effective, keeping people from making off with your supplies in the night.
7. Leave Only Footprints
This is the golden rule when it comes to things like camping and road trips — or anytime you’re going to be in the great outdoors. Take only pictures and leave only footprints. Deal with your garbage properly, and don’t leave it out there for someone else to clean up for you.
Don’t gather a bunch of souvenirs like rocks or sticks from untouched wild places either. If you need to have something to remember this trip by, stop at a tourist attraction and buy yourself a shot glass.
Stay Safe Out There
Road trips are a great way to explore the country without the insane expense of climbing on a plane. A bit of preparation can make a mediocre trip into something truly memorable.