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Road Trip Hacks: 14 Tips You Need to Know

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“Welcome aboard.”

When I open the manual in the shiny new car for my road trip I burst out laughing when I see those two little words.

Like so many travellers it’s a greeting I’m accustomed to hearing as I board a flight or a luxury train. In 2020 I haven’t heard it nearly often enough so seeing them in my Renault Koleos manual tickles my funny bone and makes me happy to start a journey with them again.

Renault Koleos welcome aboard message

As strange as it still seems, Australians aren’t allowed to leave the country without government permission these days, and at the time of writing this blog those of us in NSW are not even able to cross state lines without a very good reason. For the foreseeable future our passports will be gathering dust and road trips will be the best way to get away. 

So as we prepare to spend more time behind the wheel it’s the perfect time to up our game with some road trip hacks. Here are 14 tips and tricks for your next adventure on four wheels. 

1. Turn a cereal container into a road trip bin 

So simple. So frugal. 

Sure you could just use a plastic bag, but popping that bag inside a plastic cereal container means smells are locked away with the trash. Or you can do away with the plastic bag altogether and just wash the container out when you empty it to be a greener traveller.

The turning a cereal container into a car bin road trip hack

It’s the road trip hack that makes a banana a healthy snack again rather than something that seems like a good idea until eau de ripe banana skin is wafting through the car until your next pit stop. And there’s no need to worry about any leftover liquids leaking into the carpet. 

2. Easily spot what side your petrol tank is on 

I first shared this road trip hack a few years ago when I realised I wasn’t the only one who’d been missing what was right in front of my face.

If you already know what’s coming you can skip ahead, but if you’re one of those people who tries to look in the mirrors of a rental or borrowed car to see what side the fuel tank is on then prepare to have your life changed forever. 

Read: Road Trip Hacks – 14 tips you need to know

Almost every car will tell you what side the fuel tank is on right there on the dashboard. Sometimes it’s a bit subtle, and can be what side of the fuel sign the icon’s pump handle is on. But you’re more likely to see an actual arrow pointing the right way. 

Car Fuel Door Sign in Suburu

If you’ve never noticed it before you may not even realise it’s in your own car. I had one friend swear blind that a car he’d had for more than five years didn’t have it, but when we went to take a look together we found not only did it have the arrow but the words Fuel Door alongside it. Not exactly subtle and yet he still hadn’t noticed. Needless to say he won’t forget this trick in a hurry.

3. Protect your personal data in a hire car 

Most of us happily pair our mobile phones with a hire car so that we can play our favourite tunes and podcasts and make and receive calls, but did you ever think about what sort of information the car remembers when you part ways?

Depending on the car it could save a copy of your call logs, address book, text messages and the addresses you searched for.

Read: Seven great Australian road trips

To protect your personal data in a rental car you should avoid connecting your phone to the infotainment system. You can safely power up by using the USB charger in the 12 Volt port  (the old cigarette lighter spot) instead, and if you want to listen to music use a cable to connect the headphone port on your phone into the audio system. 

The road trip hack that will protect your privacy, image courtesy Magrenta

Personally I’m happy not to take calls in the car but if you can’t go without your hands-free calls you can also get a third party Bluetooth audio kit to take care of that side of things.

Rather than putting your home address into the maps put a nearby landmark so strangers won’t know exactly where you live. 

And if you have hooked your phone up to the car you should delete all of your data and clear your location history. Just go to the settings menu, locate and delete your device from the previously paired Bluetooth gadgets.

4.  Save your skin from road trip damage 

When you’re in a car it’s hard to tell when you’ve had too much sun. While windshields are often treated to protect you from the sun’s rays, those other windows around the car may keep most of the UVB rays out but they’ll often let the UVA rays in.

UVB rays are the ones that lead to sunburn so that means you won’t actually see yourself burning, but your skin could still be getting an unhealthy blast of UVA. And as those are the rays that cause premature aging, wrinkles and some skin cancers you can see why it’s a good idea to use your road trip sunscreen even if you’re going to be in the car for most of the day.

With all of the hand sanitizing we’re doing on the road you’ll also want to have a nice hand cream to stop your hands feeling like autumn leaves, as Moira Rose would say.  Choose a hand cream with an SPF like this one from Royal Apothic so you can top up on both moisture and sun protection every time you wash your hands on the road.

5. Power up 

Our phones can get quite a workout on a road trip with all of that photo taking, music playing and social media updating which can lead to some queues for the USB outlet when you get back in the car. 

A USB hub car charger can take care of everyone at the same time. Just connect it to the car’s outlet and then put the hub in the middle of the car and everyone can get powered up.

Read: Nashville and beyond on a Deep South music road trip

Of course, if you have a newer car you may not need this one. One of the little touches I loved in the new Renault Koleos is there are four USB chargers, two in the front and two in the back so there’s no need have cords snaking from the front to the back of the car. You can just plug in whenever you want, front and back. 

Renault Koleos rear seat USB chargers

6. Find the nearest loo 

Sometimes public toilets are easy to find. Sometimes not so much. Which is why Toilet Finder is one of my favourite travel apps to have in my phone

Read: How to tell if your hotel room is clean

As well as telling you where the nearest public restrooms are it also tells you which ones are free to use, which ones have handicapped options, and you can even see their star rating.

The Toilet Finder app is a handy app to travel with

That’s right some loos come with reviews so you can decide if you’re happy to stop there or if you might want to hold on for a cleaner one down the road.

7. Stop drips in their sticky tracks 

Hot days + cold ice creams + road trips can often lead to sticky fingers and car seats. Unless you’ve planned ahead with this super cute road trip hack. 

Before you hit the road cut popsicle stick size holes in the bottom of some cupcake wrappers and voila! 

As well as being a drip catcher it also works on crumbs, which is perfect for a sunny drive with a Gaytime.

Road trip hack: A cupcake wrapper will catch any drips and crumbs when you're driving

8. Find your car 

The first time I drove the Koleos I got a bit of a surprise when I parked the car and walked away. My phone buzzed and when I looked down I saw a map showing me the car’s location so I could find my way back. 

Personally I’ve never needed help finding my car down a side street in a strange town. But if I’m visiting a shopping centre I don’t know well I am one of those people who takes photos of the car park level and row I’m in, so I smiled when I saw there was also a spot where I could add a photo of where the car was as well. 

The Find Your Car road trip hack

This was all new to me and so at first I thought it was a Renault trick but it turns out it’s an Apple one. If you have Bluetooth and an iPhone here’s how you can activate the Find Your Car option. 

If your car isn’t that clever you can also drop a pin in Google maps and you can find your way back to it that way. 

9. Play road trip countdown

Stop those ‘are we there yet’ questions in their tracks by giving the kids the power to answer their own questions. 

Before setting off head to Google maps and print out the section of the road trip you’ll be doing that day. One for each child so there’s no debate over who gets to cross off the towns as you drive along. 

Read: Why I travel with my own pillowcase and other packing tips

You can make road trip countdown a bit of a game with treats that can be opened at different landmarks. If you’re feeling fancy you can even create a pretty paper chain with the names of all the villages and towns you’ll be driving through so the kids can break one off when you reach that spot. Happy Little Tourist has a free printable paper chain with other road trip suggestions you might like to try. 

You can also come prepared with some road trip games and can either make up your own or head to Etsy where you can find easy downloads for road trip bingo and other games.

Road trip bingo will keep the kids entertained in the car

10. Save money on fuel and car hire 

There are some expenses you just can’t avoid on a road trip and fuel is right up there at the top of the list. 

But there are ways to save a few dollars and fill up at the best possible spots thanks to fuel comparison apps.

Read: How to take a cat that hates cars on a road trip

Depending on where you are in the world the best app for you will vary. Here in Australia the best choice can change from state to state, but thanks to Choice’s cheap fuel apps review you can find out which app in your road trip’s state is the most accurate and the easiest to use. 

And if you’re looking for a hire car you can do a quick and easy comparison between the different companies through Wotif’s car hire portal.

11. Mind the gap

Stop your mobile phone, money, keys and other things you really don’t want to lose slipping down between the console and your seat with a seat gap filler.

A shoe organiser can find new life on the road if you attach it to the back of the seat. Those pockets are just the right size for all sorts of things little people in the backseat might want easy access to from pencils to cuddly toys.

Or you can buy a cute Car Caddy designed to hang off the back of the seat in front, like this sweet one from Hare + Tortoise designs.

12. DIY smart phone holder 

Thanks to the 8.7” touchscreen in the Koleos Intens I didn’t need to MacGyver this one up on my road trip, but if you don’t have a screen right there in front of you can just make your own. 

All you need is a large binder clip, some rubber bands, a wrench, a can-do attitude and this YouTube clip and you’ll be able to follow the map on your phone. Just don’t go using your phone to watch videos or other things you shouldn’t be doing behind the wheel. Safety first people. 

13. Wipe it up 

While a lot of people are carrying antibacterial wipes these days there’s another kind of wipe that you should be throwing in the car too. 

Baby wipes are a great multipurpose cleaner to have and considering they’re soft and sensitive enough for a baby’s bum they’re kind on your skin too. 

Before you buy any kind of wipe take a moment to think about the environment. Make sure you buy environmentally friendly ones like these unbleached bamboo baby wipes and even if they say they’re biodegradable do NOT flush them as they won’t break down before they cause problems in the sewage system. 

If you feel safer using antibacterial wipes after being in contact with the outside world save them for when you first get back into the car so you know you’re starting with a clean slate but then switch to the baby ones if you want to clean your sticky hands after a snack or clean up any spills in the car. 

Baby wipes are great at removing stains from clothes, including make up and that sauce you accidentally slopped down the front of your shirt from that roadside burger stop. 

They can help save your car’s paintjob as you swipe away bird droppings that can leave a mark if they’re left too long, they can wipe down your pet’s paws before they hop back in the car and can do a whole bunch of other clean up jobs on the road. 

14.  Stick it 

And for our final road trip hack we have the shower caddies that didn’t want to look at the same bathroom walls all their life. The ones that reinvented themselves as road tripping caddies so they could watch the world go by.

Attach those suction cups to the window and fill them with whatever you’d like to keep nice and handy. If you’re travelling with kinds you can mix and match larger and smaller ones to hold colouring pencils, books, toys, and other things they’re bound to desperately want if they’re out of reach on the floor. 

So there we have it, some easy and fun road trip hacks to make your next adventure all the smoother.

How about you? What’s your favourite road tip trick or tip that you love to share with friends? 

I’d like to thank Renault Australia for letting me experience a road trip in Koleos Intens style. 

Renault Koleos road trip on New England Highway

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