10 Things to Take on a Road Trip

things to take on a road trip

Road trips rule! They’re a little stressful, too – especially if you forget something important. If you want to save some trouble, check out these ten things to take on a road trip.

1. Cash

Debit and credit cards have built in security measures. If one of your purchases looks fishy, your bank might disable your card.

Embarrassing? Yup! But don’t get mad. Your bank is trying to protect you from fraud. Notify them before you go overseas or out-of-state. Take some cash just in case your cards stop working for some reason.

2. Camera

Snap some photos to share with your friends and family. Make a collage or photo album. The next time you feel down, you can look back at all the fun you had for a pick-me-up. Positive memories are the best. 🙂

3. Spare car key

Traveling with a friend? Give them a spare copy of your car key. Most people make time-sensitive plans when they travel. Having to wait for a locksmith could mess up your schedule.

4. Map and directions

Online directions can’t always be trusted. Street names and traffic patterns change. Be ready for the possibility that Google might not be up-to-date. Take an old-fashioned map (the kind you hold in your hands!) just in case you need it.

5. Reservation confirmations

Print out a confirmation for everything you booked: flights, hotel stays, tickets for concerts or sporting events, etc. Check, double-check, and triple-check to make sure you have it all. Put those confirmations inside an envelope. For extra organization, arrange them in the exact order you will use them. I may or may not be OCD. 😉

6. First aid/road emergency kit

Accidents happen. Be prepared. Don’t worry about buying items separately. AAA offers a roadside emergency kit that has everything you need. Hopefully you’ll never have to use it, but it’s good to be cautious. Knowing it’s there will give you peace of mind.

7. Seasonally appropriate clothes

Check the weather forecast before you pack. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I find myself wishing I had a sweater. Bring a few outfits that can be layered just in case it is hotter or colder than you expected.

8. Healthy snacks and bottled water

Pack snacks that contain protein and fiber. Those nutrients provide you with steady energy (versus the “crash and burn” that follows sugary stuff).

9. Most recent insurance information

Make sure your auto insurance card is up-to-date (you should be getting a new copy every six months). For bonus points, put your registration and insurance card in an envelope at the top of your glove-box. The next time you get pulled over, you won’t be as nervous. 😉

10. Books, games, cards, toys, and other fun stuff

Traveling with kids? Bring toys. Otherwise, expect hours of, “Are we there yet?” Traveling with a baby? Bring an extra pacifier or two. Those disappear at the worst times! Traveling with friends? Bring a deck of cards. Take turns playing poker or blackjack in the back seat.

Talk to me.

What would you add to this list? Let me know in the comments. If you found this post helpful, please share with your friends.

9 Ways to Make Long Drives More Comfortable

Image credit: Route 66 by Chuck Coker via Flickr

Image credit: Route 66 by Chuck Coker via Flickr

Traveling is tons of fun. Long drives? Not so much. Hopefully someone will figure out teleportation soon! Until then, here are nine ways to make long drives more comfortable (#7 sounds so obvious but no one does it!).

1. Use cruise control.

Cruise control saves money on gas. The more consistent your speed, the better your fuel economy. Just make sure to follow the speed limit so you don’t get a ticket!

2. Pack healthy snacks.

Sugar and fast food will make your stomach hurt. Protein and fiber will give you a steady flow of energy. Nuts, berries, bananas, apples, carrots, and yogurt are smart choices.

3. Drink plenty of water.

Dehydration can result in fatigue and a poor mood. Bring a travel bottle and fill it up every time you stop at a rest area. You will feel a lot better for it!

4. Stop every hour or two.

A lot of people brag about how quickly they can reach their destination (usually comes from men — maybe it’s a “tough guy” thing?). I’d rather take my time and enjoy the drive. There is nothing “fun” about pushing your bladder past its breaking point.

5. Get a good night’s sleep.

If you drive sleepy, then you might as well be drunk. I’m not being dramatic. Science says it’s true. It can be hard to fall asleep when you’re excited for a trip, but do your best. Turn off your phone, stay away from the computer, and unwind with a bubble bath or good book.

6. Don’t count on the radio.

It’s fun to check out radio stations in different states… but it gets old when you start hearing the same songs over and over again. Bring some CD’s or audiobooks to keep things interesting. If you’re traveling with friends or family, make a playlist together.

7. Check your seat position.

Play with the seat settings until you figure out what’s most comfortable. You should be able to see the road and rear-view mirrors without straining your neck. Your spine should be relatively straight. If you have achy joints, check out these tips.

8. Stretch anything that’s stiff.

If you’re traveling cross country, you’re going to get stiff at some point. That’s okay. You can work it out! Stop every hour or two. Take a walk. Do some push-ups. Play tag with your kids. You could pack a yoga mat and do a few poses on the grass. Have fun with it!

9. Wear your most comfy outfit.

Why should you dress to impress when you’re going to be in your car for most of the day? Wear pajamas or gym shorts or whatever makes you feel comfortable. You can change your clothes when you get to the hotel.

Talk to me.

How do you make long drives more comfortable? Tell us in the comments. Please share this post on Facebook so your friends can have better road trips, too. 🙂

6 Surprising Benefits of Traveling You Need to Know (#4 Is Great for Couples!)

benefits of traveling

Spending too much time in one place drives me crazy. There’s a big world out there to explore! Vacations are good for the soul. Don’t believe it? Check out these six surprising benefits of traveling (#4 can make a HUGE difference in your relationship!).

1. Take it easy.

It’s good to work hard, but everyone needs to chill sometimes.

Don’t feel bad. You deserve a break. Without a little rest and relaxation, you might get so exhausted that you start to hate your job. Know your limits. Take a vacation at least once or twice a year. Your productivity will be better for it (promise!). 

2. Meet new people.

Traveling is great for shy people. At home, it’s easy to stay to yourself. On the road, you’ll be forced to interact with strangers. Scared? Don’t be. You don’t have to impress anybody. Listening is better than speaking. Everyone has a story to tell. Appreciate little things like local accents and slang-words you’ve never heard.

3. See history in action.

Reading about the Civil War is one thing. Setting foot on a preserved battlefield is a whole other story. History might seem boring in a textbook. It’s a lot more interesting when you can see it in action. America has more historic landmarks than I can count. I’m a New Yorker, so the Statue of Liberty and St. Patrick’s Cathedral come to mind. Traveling soon? Here’s a list of historic landmarks by state.

4. Bond with loved ones.

Here’s a harsh truth for people in relationships. If you always do the same stuff with your partner, you will get bored with each other. You have a favorite food, but that doesn’t meant you want to eat it everyday (okay, chocolate is an exception, but you get the idea). In excess, anything can lose its appeal. Don’t be afraid of change. New challenges and experiences are a great way to bond with loved ones.

5. Discover who you are.

Maybe you don’t have a partner. That’s okay. Traveling alone is tons of fun. The best part? You can do whatever you want, because no one is there to argue! Solo trips can become spiritual when nature is involved. Check out some national parks and write a journal entry every day. I bet you will learn a lot about yourself.

6. Break out of your bubble.

Does every day feel the same? If so, you need to escape from your daily routine. Traveling doesn’t have to be time-consuming or expensive. Take a simple day-trip to a neighboring city. You’ll feel refreshed afterward.

talk to me

I’ve done enough talking. Your turn! Did these benefits of traveling give you a case of wanderlust? Tell me about your favorite trip ever in the comments. Click here to encourage your Facebook friends to hit the road. I bet they would benefit from a vacation, too. 🙂

7 Simple Ways to Save Money on Gas

save money on gas

Image by Chris Potter via http://www.stockmonkeys.com

Cars are awesome. Without them, you couldn’t go anywhere.They sure are expensive, though.

Let me take some of the edge off. Here are seven ways to save money on gas.

1. Carpool.

If you work for a pretty big company, you probably know a co-worker who lives in your neighborhood.

Ask around! There’s no reason to drive separately. Take turns so you can split the cost. You’ll save money and reduce emissions, which will protect the planet you call home. Talk about a win/win!

2 .Check your air filter.

Some mechanics like to sell air filters to people who don’t need them. That doesn’t mean air filters are a scam. A clean air filter improves air flow in your vehicle. If it gets clogged, this can have a detrimental impact on your gas mileage. So, how often should you change your air filter? It depends. Check out the OMV (owner’s manual for your vehicle) to find out.

3. Take care of your tires.

Only 15% of drivers know how to check their tire pressure. The other 85% are wasting a lot of money. According to the US Department of Energy, properly inflated tires can improve your fuel economy by 3%. That would save roughly seven cents per gallon.

4. Stop being in such a rush.

Now that you checked your air filter, take a deep breath and slow down! Most people don’t follow #5-7 because they are in such a hurry, so I thought I should mention this first. Driving is less stressful when you give yourself an extra 10-20 minutes to reach your destination. Worried about being too early? Don’t be. Toss a book in your purse. That will occupy you!

5. Be gentle with the gas pedal.

What’s the point of slamming the gas when a traffic light turns green? The people you wait with at one red light will probably catch up with you at the next one! Be gentle. Flooring that pedal burns up a lot of gas. A gentle touch will save tons of bucks.

6. Don’t tap your brakes too much.

Avoid sudden, jerky movements. They are bad for your fuel economy. It is better to drive at a steady pace. If you need to slow down, don’t slam the brakes. Just take your foot off the gas pedal. This is only possible if you leave a safe distance between you and your bumper buddy ahead of you. 🙂

7. Use cruise control when possible.

It’s hard to maintain a constant speed on a long trip. That’s why cruise control exists. Alternating from 65 to 75 MPH burns more gas than maintaining a steady 70 MPH. Use the tools that are available!

Talk to me

Are there any saving tips you would add to this list? If so, tell us in the comments. Click here to share this blog with your friends so they can save money on gas, too.

Mechanically Yours,

Audra

Ask Audra: Should You Buy a Car for Your Teenager?

buy car for teenagerShould you buy a car for your teenager? Tough question. I know this isn’t what you want to hear, but it depends.

First and foremost to any driver is that you know how to open the hood!

You’ve got three options. Let’s take a look at each one.

Option A: Buy a car for your child and cover all of the cost.

If reliability is your primary concern, option A might be your best bet. This puts you in control. Teenagers put style before safety. If left to their own devices, they will probably buy the “cool” car. If it’s your money on the line, you have the power to make the unpopular (but smart) decision.

The downside? It’s easy to mistreat something you didn’t pay for. Teenagers aren’t known for being grateful. They might even be mad, because they didn’t get the car they wanted. That’s 100% illogical (they got a free car!), but it’s often the case. Also, this doesn’t teach your child how to manage money. Reality will catch up with them sooner or later.

Option B: Share the family car with your child and split the cost.

If cost is your primary concern, option B might be your best bet. This is a gentle transition into owning a vehicle. Make sure your teen understands what costs they are responsible for. Ask them to pay for gas and oil changes at minimum. You can cover tire changes and other auto expenses until they save a decent amount of money.

The downside? The full cost of vehicle ownership can still come as a shock. Every time you get a repair, take your teen to the mechanic so they can see exactly how much you’re paying to maintain the vehicle. Even better, teach them about the importance of having a “car jar” to  fund emergency and maintenance services. If you don’t teach them now, they will come begging for money later.

Option C: Let your child buy their own car and cover none of the cost.

If personal growth is your primary concern, option C might be your best bet. This is a brutal introduction to the real world. That said, your teenager might end up better off for it. They will get used to the responsibility that comes with owning a vehicle at a young age. And you better believe they will take very good care of that car!

The downside? Like I said, this is brutal. Most teenagers don’t have enough money to buy a good car. They would probably have to work a summer job. That could steal time and attention from studying. And they might get suckered into buying a car that isn’t safe or reliable if they are not taught how to care for their investment. If you choose to go this route, don’t let them go shopping without you.

Talk to me.

Do you plan to buy a car for your teenager? If so, are you going to cover the repair and maintenance costs? Why or why not? Tell us in the comments. Click here to share this blog on Facebook to invite your friends to the conversation.

Mechanically Yours,

Audra

read More blogs about teen driving

5 Things You Shouldn’t Do in Auto Shops (#1 Will Surprise You)

audra fordin anderson cooper WAKI’m amazed at some of the things people do in my auto shop.

Sometimes, a customer will march inside and announce, “I don’t know anything about cars!” Seriously.

I use this opportunity to educate them, but less honest mechanics might capitalize on the situation. Don’t do these five things just to be safe.

1. Lose your cool.

Stay calm, no matter how afraid you might be. Getting upset will just make a bad situation worse. Never tell a mechanic you’re “clueless.” Stick with the facts. Describe what happened and let the professional do their job.

2. Try to diagnose your car problem.

The Internet is a great place to research, but it’s hard to make sense of it all. You won’t figure out what caused your car problem in a single web search.

3. Make yourself look small.

Body language is a big deal. Fidgeting, crossing your arms, and avoiding eye contact will make your insecurity loud and clear. Listen to a song that makes you feel positive and upbeat before you go inside. Put on some confidence!

4. Tell them to do “whatever.”

Telling a mechanic to do “whatever” is the verbal equivalent of a blank check. There are tons of services that could be performed on your vehicle. You don’t need most of them. Be as specific as possible. Otherwise, you might get stuck with a bill for unnecessary repairs.

5. Pay for repairs you didn’t request.

Would you pay for a steak dinner that you didn’t order? I didn’t think so. If a mechanic does a repair without your permission, ask for a manager and refuse to pay for it.

Talk to me.

Don’t do these things in auto shops. If you do, you’ll look like an easy target. That’s no good for your pocketbook! Click here to share this post with your friends so they can save money too.

Mechanically Yours,

Audra

Aftermarket Warranty… Worth It or Not?

hang tagWe’ve all heard the term “after-market,” but what does that mean? Anything that didn’t come with the original product is considered after market. If you buy a brand new car and then later purchase really cool rims, those are “after-market” rims. Warranties are available after-market too, and may be a wise choice if you are buying a used car.

An after-market warranty protects your car from things that an original manufacturer warranty may not. They are similar to extended warranties offered by dealers and essentially extend your coverage. But, not all warranties are created equal. Most dealers will try to get you to buy their extended warranty at the time you purchase your car. But you might find a better deal in an after-market warranty from another company. Ask your dealer how long you have to purchase their extended warranty and then shop around.

Find out what the dealer warranty will cover, and then compare apples to apples and see if you can find a better deal. Here are the pros and cons of purchasing an after-market warranty:

PROS

  • Might be cheaperEmpower
  • Could cover more than the extended warranty offered by dealer
  • You won’t have to deal with car salespeople

CONS

  • Might have more restrictions
  • May not be transferable
  • Tend to be very complicated and may not be worth the trouble

What do you think? Have you had a better experience with a dealer extended warranty or after-market warranty? Send us your comments and empower another woman to make an informed decision!

What Is a Vehicle Warranty?

A vehicle warranty is an insurance policy for your car parts. It protects you and your wallet from design and manufacturing faults, but doesn’t usually cover regular wear and tear and replacement of parts needed during regular service, such as oil, filters, belts, tires, wipers and spark plugs.

Many new cars come with a “bumper-to-bumper” warranty that lasts for a certain period of time or until a certain amount of mileage is reached. This type of warranty covers almost everything between the vehicle’s front and back bumpers. An extended warranty, on the other hand, is coverage you purchase in addition to the “bumper-to-bumper” coverage. If you opt for this type of warranty, make sure the extended warranty option covers the same things the original “bumper-to-bumper” warranty covers.

A vehicle warranty can be a great investment, can save you thousands in repairs and can protect you from defective parts and manufacturer errors. If you are purchasing a used car, check to see if the manufacturer warranty is still in effect and if you can take over the remaining period of that warranty. If not, consider purchasing an after-market warranty, which we will discuss in our next post.

Bad Service? Take Action!

Okay, maybe not that. But if you have had bad customer service, take some appropriate action. Start when it is happening. If your mechanic or auto sales staff member is not treating you with great customer service, let them know – and don’t use sign language! Tell them, nicely, that you feel that you are being treated less than fairly or kindly. Let them know what you expect and ask how you can get that type of service from them. All business owners and employees want to provide stellar service. Give them the chance to by informing them nicely when they are not. If that doesn’t work, write them a letter explaining your dissatisfaction and give them the opportunity for a do-over. You might get something for free or at a discount. Who knows… you might even get an apology!

There is No “I” in Auto Shop

Shout out to Caroline Lake and her crew at Caroline’s Cars on the other side of the pond!

This post is for you fine lady customers and you auto shop owners. Why? Because we are focusing our posts on customer service this month. And both customers and service techs are responsible for the level of customer service that is delivered and received. The way I see it, the customer is part of the team. And there is no “I” in team, or in auto shop. Let me explain…

A customer walks into a shop. Sounds like a bad joke, right? Well, if the customer is unprepared to discuss what service she needs, is in a nasty mood, or is utterly intimidated by the staff or the atmosphere, it could be worse than a bad joke. Likewise, if the shop is not prepared to serve this customer, make her feel welcome and at ease, and willing to have her leave in a good mood, the outcome could be disastrous.

This might seem like a tall order, but it really isn’t. Ladies, we’ve already touched on how you can be accountable consumers by doing the following:

  • Be prepared and know your car and why you are bringing it to the shop
  • Know the maintenance, service and repair history of your vehicle
  • Do your homework and compare prices, search online for estimates and consider used or wholesale parts
  • Be courteous and polite to the staff and expect the same in return

Shops, it’s your turn now. We’ve given the ladies the road map to becoming the perfect customer. Now treat them that way by following these steps:

  • Greet them! This might seem like a no-brainer, but too many customers go unnoticed and ignored. Not a good first impression. Say “Hi,” smile and make them feel welcome. Even if you’re busy, tell them you are glad they are there and you will be with them shortly.
  • Make them comfortable. Yeah, ladies like being comfortable. Make sure your waiting area is clean and welcoming. Don’t have inappropriate pictures or television shows on. Keep a mix or literature, some related to cars and auto repair, and some that would interest professionals, sports enthusiasts, homemakers, seniors and women of all types.
  • Make eye contact…. with their EYES! I’m not saying that any guys out there would look anywhere else, but women are often uncomfortable and anxious when they show up at the auto shop. Put them at ease by making direct eye contact when you talk to them. This shows that you are paying attention to them and that you care. Just like ladies have to work to break stereotypes, male mechanics must work to break the negative stereotypes often associated with them. Sorry guys, that’s just the way it is.
  • Speak in non-car language. Gauge the level of knowledge your customer has. As you explain what needs to be done and what you recommend, ask if she understands. If not, explain it in a way that makes more sense and show her the parts on her car that need to be replaced or serviced.
  • Ask for her business. Don’t assume that every customer will just roll over and sign the sales slip. The best way to earn a loyal customer is to ask for their business. Once you’ve followed the outline above, you will be in a position to sincerely ask your customer if they would like you to complete that service for them. Don’t sell, don’t push, don’t pressure. Just ask. Explain the benefits and costs of the service, and the consequences and costs of not getting the service done.
  • Finally, ask your customer if she had a good experience, would she recommend you and would she log on to www.womenautoknow.com and post a glowing review of your shop.

Shops, share this post with your staff; and customers, share with your shop. Help each other deliver and receive the best customer experience possible. After all, we’re all on the same team!