You would think as much as I travel I’d have some good tips to share.
I don’t know if these are good, bad, or indifferent, but here goes. I’ll give you what I have and you can decide.
My number one tip is to travel light. I have one medium size suitcase on wheels and force myself not to take any extras that won’t fit in it, and I also self-enforce my rule that I still have to be able to easily lift the thing into my truck. Because my back is old and beat up, I don’t need to be hurting myself hauling around more than is absolutely necessary. When I stop, I stuff everything but my purse into the suitcase and just roll it in to the room.
At motels, I always ask for first floor rooms, unless there is a working elevator. I learned this the hard way after having to lump that suitcase up stairs. Not good with a bad back…
BB gave me my second tip… it’s a nifty little door stop that squeals like a scared pig when the top lever is pressed. When I stop for the night at some yukky motel that was only chosen because it has decent truck parking, it goes under the edge of the door. If anyone gets past the lock/locks on the door and opens it the tiniest bit, that thing will go off and at least startle me awake enough to take appropriate defensive action, (which I will leave to your imagination) and with any luck, will completely scare them off. (Not that I’m all that worried about anyone messing with me, but just in case. Be prepared is all I’m sayin’.)
My third tip is to always check for bedbugs! The first thing I do at each and every motel is to check the mattress for these nasty critters. I haven’t found a single one yet, but that doesn’t keep me from grabbing the uppermost corner of the mattress and lifting it up to get a good look before doing anything else. I’ve read that these nasties are making a big comeback in certain parts of the country and sure don’t want to bring anything crawly home with me!
As to motels, the second thing I do is get rid of the bedspread. That’s the one thing in the room that they either infrequently or never clean. Yuck. And I keep sandals handy so my bare feet never touch any part of the floor. Especially the bathroom floor. Call me paranoid, that’s fine, I also carry a can of Lysol spray and I have been known to wipe things down before I feel like they’re safe to touch. (Not every motel, I’m not that nutty, but some of those little old ones are pretty iffy…)
Not wanting ever to find myself out of fuel on the side of some road, and after having a couple of too close for comfort moments of, “Oh crap, I should have fueled up back at that last town” moments, I started stopping and topping off my tank whenever it gets to the halfway mark. This may sound excessive and like a time waster, but when you don’t top off, and find yourself 50 miles from the next little town when your low fuel light pops on and your auxiliary tank pump, for whatever reason isn’t working, (like mine this last trip out) you’ll wish you had done it too. Just yesterday on my way back from Colorado I counted four people on the side of the road dumping fuel into their rigs from fuel cans. It happens.
Keep a few survival items in your truck. Blanket, coat, extra dry socks and gloves, water, some type of food, a flashlight, etc. It’s better to have them and not need them than to need them and not have them. Trucks can break down in pretty bad spots, so try to think of what you would need to survive for a while if you had to.
It doesn’t hurt to have a roll of paper towels, some window cleaner, and a box of Kleenex somewhere in the truck. You can figure out many uses for these handy things, I’m sure…
Another tip is to get yourself a good GPS, but before you leave home make sure you have already studied a map (yes, the old fashioned paper kind or at least a Googlemap) and make sure you know your route before you leave. Even a good GPS will pull goofy stunts like wanting you to exit the interstate in the city just to get back on it again, or try to route you down dirt roads (if you use the shortest route setting) when paved ones work a lot better. In other words, they’re a great tool but you have to also know what the heck you’re doing so you don’t fall for these little stunts they pull. You can’t just follow them blindly, especially when dragging a trailer! My general rule is to scope out my delivery location via Google maps and street views to see where I need to go into a yard, if there is room to turn around, etc. The GPS for some reason, doesn’t always know the exact location of any given address, but as long as I do beforehand, it’s not a problem.
So what good are they? Well, in heavy traffic they’re great for telling you what lane you need to be in so you don’t miss your exit or end up on the wrong road at a complex intersection. And they also let you know exactly where you are in case of an emergency, and give you a running clock with your ETA. Plus, they are a great tool for locating Starbuck’s, motels, and other “points of interest” along your route…
Make sure your cell phone is charged. I run with my phone in a holder and keep it plugged in all day. When I stop at night, it’s fully charged and doubles as my alarm clock. And get yourself a good headset. If nobody has told you, it is now illegal to use a handheld phone while driving a CMV. Laws aside, it’s just safer to keep your hands on the wheel when driving, and you will actually be able to hear the person on the other end of the line with a good headset. Mine is an inexpensive Emerson that has a padded earpiece and boom mike, and I can answer or make a call by pressing the button on the earpiece. It makes life easier. I also wear it while tying down loads, since everyone I know seems to have radar that tells them to call me whenever I’m busy doing something important or have my hands full.
And finally, think about running on e-logs. I use DDL, which is cheap and keeps me honest. I picked up the smallest, cheapest little laptop and printer from Wally-World and they work great. I don’t have anything against paper logs, except that I actually have to expend brain power to keep my hours straight. E-logs do all of the math and thinking for me. Which leaves me more thinking power for the important stuff, like keeping the truck on the road and not hitting anything…
So there you have it, take it for what it’s worth to you. And if you have any nifty tips, I’d like to hear yours too!