Travel Tips for the Perfect 4th of July Weekend

Last minute reminders to maximize fun on your holiday weekend

Photo Sasabune Omakase Modified: Flickr/erin/CC 4.0

With July 4th just around the corner, we’re sure you have your long weekend plans down pat. But before your load up your car and head for the shore, the country, or the summer share, here are a few essential tips to tick off your list so you can spend your holiday stress-free.

First, check the schedules of the trains or ferries you’re planning to take, as times can change during holiday weekends. If road tripping is on the itinerary, then have plugged into your web browser for up to the minute traffic updates. Don’t fret about running low on gas. Befriend, a site that updates you on gas prices and nearby stations along your route. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/Malingering

If you’re planning (last minute) on brining a gift to an out of town barbeque, check what bakeries or specialty food stores are open ahead of time in towns nearby to get your order in (and it’s fresher than lugging something with you the whole way). Even better, find out which ones are selling 4th of July themed treats so you can have them reserved — no one likes to show up empty handed. And if you’re hosting, don’t forget to create a playlist before your guests arrive. If you’re feeling stumped, check out our patriotic playlist for some American classics. 

Make sure you know what major stores are open on the 4th for any last minute barbeque essentials. We called around town and did some of the leg work for you — in New York City, Zabars and Fairway are in the clear, as are Bristol Farms in Los Angeles, Balducci’s in Connecticut, Virginia, and Maryland, and DeLuca’s Market in Boston. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/heather)

Just because you happen to be visiting, say Pennsylvania or South Carolina, don’t buy fireworks and bring them back to your home state (where possession and use could be illegal). Setting them off for an impromptu 4th celebration might add a little spark to your night, but more likely than not, you’ll be slapped with a hefty fine. Plus, a Google search of where fireworks are being displayed near you is a simple (and safer) alternative. 

Spending time outside is the best part of the holiday weekend, but remember its key to stay hydrated! If you’re lining up for a parade or spending the day at the beach, make sure to bring enough drinks to keep you cool. Other parade-goer must-haves? Sunscreen, a hat, plenty of snacks, cushions to sit on, and an umbrella or parasol to stay out of the sun. Load up on your favorite iPhone or Droid games — you don’t want to be the only one not playing Fruit Ninja while waiting for the festivities to begin.

If you’re heading to the beach or state park for fireworks, don’t leave home without a blanket or towel to stretch out on (one comfy and one waterproof for the overachievers), plenty of snacks, a sweatshirt (in case it gets breezy!), and a cooler. Stay smart and find out ahead of time if alcohol is allowed on the grounds; getting caught with an open container is one way to ruin a holiday weekend. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/mikeygibran).

Also, drum up a back-up plan just in case the weather turns sour. Check movie times in the area, find out what museums are open, and if any local theater and concert tickets are still available. Grab a local newspaper once you reach your destination to have great alternatives to sunning by the pool in your back pocket. Here’s hoping you don’t need them!  

Even if you want to go off the grid, we’d like to suggest thinking twice before switching your phone into the off position, since there are so many top travel apps to serve nearly any purpose. If you’re flying, FlightBoard allows you to view any airports arrivals and departures screen and sends you alerts with real-time flight updates. For road-trippers, Foodspotting shows nearby restaurants, and allows users to recommend specific dishes and share photos as well. Google Maps Navigation takes all of the features of Google Maps online and adds voice search and step-by-step audio instructions to replace your slow-updating GPS. To stay occupied, Goby searches activities and events near you, and Roadside America pinpoints wacky pit stops from coast to coast so detour-worthy, you’ll never run out of ideas.

Also, if you plan on camping for the long weekend, take a look at our food-lover’s survival apps for camping!