We love summer for its endless possibilities, long days, and warm sunshine. For families with children in school, summer is the season for vacations and loads of quality time. For others, the warm summer weather calls for ocean escapes or outdoor expeditions.
So whether you’re a parent loading all your children into the campervan or an avid adventurer who rounded up some travel buddies, we’ll provide you with some road trip tips for planning a successful getaway.
While some may snub the idea of planning, arguing that it takes away from spontaneity, we’ll show you how following some simple tips and tricks can make for a smooth and exciting road trip.
Check out these road trip tips:
Determine Your Destination
This may seem like a given, but knowing your destination is the first step in planning out your road trip itinerary. Deciding on your destination will depend on how far you travel. It also depends on how much driving time you’re willing to log in between points of interest.
Spontaneous detours can form incredible memories, but some prior research (and a road trip route that everyone agrees on) should be your first starting point.
Knowing your destination will also allow you to determine the best route to travel. Use Google Maps or Waze to help you decide which course you’ll take for your trip.
Plan Your Itinerary
Planning your itinerary is one aspect of preparation that builds anticipation and creates excitement. Discuss with your fellow passengers and determine the must-see sights and stops along the way. Planning the itinerary refers both to the journey and the destination.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “It’s not the Destination. It’s the journey,” and we’re inclined to agree. This isn’t just about planning to locate the nicest rest stops and cheapest gas station along the way; it’s about making your next trip one to truly remember.
For example, consider whether there are any campgrounds along your route or national parks that are a must-see. Stopping at a campsite along the way is a great way to save money on lodging and rest and recharge for long hours in the car. Most national and state parks have designated campsites that come with breathtaking views.
Create a Packing List
Creating a packing list is the best way to ensure that nothing of importance gets left behind during the best road trip ever. Start by determining categories for your bucket list, such as clothing, toiletries, electronics, and miscellaneous. Knowing how long you will be traveling and whether you’ll have access to laundry machines will help you determine how light or heavy to pack.
You’ll also want to check the weather forecast for your desired stopping locations. This will help you determine if you need to plan for rainy weather or lower temperatures.
Create a road trip planner or packing list to keep all your essential information in one spot.
Decide on a Budget
Before embarking on your road trip, you’ll want to settle on a budget. The essential categories of your budget will be lodging, food, tolls, and gas. You may also want to include some extra spending money for memorabilia or souvenirs along the way. If you’re planning to visit any national or state parks, allocate some of your money to admittance fees.
Creating a budget will also provide some guidance when searching for hotels or Airbnbs along the way. This will help you to have a realistic picture of what you can afford and when you can splurge.
Consider Roadside Assistance
Becoming a member of AAA or another roadside assistance service can provide peace of mind along your trip. Roadside assistance clubs offer countless benefits, sending help if you have locked your keys in your car or if your car breaks down. Membership offers you the support you need if anything goes wrong on the road.
If you travel in a rental car, you have an additional factor to consider. Does the rental car agency have its own roadside assistance program, or do you want to add a rental car policy to a traditional AAA membership?
Get an Inspection
Taking your car in for an inspection before putting hundreds more miles on it is another way of ensuring your car’s success throughout your journey. Car inspections will help you stay up to date on the inner workings of your vehicle. While your car is in the shop, you may also want to change your oil in preparation for your road trip.
Make sure you also store a spare tire in the trunk in case of a flat. Checking wiper fluid levels, as well as tire pressure, is another helpful tip to remember before you hit the road.
Making reservations in advance can help eliminate the stress of finding last-minute lodging. Having reservations for your road trip also keeps you accountable to a timeline, ensuring that you see everything you hope to see and make it to your desired stops.
This applies to hotels, Airbnbs, and campsites. While some campgrounds don’t require reservations, the “first-come, first-serve” rule may require an early start to your day.
Prep Your Playlist
Prepping your road trip playlist is another essential when planning a successful trip. Spotify is an excellent app for music and podcasts. Create a shared playlist so that all your passengers can contribute to it. Having the perfect theme for your trip adds to the overall experience.
Buy National Park Passes
If you‘re planning to visit multiple national parks during your road trip, it may serve you in the long run to purchase an annual national park pass. Annual national park passes typically cost around $80.
These are generally per vehicle, so your pass will cover admission for each passenger in your rig. Since national park admission fees cost on average $25 and can quickly eat away at your budget, investing in an annual pass may be worth the upfront cost.
Download Road Trip Apps
Countless road trip apps will take the stress out of your road trip planning. Apps are fantastic planning tools for beginner travelers and long-time adventurists alike.
- Roadtrippers is one of the most popular road trip planning apps. This app is great for finding unique stops along your route, including restaurants and must-see attractions.
This app will also recommend hotels along your route, making planning a breeze. You can also collaborate with friends and family who also have the app, adding stops to your journey.
- Waze is another useful road trip app. This navigation app has real-time updates about traffic and upcoming road hazards. Waze helps you navigate the most time-effective routes and avoid wasting time in traffic jams.
- GasBuddy is a budget-friendly app for your road trip. This app informs you of the cheapest gas prices in the area, ensuring you never spend more than you need when filling up your tank. This app also helps you navigate the nearest gas stations, so you’re never left searching.
- Ideally, you will know where you’ll sleep each night of your trip. However, sometimes plans change, and other arrangements need to be made. HotelTonight helps you find available hotel rooms at the last minute.
- Roadside America is a fun road trip app for those hoping to see the unique and quirky roadside attractions along your route. This app will help you determine which sights are worth seeing and which can wait.
Pack Your Cooler
Essential to every road trip is your snack and drink choices. Grab your cooler and fill it with healthy and delicious options that satisfy your cravings and allow you to stop only when you need to.
Selecting the right cooler will keep your snacks and drinks fresh for days. Most hard-sided coolers will keep their contents cool for five days, preserving your perishables for the long haul.
Bring Your Reusable Water Bottle
Relying on reusable water bottles will save you money throughout your road trip because you won’t have to purchase water bottles. Simply refill your reusable water bottle at each stop and throughout your trip. Plus, water bottles with double-wall vacuum insulation will chill your drink for 24 hours, unlike single-use bottles.
Invest In a Car Charger
Seldom do we pull out a paper map for car travel anymore. Our phones have become our source of information, and this includes navigation. With our maps now being electronic, a dead phone means the absence of a map.
Having a car charger on hand for your cell phone is a convenient detail for any road trip. Use your phone for directions and crank up your favorite road trip playlist without worry.
Consider the Scenic Route
Road trips are more about the journey than the destination. It is all about making the most out of your trip and enjoying the sights along the way. While scenic routes often take longer to travel, the views are usually worth the extra mileage.
Enjoying the open road beats interstate traffic and gives you the feeling of freedom. Take time to research all the different routes that will take you to your destination and whether you have the time to take a more scenic route.
Choose Your Car Wisely
If you’re deciding whose car to pile into, consider choosing the one with the most space and the best gas mileage.
You’ll want enough space to stretch out and sit comfortably. Selecting a fuel-efficient car is also an important choice when traveling long distances. With rising gas prices, you’ll want to save money where you can.
Let’s Hit the Road
One of the best ways to explore the country is by car. Road trips give us the freedom to stop and enjoy sights along the way to our destination. Road trips are family-friendly as well as a memorable vacation idea for friends.
When it comes to planning for a road trip, following these tips will take the stress out of the prep and allow you to enjoy the open road.