Planning to take a road trip as one of your next adventures? Whether you’re taking a quick weekend getaway in your home city or you’re planning a longer adventure abroad, these ten tips will definitely come in handy.
Road trips don’t have rules beyond being trips on the road. In order to make the most out of these trips, check out my top 10 road trip tips!
Do Your Research
Surprise, surprise. My number one tip is do your research. Obviously, we’ll talk about more specifics, but I think the first thing you should make sure you understand are the rules of the road. Especially if you’re not familiar with your route or if you’re in a different country. Even here in the United States, laws vary from state to state, which means something as simple as not turning on your headlights when using your windshield wipers could end up in a ticket. If you’re hitting the road internationally, don’t take anything for granted when it comes to understanding their road laws and customs.
Prepare Before Heading Out
Your car is packed and you are ready to go. You have your music ready, your maps printed, and then you realize you have no one pet sitting for you. Real talk? This has happened to me before. Don’t solely focus so much for your trip that you forget to prepare your home, too. If you’re going to be gone for a while, make sure to make accommodations for your bills, fur kids, plants, vehicles (if you need to move them for something like street cleaning). If you’re worried about leaving your home for an extended period of time, a security system can give you comfort. We love to watch our cats on the Nest app while we’re traveling.
Make Sure Your Vehicle is Road Trip Worthy
This is such an important step in the process that people far too often forget or leave out or run out of time to handle. On a long road trip, your car can make or break your experience. Whether it’s your vehicle or you’re renting one, make sure that vehicle is road trip worthy. Check your oil, windshield wiper fluid, and tire pressure. If you’re due for maintenance, get that all handled before your trip so the things you can’t as easily assess for yourself can be looked over, like your brakes, engine, tire alignment.
Also, it’s so important to clean your car, inside and out. It will definitely get dirty on this trip and you will most likely not want to make time to clean it multiple times along the way. You will be in this car for a lot of your road trip. Give yourself the best start possible.
Plot Your Course But Be Flexible
When planning a road trip, I map out my route so I know where I expect to start and end each day. Based on that route, I can book accommodations that make sense for this road trip, whether that’s an AirBNB, camping spot, motel. In between stops, I figure out all the sites I want to see and any food I want to eat. This way, I can get as much into each day as possible.
That being said, I also give myself more time than I need so I can be a bit flexible with my planning. Inevitably, you’ll want to stop unexpectedly. Embrace that. Or perhaps the weather isn’t your friend and that beach time you were jazzed about looks a bit too White Squall for you. Be flexible enough to adjust those plans. I often have maybes set aside for just those moments, too. Things that would be cool to see if I have the time.
Download Entertainment & Maps Ahead of Time
Before every road trip, we download any music, movies, tv shows, and maps we’re going to need. I cannot stress enough how much this has come in handy during our travel, especially in more remote areas. First, as you leave urban and suburban settings and drive in more rural, less inhabited areas, connectivity can become less consistent. If you are reliant on your cellular device for all your map and entertainment needs, I’m here to tell you that you will be disappointed by your coverage at some point in time. Especially if you are traveling internationally and aren’t as familiar with their connectivity dead zones.
Additionally, why use data during your trip that you don’t need to use? This one tip here saved our road trip around Iceland more times than I can count.
Map Out Your Fuel Options
Nothing can ruin a road trip more than running out of gas without a gas station in sight. I’ve been there and it was not fun. Now, we always map out our gasoline options and make sure we know when and where we need to refuel to ensure we have enough gas for all of our driving plans. Before any road trip, make sure you know what side the fuel tank is on, how to access it, and what kind of fuel your car needs. This might be a no brainer if you’re driving your own car, but if you’re renting, make sure you know these things before driving off the lot.
Also, if you are road tripping in the US, download the app GasBuddy before heading out on your trip. It’s this great app that will not only show you available gas stations, but also tell you how much gas costs there.
Don’t Be Afraid of the Road Less Traveled
Taking highways will typically be faster. Speed limits, if present, will be faster. Highways will also generally give you a more direct route to other highway adjacent destinations. There is a lot to be said about the road less traveled, though. You will often find beautiful photo opportunities and super unique destinations that most people don’t write about because they didn’t take the same detour. Yes, time and budget are often huge determining factors, but don’t let unexpected stops and detours be seen as anything less than exciting opportunities to make memories.
Do keep in mind, though, that the road less traveled can also, at times, be the road less maintained. And winding. If you have passengers who struggle with car sickness, this will need to be a consideration.
Book Accommodations Ahead
While flying by the seat of your pants can be an exciting way to travel, if you definitely want to hotel hop during your trip, book your accommodations ahead of time. Road trips are exhilarating, but can also be physically exhausting. You do not want to drive into a town later than expected and hunt for accommodations only to find out that no one has any vacancies.
Additionally, most accommodation options have a cancelation policy that lets you back out of the booking if you change your mind, find a better deal, re-route your trip, etc. This way, you know you are covered and don’t need to fret about where you’re going to give your body its well needed rest. Same goes with RVs or camping. Still check and make those reservations ahead of time, just in case a lot of other road trippers think the same exact time is perfect for their trip, too.
Snacks and Drinks
Road trips can totally be synonymous with junk food. Think gas station snacks and fast food drive-thrus. If that’s what you want to do, do you. I recommend bringing snacks and drinks with you, though. Especially if you’re road tripping in an unfamiliar place. This way, you know you have food to eat, water to drink. Plus, if you have any dietary concerns, this is a surefire way to ensure you have food and drink options no matter where your travels take you. Bring a cooler and you can pack veggies, fruit, sandwiches, cheeses. Plenty of good food to keep you going. Also, depending on how remote your travel is, you may not have much access to food regardless, so it’s always wise to be prepared.
Traveling long distance in a car doesn’t have to be disorganized and chaotic. It will be very important for you to keep everything clean, organized and in its place. Packing smart is especially important when road tripping. You’re basically partially living in your car and the last thing you want is to be crammed in the car with luggage. Or struggling to find a road snack only to find out they are under all of your camera equipment.
Along that line, make sure all of your travel documents are easily accessible, just in case you need them. I also recommend printing paper copies of things just in case technology fails you. Same thing with your electronics and their chargers. I recommend having a designated space for those items so that they are accessible and easy to locate.
Finally, if you are travelling with littles, always prep their very own activity bags, which can include their electronics (if they have any), art supplies, books and toys. If they are old enough, make them responsible for their packs. This will keep the back seats from becoming a jungle gym, but also make entertainment easily within their reach if they get bored on the road.
Have your own tips? Comment below and let me know.