A few months back my girlfriend and I made the decision to go on a cross-country american road trip. We ended up venturing 11,636 miles in 6 and a half weeks. It was fast, crazy, and the best trip of our lives. We learned a lot about each other, the USA, and how to make the best out of each moment. There are several things we wish someone had told us about planning a road trip before we left, so I thought I’d share with you. Whether you’re going on the road trip of a lifetime or just going for a weekend; whether you have been planning this for years or months or just decided a minute ago there are several things to keep in mind to ensure you have the best road trip ever.
1. Make the journey just as fun as the destination
Check your route. When planning a road trip, the most crucial part is knowing where you’re going. There are several websites such as roadtrippers built for planning road trips or GoogleMaps is great if you just want to see the quickest way to get from point A to point B. Then there is always the good old-fashioned way of drawing on a map. A plus with drawing on a map is the built in memento for you to keep.
No matter if you are a seasoned road trip veteran or new to the road trip way of life there is one way to make the trip much easier and more fun. Make the journey just as fun as where you are going. Look at your route and figure out what fun spots there are along the way! Some great things to look for are:
- Hot springs (check out findaspring)
- Roadside Attractions (check out roadsideamerica)
- Look at the events in towns you pass through (local websites are great for this and timeout is also useful in big cities)
2. Make sure you can get there safely
Always make sure that your car is ready for this voyage you are about to set out on. A car breaking down can make the difference between the worst trip ever and the best.
Take your car to your local mechanic and tell them how far you plan on going and that you just need an overall check to make sure everything is ok. That being said, mechanics are human and make mistakes too. You need to double check your tires, the oil, the windshield wiper fluid, etc.
3. Double check you have everything you need
The gear you are going to need will vary based on the trip you are going on. For camping trips make sure the tent isn’t broken, the stoves have gas, the cooler keeps things cool and so on. No matter what trip you are about to set out on think through the situations you might run into while on the road.
Having space in the car can be a tricky thing to figure out. When packing start with what is important first then work your way back to the least important things. When traveling with multiple people make sure to check with them and what they are bringing. The last thing you want is to end up with 3 tents.
A trick that can help with this is laying everything out on the floor. You can see what you have, what you need and what you may have grabbed on accident. Also you can take one of those cool pictures to show all your friends you’re ready to go on the trip of a lifetime.
4. Don’t get rained out
Always make sure to check the weather. The difference between getting caught in the rain or snow and getting stuck is how prepared you were. If you have gear to stay warm then being out in the snow is fun and beautiful; if you don’t it is miserable and can be dangerous. So make sure to check the weather and be ready; even if it doesn’t look like rain/snow packing a small jacket is never a bad idea.
Driving through bad weather happens all the time. When trekking through the storm just go slow and accept it is going to take a little bit longer to get to where you are going. Going slower and not getting in an accident will always be faster and safer than trying to push it and crashing. If you know you will be driving through snow bringing a metal shovel is never a bad idea.
5. Always be ready for a jam sesh
Before setting out on your trip always make sure you have music. Whether you’re making playlists on iTunes or Spotify or just making some great mixed CDs be ready with all types of music. You don’t want to be blasting really loud, hard hitting music the whole time. Make sure you have some nice calmer stuff for the mornings when you are just getting going, some great sing-a-long tunes that everyone knows all the words to, and the blasting music for when you need a little wake up to keep going.
There are several alternatives to just listening to music. For example, books on tape, Audible is a great way to get access to thousands of books or any library will have plenty of books on tape you can choose from.
Podcasts are another great way to pass the time. NPR has some amazing podcasts here.
6. Make things easier for yourself (Check the apps)
Everyone has a smart phone now and with more people traveling there are some really great apps to help you along the way. Some apps that help no matter where you are going are:
GasBuddy, to make sure you are getting the cheapest gas prices
Yelp or Zomato, to find great local places to eat
Airbnb, to help find places to sleep at your destination
Google Maps, the features are better to avoid tolls or adjust for traffic
Then there are some apps that will even tell you all the attractions along your route, for example there are several for all the stops on Route 66, so keep an eye out for those as well!
7. Get everyone on the same page
When traveling with people make sure you all plan the trip together! That way you all know what to expect and everyone can get excited. On the road people will inevitably get tired and cranky at one point or another. To help avoid this as you go along, just make sure to keep talking about what you have in mind for the day, the stops ahead or anything really. The whole point of the trip is to have fun and explore so be flexible and work together.
Hopefully with these tips you are more prepared for your road trip. If you have more pointers or apps or anything to say, feel free to comment down below!