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15 Must-Read Tips for All Road Trips

Road trips are BIG in the U.S.

Just how BIG?

According to a survey by Scout GPS, roughly 90% of Americans take holiday road trips, with 35% clocking in over 100 miles!

So chances are you’ll hit the road sometime in the near future.

But before you explore far and away lands, be prepared by following these practical road trip tips…

Tips for Road Warriors

Plan realistically 

First off, take time to plan a general itinerary, but be careful not to over plan which can lead to stress or under plan that can leave you unprepared.

To help determine your itinerary, create a list of destinations along the route and break them into the following categories:

  • Yes: destinations you absolutely must see.
  • Maybe: destinations you’d like to see if you have time and energy.
  • No: destinations to drive straight through.

An excellent resource for planning a road trip is Roadtrippers. You input your destination and starting point and this handy website will tell you all the places you can stop along the way for food, lodging, and sights. It will also tell you valuable information like how much gas will cost you and how long each drive will take.

Allow time for spontaneity

With all the big destinations mapped out, give yourself time to be a little spontaneous.  Perhaps you want to stop at a delicious fruit stand, see an over-sized artichoke, or take a photo standing in front of a national park sign.

Not sure where to stop?

Don’t worry.

Roadside America gives you info on unique, odd, and fun things to see in every city.

Prepare for anything and everything

You never know what’s going to happen on the open road. From car trouble and road work to bad weather and traffic, you need to be prepared.

  • Get your car checked before long road trips.  Make sure to check your oil and water levels, tire treads and pressure, brakes, and battery.
  • Carry extra water in your car in case of overheating.
  • Pack a first aid kit.
  • Keep a few water bottles, snacks (e.g. Power Bars), and blanket in your vehicle at all times.

Be Organized

Designate a spot for everything you bring on your road trip. Find a system that works for you and stick to it. A less cramped and cluttered car means you’ll feel less cramped and confined, making your trip so much more enjoyable.

Be sure to keep maps, phones, sunglasses, wallet, CD/ipod, etc. near the driver seat for easy accessibility.

Credit: OldManTravels

Plans for your fellow road trippers

If you’re traveling with family, friends, kids or pets, plan accordingly.

  • Family and friends: Ask if your passengers like to stop at vista points, have any physical conditions that require frequent stops, and/or if they want to see any attractions along the way.
  • Kids: Have snacks, water, games, music, and DVDs (if applicable) readily accessible to keep them comfortable and entertained.  Bring along some road trip scavenger hunts and have some kind of a prize when they finish it, like letting them choose the next fun place to stop or a new toy.
  • Pets: Be prepared for frequent stops to allow pets to stretch their legs and use the bathroom.  Research some dog parks to take your four legged friend along the way.

Chose your vehicle wisely

What vehicle are you going to drive (e.g. car, convertible, RV, trailer, motorcycle, etc.)?

Each vehicle can have pros and cons, so research what will work best for you and your passengers.  You don’t want to get caught driving a convertible through a thunderstorm or discover the fuel cost for an RV is more expensive than getting a hotel.

Budget realistically

Budget your road trip before you depart. Roadtrippers makes budgeting effortless by telling you just how much you’ll be spending on gas, lodging and sights along the way.

Make sure to have a small emergency fund as well, just in case something unexpected happens.

Prepare for snack time

Junk food can make you tired and drowsy. Instead stock up on your favorite (and healthy) road trip snacks such as apples, bananas, string cheese, nuts, granola bars and pre-washed veggies such as carrots and celery.

Drinking water increases energy and relieves fatigue, as well as boosts your immune system. This will keep you feeling fresh, focused and healthy for the coming days of your road trip.

Credit: April

Plan your CDs

Listening to new music CDs, audio books, self help CD, and comedy will help stimulate your mind and keep you alert while driving.

How to score FREE cds:

  • Visit the library to load your computer and ipod with some free and new CDs.
  • Check out a third party website (e.g. url-to-mp3.com and tubeleecher.com) that convert youtube videos to mp3 so you can burn them to a disc.

Also, be sure to ask your road companion’s music tastes.

Play road games

Road trip games are a great way to pass the time and kill boredom, especially if you have kids.  From eye-spy to crossword puzzles (only if you’re not driving), there are tons of great games.  

Can’t think of any good games?

Spoonful has a list of awesome road trip games, but be creative and make up your own too!

Hoard apps

There are literally hundreds of apps to make your road trips easier.  Here are six of our favorites:

  • Gas Buddy: Running low on  gas? This app will tell you where you can find the lowest prices.
  • Roadtrippers: This app will keep your whole trip plan at your fingertips.
  • Roadside America:  Bored? Not with this app that shows you all the oddball, off the road sights you can see in any city in America.
  • Trapster: This amazing app tells you where there are road hazards, speed and red light traps, accidents and pretty much anything on the road that might cause you anxiety.
  • Audible: Audiobooks everywhere! This app will let you listen to any book you can imagine. You have to pay for them, but they usually have a free trial for newbies.
  • Spotify: With this app, you can listen to free music wherever you are. No worrying about radio stations necessary.

Take shifts driving

Driver’s fatigue is dangerous and no fun.  If possible, anyone who can drive should take turns, letting other drivers get some much needed sleep and downtime to look at the scenery, read a book, and just relax.

The Department of Transportation is a fantastic resource to find out more.

Avoid driving after dark

The point of taking a road trip is to see and experience the scenery around you. Driving after dark is more dangerous as your visibility is limited and chances of becoming tired are much greater.

The best time to drive is early in the morning when you’re well rested and there’s less traffic.

If you’re driving at dusk and dawn, watch for animals.

Credit: AnaCorralesP

Get plenty of sleep

Staying well rested and getting plenty of sleep each night is critical to a safe road trip.

Here’s some tips for sleeping well:

  • Stick to your normal sleep schedule.  If you normally go to bed at 10pm, do the same on your road trip.
  • Exercise at least 20 minutes per day to help you fall asleep.
  • Avoid coffee, caffeinated drinks, and alcohol in the afternoon and before bedtime.
  • Wear an eye mask and ear plugs if you have a difficult time sleeping.
  • Mute your phone at night to avoid unnecessary sleep interruptions.

Credit: paddyoliver

Finally, stay safe

Stay safe along your road trip by making good, common sense decisions.

  • Keep your mind and body healthy for those long drives.
  • Don’t leave valuables in your car at night or visible when you stop.
  • Trust your instincts when picking a hotel.  If a place that looks less than reputable or that you have a bad feeling about it, don’t stop. 

If you keep these practical tips in mind, your future road trips are bound to be stress free, fun, and just plain awesome.

Happy travels fellow road trippers!

Feature image credit: C. R. OBrien

About Sammey La Porta

Sammey La Porta is a Northern California native, recent graduate of the University of California Davis and former resident of Florence, Italy.  As a self described wanderer, adventurer, rock climber, rabbit owner and travel book hoarder, she writes for Trekity and her personal travel blog travellingsquirrel.blogspot.com where you can follow her travel companion Filibuster, a tiny plush squirrel.

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