Ahh, the classic American road trip. It’s more than just getting from point A to point B. It’s about the journey, spending time with friends and family, and finding hidden gems along the way. While the spontaneity of a road trip sounds romantic, simply packing a bag and driving off without a plan is a recipe for frustration. You can avoid a lot of stress and aggravation if you start with a plan and follow these simple tips before you get behind the wheel.
1. Plan Your Route
Before you head out, take some time to plan your route. You’ll need to decide how many hours a day you’re going to want to spend behind the wheel. Don’t be too ambitious. The trip won’t be enjoyable if you’re spending too much time on the highway and arriving at your destination too tired to do anything but collapse in your hotel bed. A maximum of five to six hours a day of driving is ideal.
The point of the road trip is to see the sights, so don’t stick to major highways, plan to drive some scenic byways and country roads. That’s where you’ll see the best sights and find those out-of-the-way attractions and hidden gems. Check out route planning websites for help in finding those little-known attractions. Finally, take a current paper map as a backup. Cell phone service can be spotty in less populated areas, so you can’t always rely on your phone’s GPS system.
2. Have Your Car Serviced
Whether you do it yourself or take it to a pro, pre-trip car maintenance is essential for a worry-free vacation. A routine inspection should include fluid levels, belt and hose connections, turn signals, tire pressure and headlights. It’s also a good idea to make sure your spare tire is in working order. Don’t forget to make sure you have these emergency items in your toolkit: fire extinguisher, jumper cables, tire iron, water, first-aid kit, and reflectors or flares.
3. Make Lodging Reservations
Knowing where you’ll be staying every night can take a lot of the stress out of your trip. It’s a good idea to make your reservations before you leave home. During prime vacation periods, many hotels, motels, and campsites fill up quickly. You don’t want to arrive exhausted at your destination only to find out there’s nothing available for the night .
4. Pack Light
While you’ll have more luggage space in your car than you would on an airplane, that doesn’t mean you have to pack everything you own. You’ll be in your car for hours a day, you don’t want it packed to the gills with luggage that you’ll have to haul into your hotel room every night.
A good rule of thumb is to keep the bags to one per person. Try to avoid heavy, hard case bags, and instead use a duffel or other soft-sided case. They’re easier to pack into those tight spaces in the trunk. Minimize your clothing by packing items of similar colors that you can mix and match. There’s no reason you can’t wear the same outfit more than once. You’ll be in a different location every day, so no one will know! Bring lightweight clothing that you can layer instead of a heavy coat. Clothing specifically designed for travel can be washed and dried overnight in your hotel room if necessary. For longer trips, you can always plan to stop at a laundromat.
5. Bring Food
Snacks are essential for any road trip. Depending on where you’re going, it may not be convenient to stop at a restaurant for every meal, and convenience stores may be few and far between. Not only does it save money on dining costs, but keeping a cooler of snacks and sandwich fixings on hand will allow you to eat at any time regardless of location. Stop at grocery stores along the way to replenish your stash.
No matter where you go, the goal of the road trip is to have fun and enjoy the adventure. So what are you waiting for?