Road trip means freedom. Road trips just give you more freedom than ever, while road trips only require you to drive all the time. It can be exhausting, but there are also compensating factors. You can take any detours you want, listen to any radio station or talk book you are interested in, or change your schedule at will. The list of benefits continues. Here Are 10 Amazing Tips For Surviving a Road Trip.
During these long trips, I learned something about how to plan, pack, navigate, stay safe and have fun.
The key to a successful road trip is in preparation. It’s important to plan ahead, take your time, and know what to do if something bad happens. After five months of road crossing the country, we gained a lot of experience. When we started traveling last year, I honestly wasn’t sure how I would deal with being stuck in the car for several hours in a row. However, a few weeks later, I am looking forward to our travel day. Packing up the car on the road becomes an interesting part of this process. It’s always a bit sad to leave where we live, but it’s exciting to arrive at the next destination.
If you’re planning to take a road trip soon, here are some tips, in no particular order, that will help you not only survive but have fun along the way.
Best Tips For a Road Trip
Here are 10 tips for surviving a road trip:
1. Plan Before You Go
It sounds exciting to just hop in the car and go, but it’s really better if you have some sort of plan in place before you hit the road. A little bit of planning goes a long way and will make for a smoother, less stressful trip. The night before a travel day, we always liked to get a rough plan of our route, so we knew what roads we were taking and approximately how long we’d be in the car. We’d look at the towns we’d be passing through and determine good places to stop along the way. This would help us determine what time to head out and if we should avoid certain routes at certain times.
A lot of people love leaving early in the morning, but we found that wasn’t always the best. Depending on the location, sometimes leaving a little later in the day was better because we’d avoid things like rush hour or construction work. Of course, things didn’t always go exactly as planned, but simply having a plan in place made our travel days a lot easier to manage.
2. Start With a Clean Car
Having a clean car makes the road trip a much more enjoyable experience for everyone. Especially when there is limited space, it’s nice to have your area clean and tidy. I recommend cleaning your vehicle before you leave for your trip so you start out nice and fresh. On the road, whenever you make a stop, take some time to throw away any trash that you may have accumulated along the way.
Along with keeping things tidy, it’s important to make sure that your car is “clean” on the inside. That means getting the oil changed, filling any fluids, and making sure things like headlights, windshield wipers, and turn signals are all working properly. You want to make sure your car is in great shape before you hit the road.
3. Remove Half of What You Have Packed
Packing is hard for a lot of people (us included!) because you want to be prepared for everything. More often than not though, you end up packing your suitcases with a bunch of things that you don’t need or don’t end up wearing. When traveling by car, space is always an issue, so it’s important to pack lightly.
When we set out for our road trip, we packed 4 suitcases total – 2 large and 2 small. That was essentially every item of clothing that we owned. That doesn’t seem like a lot for 2 people, but over the 5 months that we were on the road, a lot of that clothing never left our suitcases. I packed dresses, jackets, and shoes “just in case” we needed them for something or somewhere. All of that stuff could have been left in storage because they never left their bags and took up precious space in the car. We wore the same stuff over and over again, doing laundry about once a week. Looking back, we could have gotten by with so much less.
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4. Get Satellite Radio
One of the most annoying things about traveling by car is that you lose radio stations as you go, and have to search around for new ones along the way. Satellite radio eliminates this problem, and offers an vast array of genres to boot. From kid-friendly stations to up-to-the-minute news broadcasts, you can listen to just about anything you’d like with satellite radio. If you don’t want to pay for XM, you can also create custom playlists on Pandora and Spotify.
5. Keep The Car Gassed Up
Do not wait until your car is running on fumes to stop at a gas station and fill up. Sure, you might be able to make it another 50 miles on your tank, but there may not be any options for gas once you get there. Do you really want to be stranded on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere? I recommend that you start looking for gas stations when your vehicle hit ¼ of a tank.
Not filling up the car caused more than a few arguments while Mark and I were on the road. Mark always liked to push the car as far as it would go, while I would be scared that we’d run out of gas and be stranded somewhere.
One day, while we were driving through Arizona, that almost happened. I suggested that we stop in a small town off the highway to fill up, but Mark wanted to keep going. As we kept driving down the highway, we got deeper and deeper into the desert where there was nothing but tumbleweeds insight. After driving several more exits than I would have liked to, we finally found an open gas station to fill up and ended up paying double what we would have paid if we stopped in the small town. It was a definite wake up call that what you need on the road isn’t always readily available.
6. Schedule Extra Time for Breaks
As a kid, whenever we took road trips as a family, it always felt like we were in a big rush. My Dad was obsessed with “making good time”. We always had to be on the road super early, breaks felt like less of a break and more like a nuisance, and we’d push the gas until we physically couldn’t drive anymore, making everyone in the car miserable and exhausted.
When we were planning our road trip, I wanted things to feel different. Instead of rushing to the next destination, I wanted to actually enjoy the journey. We always added a little extra travel time for breaks so we could get out of the car, stretch our legs, and not feel rushed.
I think allowing some time for breaks is a really important factor in making a road trip fun. If you see a cool roadside attraction, you should be able to stop and check it out without having to worry about getting to your destination on time. If you want to sit down and be served a meal instead of quickly going through a drive-thru, you should feel like you have time to do that. Those unexpected moments are what often make the best memories, so don’t be so rigid and stop worrying about “making good time”. Enjoy the journey!
7. Bring Some Food and Snacks
Food and snacks are essential for any road trip. While it is fun to stop and get things you wouldn’t normally eat at home, eating only those things will make you feel like crap. Try to keep the treats to a minimum to avoid feeling sluggish and bloated.
Before we hit the road, we’d pack a cooler bag with sandwiches, drinks, and snacks to eat while in the car. It was much healthier, saved us a lot of money, and allowed us to drive longer without stopping. Getting a treat every now and then made our trips fun, but we didn’t do that all of the time.
When coronavirus first hit and we drove back home across the country in 3 days, our only options for food were gas stations and fast-food drive-thrus. By day 3, we couldn’t wait to have a normal, home-cooked meal. Keeping some food and snacks with you on the road really makes a difference.
8. Create Custom Trip Books
Road trips are great ways to broaden kids’ horizons. You can help bring the places you journey past and through to life for young travelers by creating custom trip books for each one. Each book could include a map of the planned route, along with interesting factoids and tidbits about the places you’ll be passing. Print out a few games and crossword puzzles to make them even more entertaining. Finally, include a few blank pages and encourage your kids to keep journals of their travels; share your stories each night at the hotel.
9. Keep Cash On Hand
It’s always a good idea to have some cash on hand just in case. You may need money for things like tolls or parking and credit cards aren’t always an option. We always kept some change in our cars for parking meters and a few small bills in our wallets.
10. Drink Water Instead of coffee & Soda
Not coffee, not soda, just plain water! I can’t stress this one enough. You’ll feel so much better if you stay hydrated.
I’m not saying you have to completely eliminate everything else, but along with any other drinks you might have, make sure you have plenty of water too. We always kept water with us in the car and made sure to refill our water bottles whenever we stopped somewhere.
Coffee, soda, and energy drinks can make you feel jittery and bloated and generally have tons of sugar in them, which leads to a sugar crash. Drinking plain old water will help you feel much better.