Road Trip? How to Make it the Best One Ever!
Updated: Feb 7
The word ‘road trip’ is spoken amongst friends and I am immediately transported back to my 12-year-old self-packing my family’s Ford Expedition ready to drive from Florida to Colorado for the summer. The normally spacious 8-seater will now need to squeeze a Mom, 2 teen brothers, a young me, a Labrador, and suitcases that were bursting at the seams with all our clothes meant for two whole months. To say that the 29-hour drive went by like a breeze would be a lie, but it did teach me the good and the bad of a road trip and how to fix the bad parts! So, stick with me, a professional road trip survivor, and we will make sure the next road trips is not a bust!
Plan where you are going…. well DUH. But what I really mean is to be realistic about your traveling plans. Doing a 30+ hour drive with only two people is horrible if you need to get it done in two days versus that same trip with four drivers and four days of travel time. If you already know where the destination of the trip is, then, plan the specifics of how many days, how many people will be able to drive, how many stops, and or deviations will you make on the trip. Just driving into the void can be super fun if you have the time and energy to allow for it, but realistically it can be overwhelming and chaotic that way. You don’t need to plan every pee-break destination but plan a few official stops along the way!
Here are a few resources that are perfect for planning your road trip stops and will save the co-pilot a last-minute scramble to find a coffee shop that is open and not too far from your route
2. OnTheWay App
3. Google Maps
Stop and Smell the Roses
After you’ve made all your plans and stops along the way don’t be afraid to deviate and smell the roses every once in a while. It’s so nice to have a plan all set and know that you will be arriving at wherever on a certain day. But it’s okay to be a few hours late on that day because you stopped along the route to take a photo with a moose on the side of the road. If we have some big planners in the group just account for at least one day of non-driving time, i.e. plan on stopping along the way and taking your time in driving.
Divide and Conquer
This is for our group road trippers out here: make a driving schedule. Nothing is worse than bickering back and forth at 3 am on who’s turn it is to drive or trying to nudge the co-pilot into taking over. Before even backing out of the driveway make a plan of who will be driving next and around what time will the switch happen. Keep it realistic on how long you will be able to drive. if you’ve never gone a long distance while driving before, then you shouldn't push yourself to drive for 10 hours straight. Try to keep the driving time equally amongst all the drivers, this way no one will be overly cranky or annoyed. An added bonus is that the switches will be a built-in bathroom stop for all passengers!
Plan for Boredom
Even driving just three hours on the road can cause extreme boredom, especially if you are the driver and the only thing you have to focus on is the bumper sticker on the car that is going 15 below the speed limit. Just know you will get a little bored and the first step to fighting off boredom is a good music playlist. Before you leave, make a few different playlists for different times of day, maybe even a state by state-themed playlist? You can always throw it back to the good ole’ days with some license plates games, iSpy, really any game that will take your mind off how much longer you still have to drive.
Ah, my favorite topic. We all have gone into a convenience store with a little bit of hangry energy and no regard for our wallets to only walk away with a questionable assortment of food and drinks. A road trip can sometimes have the same energy for every gas and bathroom break. This is fine for one or two stops but when the bank account is documenting every transaction and our loose leggings start fitting a little tighter then we know there is a problem. The best way to avoid this is to bring snacks, a lot of snacks. Try to pack more snacks than you would think you need, and pack 80% ‘healthy-ish’ and 20% ‘treat yo’ self’. When you eventually wander into an empty gas station try to buy the thing you’re craving (because why not its vacay?) and also buy something semi-healthy to eat before the sugary snack.
Boring but Necessary?
In rapid-fire, we should list off the important things before you leave for your trip:
Car Check: If you’re taking your own car make sure it is ready to handle a long journey on the road if you’re renting to ensure that you are renting from a reputable and trustworthy business. - Here is a link for a road trip car check
Insurance: Just double-check all your insurance policies and that you are insured before making a long drive.
Emergency Numbers: Because we can’t always rely on technology make sure that you have phone numbers physically written down to keep in the car just in case.
Emergency Map: Again, technology is not always on our side, tuck a few maps of the areas you are headed to incase the GPS has lost service or power.
Get Rest: Driving is very tiring and a tired driver is just as dangerous as a drunk driver. If you are feeling tired pull over immediately and allow someone else to take over.
Safety First: Be smart about the places you stop at in your journey, try to only stop at places that well-lit or have people around. Have a bathroom break buddy and just be observant!
Notify Bank: Notify your bank that you will be traveling out of state for some time so that your card doesn’t accidentally block charges. But also carry cash for emergencies and toll roads.
Set a Budget: You don’t want to go crazy on any trip but especially on a road trip because you are stopping in so many places. Just make you that you aren’t going overboard with your spending.
Don’t Run out of Gas: See boring and seemingly obvious but it can happen…trust me! Regularly check to make sure that you aren’t in the deep country roads with 3 miles left in the tank
Breathe and Have Fun: The easiest way to ruin a long trip is with a sour attitude if something happens not according to plan just allow yourself to be annoyed and then let it go right after!
The best road trips are the ones where things get a little crazy and messy! The important part is that everyone is having a good time and that if something goes wrong we can all laugh about it together. These are just a few preventive tips to consider before a road trip, either way, memories will be made. Just like how I can never forget the 30-hour cross- country trip smashed against a suitcase and our family dog drooling on my leg. It is all just memories that you will happily remember 20 years later!