Last summer, I went on my first cross-country road trip. I fell in love with the simple beauty of driving across the country and site-seeing along the way.
From Cincinnati, Ohio to Los Angeles, California, our little road trip crew of two saw so many amazing sites across America – from wind turbines and a giant whale sculpture, to the fantastic and other-worldly Petrified Forest National Park. Perhaps more importantly, I made some wonderful memories with my sister that I will cherish forever.
While road trips require a little bit of planning, they are the perfect opportunities to bring together friends and family for a fun and adventurous vacation. With some prep work and an open mind, road trips can be incredibly enjoyable, whether you’re in the middle of a cross-country move or simply want a little time off.
Check out our tips below and start preparing for the trip of a lifetime!
5 Steps for Planning the Perfect Road Trip
1. Pick your destinations and plan ahead
The most important step to every road trip is that you plan your primary destination in advance. Every journey must come to an end – in this case, it could be a beach, a national park, or a loved one if you’re driving point-to-point, or back to your starting position if you’re driving in a circle.
Once you’ve chosen your type of road trip and relevant destination there are some important questions to consider:
- How many days (or hours) would I be willing to spend in a car?
- What is my budget for hotel stays, gas, and attractions?
- What is more important, the car ride or the stops along the way?
These questions will help narrow down the list of possible road side destinations, though there are still endless possibilities… which is where planning ahead becomes increasingly important.
I suggest creating a document to record how many hours you would like to drive each day, where you would like to stop, and important attractions you would like to see. As you get closer to the dates of your road trip, check the weather for each destination ensure safe travels the entire time and to see where a plan B might be helpful.
A little advanced preparation will go a long way!
2. Find interesting stops along the way
I think best part of any road trip is the random attractions, stops, and views along the way. During the planning phase, a quick Google search will point you in the right direction. Wherever you’re headed, search “road trip sites in ____” and you are bound to find plenty of interesting options.
From there, it may be advantageous to plan overnight stays and gas refills near your planned stops. That way, you can minimize time on the road and maximize time spent site-seeing.
from experience, I suggest opening up maps on your phone and finding some major cities near your favorite attractions. This will help you to narrow down some convenient and affordable hotels that might be safe stops for the evening.
3. Make delicious treats for the road
All that driving will definitely make you hungry! Whether you have a car full of people, or a party of one, bring enough snacks to last you the duration of the trip. I recommend making or purchasing special treats to make even the most mundane parts of a road trip more fun! (Pro tip: This is an especially helpful tip for families with young children.)
I typically pack a mix of both healthy and “less than healthy” options to keep fueled and focused the entire route. During my road trip out west, we packed lots of apples to eat along the way (which were, oddly enough, the fan-favorite of the trip), but we loved stopping at Sweet Sally’s Ice Cream, too.
4. Leave a little time for rest and relaxation
Road trips can create some wonderful memories, but it is important to leave time for rest and relaxation. Unless you have time constraints, plan for a little flexibility each day. This extra time could be used for unexpected traffic stops, an unplanned attraction on the side of the road, or time spent eating and enjoying each other’s company.
The beauty of built-in extra time means you don’t have to worry or stress, but rather, you can spend time enjoying all of life’s little moments!
5. Always have a plan B… and be okay if it happens
Every good plan has a built-in plan B. In case something unexpected happens (even if we hope it does not), it is critical to come up with an action plan.
Find additional hotels and attractions to serve as backups in the event that something goes wrong and keep this list as both a digital and print document in case they are needed. Have a person back home alerted with where you’re planning to be each day so that you have a little extra safety net. Carry a little cash with you in case of emergencies and make sure your AAA/insurance is up to date.
Lastly, always pack a first-aid kit and extra food and water for each passenger. It is always better to be on the safe side and come prepared!
Your next adventure is waiting for you!
Now it’s time to start planning! A short list of road trip destinations that are on my bucket list to get you started:
- Grand Canyon, Arizona
- Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
- El Cosmico, Marfa, Texas
- Acadia National Park, Maine
- Cape Cod, Massachusetts
After following these tips, you will be ready for the trip of a lifetime. Grab a few friends or family members, pack your bags, and hit the road. Your next adventure is waiting for you!
Create a great life!