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I have been taking road trips for most of my life. Even as a kid, my parents would load my sister and I in the backseat of the car to travel from Georgia to Texas. Even in my adult years, road trips have become a part of life. Kellie and I have been taking road trips since we first met. Some trips are quick day trips, while others are long-distance, epic road trips. In this post I want to share with you 16 tips for planning your next road trip adventure, and some common mistakes to avoid.
Let’s jump in…
Planning An Epic Road Trip
The most crucial step to take before any road trip is planning. Sit down with your travel companion and answer a few key questions.
Do we have time to explore, or do we need to get there fast? Knowing your timeline is an essential part of planning a road trip. Your timeline will also help you put together an itinerary for scheduling those must-see attractions.
The second most important part of road trip planning is agreeing on a budget. Which brings us to…
Set A Budget For Your Road Trip
On a long-distance road trip, you will want to make sure you cover expenses like lodging. Will you be car camping or staying at hotels along the way? Consider where you will be staying overnight and make sure everyone is involved in the decision making process.
Meal planning is another part of budgeting for your road trip. If you plan to eat at some new-found local eateries, be sure to add those expenses to your budget. On the other hand, you can save tons of money by bringing a cooler of snacks.
We have found many fantastic places to eat on our road trips that were off the beaten path. When we take our travel trailer to a new campground, we like to explore the local towns to see what they have to offer.
Research Your Journey
Take the time to research your destination and the route. Look for any must-see attractions that you want to visit. Make sure to add these places to your itinerary and plan your road trip accordingly. Check out The 5 Longest Roads In The U.S. for some epic road trip inspiration.
Always allow extra time for those off-the-wall places that aren’t on a map. For example, if you pass as sign on the side of the road that tells you there is a “World’s Largest Collection Of Hubcaps” in 10 miles, make sure you take the time to check it out. Being spontaneous makes amazing memories on a road trip.
Get Your Vehicle Serviced
Before you head out on your epic road trip, take your vehicle to get serviced. Have the technician change the oil, top off the fluids, and rotate the tires. Making sure your vehicle is road worthy will keep you from spending your time on the side of the road, waiting for a tow truck.
Learn Basic Vehicle Maintenance
In addition to having your vehicle serviced, learn to perform basic vehicle maintenance before your road trip. I’m not talking about rebuilding the motor or replacing the transmission. Learn to change a flat tire and check the oil if you don’t already have these skills. (you would be surprised how many people don’t)
If changing a flat isn’t your cup of tea, at least learn to check the air pressure in your tires. Properly inflated tires can increase gas mileage, and help prevent a catastrophic failure, like a blowout. Nothing ruins an epic road trip like a tire blowing out.
Talk To The Locals
A terrific way to find the best local hole-in-the-wall eateries or events on your journey is to ask the locals in the small towns you visit. Afterall, they know the best spots, and the worst.
Bring Cash On Your Road Trip
When taking a road trip, make sure you bring cash with you. It’s not a good idea to rely only on your bank or credit card to make your transactions. Certain places you want to visit may be having issues with the card readers or only accept cash. Be prepared for anything.
Carry Snacks In The Car
The best way to save money on a road trip is to bring snacks for the ride. Packing a small cooler, like this one from Amazon, with sandwiches or other easy to eat snacks can save you time and money.
Fill Up Every Time You Stop
This tip for an epic road trip only applies in certain situations. If your route will be taking you on major highways this won’t be an issue. However, if your road trip route takes you on the backroads of rural America, you will want to make sure you fill your fuel tank every time you stop.
There are many stretches of roads that have nothing for miles and miles. How bad would it suck to be stranded with no gas and no cell service?
Which brings us to…
Prepare For No Cell Phone Service
Road trips often carry us to areas where there absolutely no cell phone service. Be aware of the fact that there are dead spots all over the country.
Be Prepared For Emergencies
Not all epic road trips go off without a hitch. Unfortunately, things happen that are out of our control. Have a back-up plan in place in case of an emergency. Make sure your loved ones at home have a copy of your itinerary or at least an idea of where you’re going and when you expect to arrive.
Be sure to pack an emergency roadside kit before your trip.
Start Your Voyage Early
Starting your epic road trip early in the morning will help you avoid heavy traffic. In addition, leaving early in the morning will give you a better chance of catching those epic sunrises you’ve been wanting to see.
Remember To Stretch
Stopping for a break every 2-3 hours gives you a chance to get out of the car and stretch your legs. Not only does it help with circulation, but it also gives you a chance to get a breath of fresh air. If you are traveling with a pet, this gives them a chance to go potty and get some much needed exercise.
Play Road Trip Games
Did you ever play “Slug Bug” as a kid? Play this game with caution. You play by punching, or “slugging” your travel companion in the arm every time you see a VW bug.
Other road trip games to pass time:
- Name That Tune
- I Spy
- License Plate Game
Get An Old-Fashioned Map
In the age of smart phones, GPS, and other travel apps, make sure you still have an old-fashioned fold-up map in your glove compartment for the areas you will be traveling. Service to these devices can be sketchy at times and you might find yourself on the hood of the car, map unfolded, looking to find your way. Plus, if you need to make any notes or markings on your map, you can’t use a Sharpie on your GPS.
Don’t let road rage ruin your epic road trip. Let the other guy that’s in a hurry be in a hurry. Remember, you are on an epic road trip. Relax, see the sights, and let the wind blow through your hair.
Make Your Epic Road Trip Memorable
Some of my most memorable family road trips were those trips from Georgia to Texas as a kid. I can still remember the old country songs dad would play on the radio in our 1980, banana colored, Plymouth Volare station wagon. Think Griswold’s.
Back in the early 80’s there were no flip down TVs or hand-held electronics to keep us kids busy. Mom would try to make the journey as educational as she could. In fact, she had a unique way of teaching us how to spell Mississippi which I still say in my head today.
It went like this, M-I, crooked letter, crooked letter, I, crooked letter, crooked letter, I, humpback, humpback, I. The “S” is crooked letter, and the “P” is humpback. It’s an odd way of learning to spell, but it worked.
Find unique ways to make those lifelong memories with your kids or other travel buddies.
Common Road Trip Mistakes
Over the years of taking road trips, Kellie and I have made many mistakes. The most common mistakes you can make in preparation for your epic road trip are listed below.
- Getting in a rush. When you rush through things like packing for your road trip, things get left behind. Plus, if you are in a rush to get to your destination, any emergency or missed turn will do nothing but add stress to your trip. Plan enough time for the “just-in-case” scenarios.
- Taking a road trip at the wrong time of year can have dire consequences. Imagine traveling through the deserts of Arizona in the middle of summer, or Wisconsin in the middle of winter.
- Not having a roadside emergency kit.
- Letting the fuel gauge lean on the big E!!
Road Trip Packing List
As a result of the road trip mistakes, we have made, we learned over the years what is essential to pack for an epic road trip. Some of these items may be obvious, but trust me, they are easily left behind.
- Power Inverter/Portable Power Station
- First-Aid Kit
- Emergency Car Kit – (blanket, jumper cables, tow strap, etc.)
- Toilet Paper – (sometimes you just have to go)
- Travel Pillow
- Insect Repellant/Bug Spray
- Rain Jacket/Poncho
- Phone Chargers/Chargers For Other Devices
- Extra Batteries For Flashlight/Headlamp
- Weather Radio
- Vehicle Insurance/Registration
Must Have Road Trip Apps
- Gas Buddy
- The Dyrt – For Finding Nearby Campgrounds
- AllTrails – For Finding Nearby Hiking Trails
- Roadtrippers – For Finding Nearby Attractions/Restaurants
- WiFi Finder
With a little planning, epic road trips are one of the best ways to see what this country REALLY has to offer. One of the best parts is the excitement of not knowing what’s on the horizon waiting for you to explore.
Do you have a favorite road trip destination? Are you planning your next epic road trip? Do you have any tips to add to the list?
We would love to hear from you. Drop us a comment below and let us know.
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