I know most people like to fly and arrive at their destination quickly, but I have a thing for road trips. Maybe it’s because my mom always drove everywhere we went. It’s just the way it was always done. Or, maybe it’s because it feels like more of an adventure. The ride is as much a part of the trip as the actual destination.
No matter your reason for heading out on a road trip, there are a few things you should always do ahead of time. These tips will ensure that your trip starts off on the right foot!
Plan the Route
I love a last-minute, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants trip as much as the next person, but it’s usually a good idea to plan a good road trip ahead of time. This is especially true if you have kids, or even if you will have multiple friends coming along. Once there are a bunch of people involved, it gets too complicated to be spontaneous without it becoming chaos.
You already know where you’re going, so it’s not like you have to plan the endpoint. What I mean here is that you should plan roughly where you might stop on the way. On short trips, you can get away with fewer stops, but it’s a good idea to stop at least every 100 miles or every two hours on longer trips.
There are plenty of apps like GasBuddy or iExit that can help you plan. Try to plan stops for gas, use the bathroom, grab lunch, or just stretch your legs. And if you really want a diversion, make a stop or two along the way to see the campy Muffler Men that still exist.
Create Those Playlists Now
Radio used to be a big part of road trips, but we have so many other options these days. Besides, it feels like the radio is far less satisfying than it used to be. Between satellite radio, music streaming services, and playlists, the other possibilities are endless. And no one fumbles with cassettes or CDs anymore.
You won’t want to spend half the trip finding something to listen to, so go ahead and figure it out ahead of time. Whether you’re creating playlists of your own music collection, streaming tunes on apps like Spotify, or listening to favorite podcasts and audiobooks, make sure you’re prepared ahead of time.
Load up on Snacks Ahead of Time
Snacks are an important part of any road trip. There’s nothing like hitting the road and… realizing you forgot all your favorite snacks?
You can’t sit in the car for hours on end without snacks!
Of course, you can just hit a convenience store and load up on junk food, but too much junk can make you feel ill. Not to mention, all those processed foods will send your blood sugar soaring, and you’ll wind up crashing later on.
Be prepared by loading up on snacks ahead of time. This way, you can control how much of it is junk, and how much is healthy. And yes, you can still indulge in a few junk foods – just make sure it’s not all junk.
Check out these healthy snacks that are great for munching on road trips. They are convenient and tasty. And while you’re at it, you should also look at these 5 tips for eating healthy while traveling.
Create a Checklist
There’s nothing like getting a few hours away from home and discovering you’ve left something important behind. It has happened to the best of us! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to buy a stick of deodorant or another phone charger while on vacation because I didn’t make a list.
Do yourself a favor and make a checklist ahead of time. Do it far enough in advance that you can revisit it a few times ahead of the trip, too. That way, you can be sure you didn’t forget anything on the list.
I like to have two lists: one for everything I need to pack inside my bag, and another list for everything I need to put in the car.
Give Your Car a Pre-Trip Checkup
This is a really important part of preparing for a road trip. Don’t skip this, and don’t try to do it five minutes before hitting the road, either. The last thing you need is to find out you need new wiper blades when you’re deep in a downpour, or discovering you need new tires right before you’re supposed to hit the road.
We’re talking about basic car maintenance here. Check all your fluids: motor oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid, and even take a peek in your windshield wiper fluid reservoir.
Check your tire tread by sticking a penny upside down between two ribs on your tire. If the top of Lincoln’s head is still partially covered, you’re good. If you can see Lincoln’s entire head, your tread is too worn and it’s time for new tires.
Make sure that your windshield wiper blades are in good shape, and check that your first aid kit is stocked and in the car. And is all of your paperwork – proof of insurance, vehicle registration, etc – in the vehicle and ready to go?