Fifteen Road Trip Tips
Ah, the classic all-American road trip. I love packing up the car and heading off to parts-unknown for a few days (or weeks). Road trips have become a part of my annual routine. Whether a long-weekend jaunt or a multi-week adventure, a road trip always leaves me inspired, refreshed, and in awe of this amazing planet and the people on it. With a fair amount of road trip experience under my belt (this year alone will have eight excursions!), I wanted to share my best tips with you:
Decide if you’ll take your car or rent a vehicle. This will be dependant on the number of people traveling with you, your trip style (camping vs hotel stays), activities you enjoy (Are you gonna bring back beer? Into rock climbing? Biking?) and the amount of space you’ll need for all your “stuff”.
Plan out your stops. Time out your stops/stays to be around meal time, interesting sights, etc. That way you’re maximizing the amount of time you’ll be gone, rather than stopping in the middle of nowhere to eat a gas station sandwich with a questionable expiration date. If planning to visit multiple National Parks, it might be beneficial to purchase the America the Beautiful annual pass.
Clean your car before you go. You’re going to be spending a lot of time in your car. Give it a deep clean so you feel fresh and tidy while you’re driving along that long and lonesome highway east of Omaha (a little Bob Seger anyone?).
Make sure your vehicle is up-to-date. Give your car the royal treatment with an oil change, transmission fluid change, tires filled, and spare tire and jack. Double check to make sure your car insurance cards and spare key are in a safe place (and that your spare key isn’t inside the car!).
Get plenty of sleep before you leave. Start your trip rested and refreshed. Being behind the wheel can cause drowsiness, which is amplified if you’re already behind on sleep. Try to have two nights of great sleep under your belt before you leave.
Bring an actual map. Even in this day and age with GPS and Google Maps, it’s still possible to get lost or have no idea where you are (I’m looking at you, northern Arizona). You’re driving along and think you have a good idea of where you’re going, and then an unexpected turn is ahead. You frantically grab for your phone to pull up Google Maps and...nothing. Having a physical map of the area will help orient you and save your bottom in troubled times.
Calculate in fuel costs. Calculate them a bit high to make sure you’re covered for any unexpected detours, stops, and hikes in gas prices. To figure out roughly how much your fuel costs will be, determine how many miles you’ll be traveling (i.e. 2500) and divide that number by your car’s MPG (i.e. 25: 2500 miles / 25 mpg = 100 gallons of gas). Take the number of gallons and multiply it by an average fuel price (i.e 100 gallons x $2.75). I always round up, so in this example I would set aside at least $300 for gas.
Carry cash for tolls. There’s nothing worse than trying to find loose change between your seats or having to wait for a credit card transaction to go through at the toll station. Stash some cash if you know you’re going to a toll-heavy area (like if you head east from Wisconsin).
Stock up on podcasts and audiobooks. Podcasts and audiobooks are great for drives when you need a bit of a pick-me-up. Comedies are perfect because laughter helps keep you awake. Personally, I plug in a few Being Boss and Bokeh podcasts, grab a Starbucks refresher, and I can cruise for hours.
Pack smart. Choose clothing items that will have multiple uses, and that you can reuse like jeans, hiking shirts you can rinse out with water and soap, etc.
Share your travel plans with someone. Especially if you’re going to be gone a long time. That way, if something unfortunate were to happen, someone would have an idea of the next time you were supposed to check in and hopefully be able to help you.
Have healthy snacks and drinks and plenty of water. This will keep you feeling on top of your game and enjoying your trip from start to finish, rather than feeling groggy and crabby because you’re dehydrated or malnourished.
Get out and stretch. Be kind to yourself and stop every few hours. Do a few yoga poses, jumping jacks, anything to get your blood pumping again. Being a bit active is a quick way to recharge yourself for a little while longer.
Make room for spontaneity. If you’re like me, you love planning vacations and research for hours on end, months before you actually leave. However, I always make sure to leave room in the itinerary for random stops like a great looking local diner, or a cute antique shop in the middle of nowhere. Half the fun of a road trip is seeing all there is to see along the way, not just the destinations.
Make new friends along the way. Chat up the locals, ask for recommendations, make friends with people you’re hiking with or camping near, you get the idea. These are some of the greatest memories I have from my road trip adventures. From the Asian couple in Yellowstone who barely spoke English but we gave them their first s’more, to the couple on San Juan Island off the coast of Washington who shared their huckleberry pancakes with us because they pick huckleberries every year for their anniversary. You never know who’s life you could touch, and who’s going to leave a lasting impression on your life.
Where are you heading to next on the open road? My passion project, Wild Klementine is going to be an awesome resource for those of you looking to explore parts unknown or looking for tips to make your road trip even more epic. Join the email list to get expert tips and tricks, and follow along on social media to see travel photos before the project officially launches in December!