How to Plan a Road Trip

August 9, 2020

how to plan a road trip

We’ve all seen those movies—the ones where the main characters all pile into a car and hit the open road with little, if any, planning. Sure, it might have worked out well enough in a fictional movie. But in real life, getting into your car and driving wherever the wind takes you isn’t the best idea. What if your car breaks down? What if you get lost or run into some unforeseen trouble?

A little pre-trip planning and research can be the difference between having an incredible road tripping experience versus having a nightmarish one. Whether you’re road tripping with the whole family or going on a solo adventure, here’s how to plan a road trip you’ll never forget.

1. Choose Your Destination

The first step to planning an epic road trip is figuring out where you want to go and what places you want to see along the way. If you don’t have a specific place in mind, social media websites such as Reddit and Instagram are filled with travel photos and tips that are sure to get you inspired.

When researching cool spots and interesting places, keep your experience and skill-level in mind. If this is your first-ever road trip, start small with a short weekend trip and work your way up to longer distances. This will give you enough time to work out the kinks before you tackle a big, cross-country road trip.

2. Research and Plan Your Route

Next, spend some time researching your destination and creating a general outline of your route. One thing you should be careful to avoid is over-planning your trip. A flexible itinerary is key to going off the beaten path, meeting new people and coming home with fascinating stories from your adventure!

When planning your route, make note of tasty food stops and potential accommodations. Whether you’re staying in hotels or your RV, be sure to give yourself plenty of time to reach each destination. You don’t want to spend the entire time driving.

Before your trip, download the RoadTrippers app. This incredible app allows you to easily build road trips and share them with friends and family. It also has user-generated content that helps road trippers find good food and amazing spots that are off the beaten path.

trip flashlight and map

3. Make a Checklist

Wondering what you should bring on a road trip? Good question. While it mostly depends on the duration of your trip and where you’re going, here are a few essentials that every road tripper should have in their vehicle.

  • Physical Map – Even though you probably have a smartphone, it’s important to bring a paper map with you as a backup. Your phone’s GPS may not work when you’re going through a canyon or the middle of a desert.
  • Car Emergency Kit – In case you get stranded, always keep a car emergency kit in your vehicle. Your kit should include items such as jumper cables, a headlamp, cell phone charger, a first aid kit, a LED flashlight, emergency blankets, a map and kitty litter (for better traction).

Building an emergency kit for your car? Shop LED flashlights at Pelican and get road-trip ready.

  • Entertainment – Don’t forget to download podcasts and make music playlists before your trip. If you’re an avid reader, Audible is also a great source of entertainment for long road trips.

Tip: Running out of room in your vehicle? Load items into a rooftop cargo carrier to give you and your passengers more legroom.

4. Create a Budget

Long road trips can get super expensive quickly. Before you head out onto the open road, come up with an estimate of how much you’ll need to spend on gas, food, accommodations and other items. Remember: It’s better to overestimate the cost than to underestimate it.

Then, create a budget and try to find ways to cut costs. For example, instead of eating out at restaurants for every meal, pack a cooler with ice and use it to keep food and drinks cold on your trip.

You can also save money on gas by downloading the GasBuddy app. This app helps you find the lowest gas prices in your area. Every little bit helps!

5. Prepare Your Vehicle

Always, always, always get your vehicle serviced before going on a road trip. We can’t stress this enough. After weeks of careful planning, the last thing you want is to have your car break down halfway to your destination.

It’s also important to clean out your car before you go on a long road trip. You don’t want to be digging through piles of junk and trash to find your map or cell phone charger.

Learn by Doing

There is only so much research and planning you can do for your first road trip. At some point, the best way to figure it out is by loading up your vehicle and just going for it. Once you conquer that first trip, you’ll be ready to drive across the country and have the time of your life. See you on the open road!

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