Are we there yet? – said everyone road trip go’er ever.
Road trips are a super fun way to see so much of the world and explore destinations that you would have missed if you were flying 30,000 feet above. They can also be a great way to bond with your fellow passengers whether they’re your family, friends, or special someone.
However, road trips can also be BORING. And let’s be honest, being in a small space with the same people for hours on end can also be a recipe for disaster. But don’t worry; today’s post is filled with tips to help you avoid having to pull over on the side of the road to clear the tension in your vehicle.
This ultimate road trip survival guide is chalk full of suggestions to make planning your road trip simple and make sure that all passengers are entertained, happy, and well fed for the duration of your trip.
Planning Your Road Trip
Use Google Maps to Pick a Route
The first step in road trip planning is to plan which route you’re going to take. The easiest way to do this is to type in your start and end destinations into Google Maps, which will bring up usually 2-3 different route options. Depending on what your goals are you can choose the fastest, most direct route to your destination, or you can choose a longer scenic route. (P.S. This is also a good time to find out if there are any states that you have outstanding parking tickets in so you can clear them up – or avoid those states!)
P.S. If you still need help deciding on a road trip destination, check out this post highlighting my favorite USA road trips from Toronto!
Know Your Comfort Level
If you really just want to get to your destination as soon as possible, it may be tempting to try and drive an entire fifteen-hour stretch at once. However, it’s important to be realistic about how comfortable you’re going to be driving for long periods of time. Fifteen hours is a LONG TIME and the last thing you want to do is be behind the wheel when you’re tired. Driving tired is one of the most dangerous things that you can do, so it’s so important to carefully consider how long you’re going to be comfortable driving. It’s better to play it safe and stop too soon than it is to drive tired or decide to pull off because you can’t drive anymore, only to realize you’re in an area with no hotels or rest stops.
Decide Your Stops Ahead of Time
That brings us to our next point: planning your stops ahead of time. If you know that your car can usually make it about 500km on a full tank, plan a gas stop around 400km just to be safe. Also look to see if there are any good restaurants along your route and plan to stop there for a quick lunch! Especially on those 15+ hour drives, it’s nice to get out of the car for a quick hour to enjoy a meal in a diner instead of scarfing down fast food while you drive.
Make a Driving Schedule
Along with planning your stops, plan who’s going to drive each leg of your drive. When Logan and I drove to South Carolina, he usually drove the early morning shift and early night shift, as I have a hard time driving at night, so I took over the wheel during the daytime portion of our drives. Try to plan your stops at even intervals so you can switch drivers at your stops and make sure everyone is driving an equal amount.
Consider the Weather and Driving Conditions
Check the weather forecast for the period of your drive so you’re not caught off guard by any rain storms or super windy days. Also check for any construction along your route that might lead to exits being closed or detours being necessary. Make sure you’re also prepared with things like snow tires and ice scrapers if you’ll be driving anywhere in the winter months, or somewhere where they may be snow.
Packing for Your Road Trip
Wear Comfy Clothes
No one wants to sit in a car for fifteen hours in skin-tight jeans. Sweatpants or leggings are the perfect comfy attire for long drives. Have a sweater on hand to layer up if it gets cold, or to use as a pillow if you decide to doze off for a little bit.
Pack Easy-To-Eat Snacks
Packing snacks will help to eliminate the number of stops that you have to make along your route. Things like granola bars and pretzels make great road trip snacks. Check out this post: “Tips for Planning a Zero Waste Road Trip” post for some more easy road trip snack ideas that don’t require refrigeration.
If You Have a Cooler, Bring It
Now obviously eating granola bars can get old after a while and if you’re going on a super long road trip, I’d recommend investing in a small cooler that you can plug into your vehicle to keep fresh food on hand for your drive. Logan and I did this when we drove to South Carolina and were able to pack fresh fruit, yogurt, and some chicken burritos that we had prepped before. Again, this will save you stops along the way, but also save you a ton of money as you won’t be forced to purchase fast food.
If you’re going to be living in your car for long hours at a time, you’re going to want it to be clean. Be sure to have things like napkins and garbage bags on hand to clean up any spills and keep all of your trash tidy. Baby wipes are also super handy to have in the car for easy cleaning – and they smell pretty good too.
GPS or Map
Unless you have unlimited data you’re going to want to have a GPS to help guide you along the way, check out this affordable one that works great! On the other hand, if you know how to read a map and are looking for a more authentic road trip adventure, buy some map books and navigate your route the old-fashioned way! (Just make sure you’ve bought the most up to date maps and it may also be a good idea to have some form of GPS as a backup – just in case!
Unless you’re driving an old beater car (which I really hope you aren’t if you’re planning to drive long distances), chances are there are at least a few USB plugs in your car. Bring the chargers for crucial electronics like your phone, GPS, and if you’re like me, your Kindle!
Other Things to do Before You Go
My absolute favourite way to pass the time on long drives is by listening to podcasts. I’ve actually become a huge podcast lover thanks to all of the long distance driving I’ve done lately. Podcasts are a really good way to stay entertained while driving and they’re a lot more stimulating than listening to music, so they’ll help you stay awake too. Some of my favourite podcasts are the Joe Rogan Experience, Speak Up For Blue, Elevation Church Podcast, The Lively Show, and How They Blog.
Let Your Bank Know You’re Travelling
You should do this any time you’re traveling out of your home state, but especially if you’re going on a road trip where you’ll be stopping in multiple different cities. Some banks can be really picky and may quickly freeze your account if they see a handful of charges across different states. Be sure to create a travel alert for any cards that you’ll be using on your trip to make sure the bank doesn’t accidentally freeze your accounts.
Clean Out Your Home Fridge
I think this is my first suburban housewife moment on A&A. This tip is boring, but honestly, it’s a helpful reminder. Any time you’re going to be away for more than a couple of days, be sure to clean out your fridge of anything that can go bad so you don’t return home to a fridge full of rotting food.
Get a Good Night’s Sleep the Night Before You Leave
Arguably the most important thing that you can do before your road trip is getting a good night’s sleep. Like I’ve already said many times throughout this post, there is nothing more dangerous than driving while tired. Before taking off on your road trip, be sure to get your full eight hours of shut-eye to ensure you hit the road well rested and wide awake.
Make Sure Your Car is Full of Gas
Make sure to fill up your gar the night before so you have one less thing to worry about the morning before you leave. It’s also a good idea to make sure your maintenance checks are up to date and your oil level is good before hitting the road – the last thing you want is to break down halfway to your destination!