I love a vacation, but a tight budget often means having to drive, so here I’ll share some ways to plan a road trip that will be sure to make your next one fun and memorable. Even with kids in the back seat and major motion sickness, there’s something about a road trip I just love ... the gas station snacks, the tiny towns and crazy things I always see. The best ways to plan a road trip leave you plenty of time for fun, but you won’t get halfway there and realize you forgot your vitamins or underwear.
1. Make Lists
One of the best ways to plan a road trip is to make a list. I know what you’re thinking. How hard can it be to toss your things in a bag and hit the open road, right? Well, take it from me. It really ruins the fun to find out you forgot something important and you either have to shell out for a replacement or suffer through without. I suggest starting your list several weeks in advance so you can add to it as you think of items you need. Think about what you’ll be doing and where you’ll be going so you can pack clothes, shoes and toiletries that won’t leave you wishing you’d planned better.
2. Plan Your Stops
Unless your road trip involves driving 30 miles to the next town to stay with your best friend, it’s a good idea to plan your stops. After all, who wants to have to go to the bathroom in a nasty truck stop when a nice clean gas station is only a few miles away? Ask around and do some Internet research to find the best (and safest) places to stop along your route. This way you can use sanitary bathrooms and find food you won’t be afraid to eat.
3. Have Fun on the Trip
Chances are that while you’re researching the best bathrooms, you’ll come across fun tourist attractions or cool things to see that you might have otherwise missed. If you know of something you’re dying to check out, build time into your trip to stop and see those things. That way, when you arrive you won’t be feeling resentful, but you’ll have loads of memories to share.
4. Don’t Forget Your Map (or GPS)
There’s nothing worse than getting lost when you’re on a road trip. Witnessing a crowbar fight in a dirty Tulsa Wal-Mart parking lot is my testament to that fact. Make sure you have a pretty good idea of where you’re going and which highways and exits you need to take to get where you’re going. It’s probably better to do this before you’re driving so you can stay safe too.
5. Don’t Pack Everything in the Trunk
You don’t want to have to pull over on a scary, empty highway because you’re thirsty and your water bottles are in the trunk. Keep a few essentials nearby so you can grab them as needed without having to venture out of the safety of your car. This includes snacks, drinks, sunglasses, your cell phone and the music you plan to listen to.
6. Don’t Forget Your Itinerary for when You Get There
Don’t spend so much time focusing on the road trip that you forget to plan your actual vacation. Make sure you have a safe and clean place to stay, tickets for the attractions you plan to visit and knowledge of the nearest bank in case you need some extra funds. If you’re visiting a friend or family member, call with trip updates so they know when to expect you. Hopefully with a cocktail waiting!
7. Eat Local Food
I love to eat and trying local food is really fun. Instead of hitting the McDonald’s drive-thru, take a detour off the highway and try out a local Mexican place or the diner where everyone seems to be hanging out. Chances are you’ll get some great food that will make your trip all the more memorable.
What’s your favorite thing about a road trip? I love seeing the small towns and imaging life in them. Where do you want to drive next?