Road trips can be a ton of fun. These vehicular excursions offer the chance to bond with family and friends, see new sites, and explore. There’s a sense of freedom that comes with hitting the road, too. You can go wherever you like and move at your own pace.

You can be as spontaneous, adventurous, or relaxed as you want. You’re literally in the driver’s seat and are the captain of your ship. But this is not to say you don’t need to do some careful planning ahead of time.

All that free-spiritedness can come with some uncomfortable and severe consequences if you’re unprepared. So, what exactly does it take to make a road trip successful? In this blog, we’ll answer that question by exploring the best tips and advice to send you on your way to a great road trip.

1. Get the Essentials

One thing that can make or break a road trip is having the essential supplies. Now, essentials may mean different things to different people, but there are some non-negotiable items that every car should be stocked with. Let’s start with safety first; regardless of the length of your trip, you will need a first aid kit, hand sanitizer, a roadside emergency kit, hand sanitizer, and any required medications. Be sure the kits include a flashlight, jumper cables, gas can, reflective cones, sunscreen, and gloves.

Also, be sure your phone has a good GPS (don’t forget the charger), and take a paper map in case. You’ll be in the car for a while, so comfort is critical to everyone’s enjoyment. Pack plenty of snacks, water, and chewing gum (it helps with motion sickness and pressure from high elevations) because you won’t be able to stop every time someone gets the munchies. Pack the snacks in a cooler so they can be reused later.

Consider taking seat cushions, pillows, and some blankets, especially if kids are coming along for the ride. Have some games and books handy in case people get bored. Pack some reusable shopping bags in case you stop for souvenirs or groceries. Bring a few umbrellas and rain gear if the weather turns on you.

If you’re going for an extended period, pack some non-perishable essentials like wholesale coffee, sweetener, and non-dairy creamer. Other items you shouldn’t leave home without include wet wipes, stain remover, insect repellent, hats, sunglasses, and your vehicle’s paperwork. If you’re going for an extended trip, pack all the clothing and accessories you need. Be sure to check the weather and plan your wardrobe accordingly.

In areas where the temperatures fluctuate, it’s advisable to take some hoodies, shorts, sweatpants, thermal shirts, and T-shirts. Take some extra footwear like sneakers, hiking boots, and flip-flops. Don’t forget a bathing suit if you come upon a pool or lake. Lastly, perhaps the most vital part of any road trip – is a rockin’ playlist for car karaoke!

2. Consider a Car Rental

People sometimes hesitate to take a road trip because they don’t want the wear and tear on their vehicle. This problem is easily solved by renting a car. You may think it’s a luxury you can’t afford, but between special promotions, reserving in advance, and other deals, it’s more affordable than you might expect.

Many rental agencies offer unlimited miles, so it’s great for cross-country trips. Plus, renting a car can be part of the fun; it’s something new and exciting. You must consider what type of vehicle will be best for your trip. This depends on how many people there are, where you’re going, and if you’re hitching anything or carrying things like surfboards or bikes.

If you’re taking a lot, you may want to look at SUV truck rentals. Be careful if you’re considering an electric vehicle; many areas don’t yet have EV charger installer as a regular job. So check where your stops will be and ensure they have charging stations. As long as you’re responsible and use care while driving, a car rental can be an excellent choice for a road trip. To be on the safe side, you may want to opt for rental insurance just in case.

3. Plan Out Sleeping Arrangements

If your road trip takes you away from home overnight or several nights, you must plan where you’ll sleep. If you have a set destination, hotels and motor lodges along the way are a convenient option. They offer comfort and whatever amenities you’re looking for. But if you’re looking for adventure and aren’t afraid to rough a bit, consider a rooftop camper.

These tent-like structures attach to the top of a vehicle and typically have an area on the ground covered for extra space. They are compact for traveling and are allowed in campgrounds and state parks. You may also want to rent a campsite and pitch a traditional tent or a pre-existing camper. If you like to go all out on accommodations (sleeping and otherwise), consider drive-along RV campers.

These vehicles range from small and simple to big luxurious homes on wheels. You’ll not only have your sleeping accommodations, but you’ll be able to cook, store food, watch TV, and relax, all while tooling down the road. Drive-along RVs can be expensive. If you want the same portable amenities, an RV you can tow may be more affordable. They are easy to hook up to a pick-up or large SUV, and you can park them at any campsite along your travels. Campgrounds are mini vacations and adventures all on their own; you may prefer an RV over a hotel stay. Or, you may prefer a luxurious hotel getaway.

4. Make Sure You’re in Good Health

At the risk of sounding like a paranoid parent, it’s a good idea for everyone to get an exam by their direct primary care physician before embarking on the trip. The last thing you want is for the journey to be cut short by illness. You certainly don’t like to spread germs within the confines of the car, either. So get checked out, maybe get tested for COVID-19, and bring your boosters and flu shots if it’s something you feel you need.

If you regularly visit a chiropractor or physical therapist, it’s probably worth seeing them before you go. Sitting in the car for hours can be a literal pain in the neck. They can give you an adjustment and some tips on how to stay pain-free during your trip.

Any specialists you see, like cardiologists, respiratory therapists, etc., should also be contacted so they can clear you for travel. Be sure to have an adequate supply of any medications you take and that any equipment or assistive devices you use are in good working order. Have the names and numbers of all of you with you just in case you need to contact them.

5. Map Out Rest Stops

Back in the days before the onset of the internet, rest stops were a roll of the dice on a road trip. If you were lucky, signs were alerting you to the nearest area. Unfortunately, they were often either miles away or right next to the exit you needed to take and invariably drove past. So many people would stop on the side of the road and do what needed to be done.

We don’t recommend that since it’s illegal and unsafe. Luckily, today, we have phones and GPS and the miracle app Google Maps. Since you’re probably using Google Maps to help with your trip anyway, if you need to stop for a restroom or food, there’s an area on the map that will lay out all the rest stops on your route. Zoom in, and you’ll see exactly where they are and what type of food they have. You can touch your screen to reprogram your route to the area.

If you don’t have Google Maps, no worries; there are a number of other apps specifically designed to find you a place to go, including one called Rest Stop Ahead. But all the technology can’t magically make a potty appear. There are still places where you may be miles from a rest area when nature calls. In that case, we suggest adding these valuable items called Travel John’s (there’s also Travel Jane). These portable toilet services are disposable, hygienic, personal potty devices you can use without leaving the car. It’s not the best solution in all situations, but it beats the alternative!

6. Make Sure You Stay Safe

Safety should be a top priority for any road trip, especially with children. Make a safety checklist before you leave, and stick to it. Start by ensuring your car is in good shape. Take it to your mechanic if you can.

If you can’t get there in time, check your oil and get changed if needed. Check your tire pressure and get them filled if they are running low. Also, be sure to check your wiper blades and fluid. You don’t want to be caught in a storm with faulty wipers.

Double-check your spare tire and have a jack in the trunk. If you don’t know how to change a tire, this would be the time to learn. Don’t be embarrassed to ask a friend or neighbor to show you. Make sure you know your route before leaving. GPS is fine, but electronics fail, so take a paper map and understand how to read it.

Speaking of electronics, make sure your cell is working as well as the chargers. You may not find a phone repair store for miles. Make sure that everyone is buckled up and secure. Don’t drive if you feel tired. Take turns with another driver every few hours if you can.

Pay attention to the road and try not to get distracted. If you’ve got kids, this is why you packed games and a tablet. Let them put on the headphones and watch a few movies. They mean well, but kids are kids and can easily take your mind off driving.

Obey all local speed limits and laws. They differ from state to state, so research them ahead of time. Check the weather periodically to ensure you’re not driving into bad weather. If it turns out you are, you can pull over or stop to get a bite to eat until it clears.

Be aware of local emergency services in the area you’re traveling through, like the police or sheriff’s department, emergency room, and fire department. Most importantly, let people know your plans. Please give them a copy of your travel plans and keep them updated. When site seeing away from the car, be sure to lock it and don’t leave any valuables in sight.

7. Have Fun Along the Way!

This part should be the main reason for your road trip. Take in as much as possible because who knows when you’ll have another chance to visit these areas. Have as much fun, excitement, history, and fun as possible. If you see something along the road, stop and take a look.

Throw caution to the wind and do stuff you usually wouldn’t like: zip-lining or bounce indoor trampoline parks from here to Alaska! If you’re near water, rent a boat and go fishing or take surf lessons. Just because it’s a road trip doesn’t mean you must stay in the car. Look for some historical sites and state parks.

Go for a hike and stop in quaint towns for shopping and antiquing. Let the kids run around in a park while you stretch your legs. Be on the lookout for roadside attractions like the world’s biggest ball of string or smiley face water towers (yes, they both exist). The point is to kick back and enjoy where the ride takes you.

It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from; a road trip can be fun and educational. There’s a lot to experience when you’re tooling down the road, so it’s essential to research to get the most out of the experience. Most of all, it’s critical to plan to ensure everyone’s comfort and safety. We hope you found these tips helpful!

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