Even though the summer is winding down and stores have already set out the Halloween decorations, there’s still plenty of time to soak up some sun and grab one last road trip before fall sets in. Though jumping in your car, picking a direction, rolling down the windows, and driving can certainly be fun, it isn’t always as great as you might think. A little forethought goes a long way when heading out on your adventure. Check out our steps to plan the perfect, carefree summer road trip.
Pick your company
If it’s your car, you are undeniably in control of who gets to come with you. Choose those friends that are willing to adventure, try new things, and won’t get grumpy when you spring a flat tire or take a detour. If you are spending time on a family road trip, you won’t have as much say in the company, so it is probably best to wait until your kids are a little older and can sit in the car for hours at a time.
Get your car checked out
The last thing you want when you’re cruising down the highway in the middle of nowhere New Mexico is for your low oil light to come on. Before you go on any road trip, take your car to a mechanic and have them do a quick once-over to make sure that everything looks good. Or you can do it yourself. Simply make sure to check the fluid, tire pressure, and always bring a spare tire and extra oil and transmission fluid in case something happens.
Map out your route
Road trips are less about the destination and more about the journey, so it is essential to plan your stops accordingly. Take little detours as you drive to see notable attractions and don’t be afraid to seem like clueless tourists. That’s part of the fun. But as classic as it may be to stop at tourist traps for cheap souvenirs, it is also important to seek out natural beauty. Do some research before you leave and find cool rock formations, rivers, or mountains along the way. Use apps like Roadtrippers or OnTheWay to discover cool stuff on your route. Always talk over your stops with your passengers before you head out so that everyone is on the same page.
Food can either make or break a road trip. Instead of stopping at expensive gas stations along the way to buy unhealthy food, bring a cooler and plan ahead. Believe it or not, it is possible to stick to your diet when you go on a cross-country adventure. It is also okay to be a little lax. You are on vacation, after all. Of course, that is not a license to eat junk food the entire trip, but if you want an ice cream cone, get an ice cream cone.
Nothing ever really goes according to plan on a road trip, and though it may not seem like it, this is actually a good thing. Be flexible and leave time in your schedule to do fun things that you see along the way. If you want to avoid planning entirely, that is okay as well. However, even if you’re going to be spontaneous, it is vital to stay safe.
Stick to a budget
Between gas, hotel stops food, and wear and tear on your car, road trips can quickly add up. Create a budget before you go with plenty of room for incidental expenses and stick to it as much as possible. Bringing a lot of your own food is also a great way to avoid pricey gas station snack traps.
Plan car activities
Though staring at endless expanses of highway for hours on end may be fun for some people, most travelers will want something else to keep them occupied until the next stop. Bring along audiobooks that the whole car will enjoy, podcasts, create a great travel playlist, and give your kids coloring sheets and other car activities.
Document your trip
Don’t wait to pull out the camera until you reach your destination. Capture those little in-between moments that may seem incredibly insignificant. Singing in the car at the top of your lungs, stopping at a windy gas station with a bunch of truckers, or seeing those majestic elk along the side of the road. Your memory is only so good, and one day you will want to look back and relive the trip of a lifetime.
Did we miss any steps to planning the perfect road trip? Let us know in the comments below!
–The Alternative Daily