Travel - October 22, 2017

Tips for Planning a Road Trip

how to plan the perfect road trip - tips for planning a road trip, what to pack, planning 101

I’ve been meaning to write this post (slash finish it) since Lisel and I took a road trip up the Northeast…last fall. Y’all know I am a perfectionist and a procrastinator, which is the perfect storm for larger posts like this – or ones I really want to get perfect. BUT, I finally put the finishing touches on this and I think it’s really helpful! Hopefully!

I actually hadn’t taken a road trip in a while before this trip, but we had such a great experience that I’m planning another for this year. It’s the best way to see multiple little towns…and lots of leaves, if you’re looking to take one soon. I know a lot of people head on them for fall foliage, like we did, or for snow trips once winter hits.

Road trips get a bad rep because they can seem boring or stressful, but we made sure to take time to plan ahead to take the stress out of it. I think the fact that we were planning the trip around pleasure as opposed to a road trip that you’re going on to save money on flights or something helped. I was also focused on a few things to make the trip better and the driving less painful, which could be applied to any sort of road trip. Since I put so much time into planning this, I wanted to share road trip tips that really helped me before and during the process.

Before You Road Trip: 7 Tips for Preppin’ Like a Pro

I like to think of the planning part as a lil’ pre-party (I’m a dork, I know). If you’re road tripping with someone, invite them over a couple weeks beforehand to talk about what you both want out of the trip. And heck, while you’re at it, get yourselves a bottle of wine and some pizza to make it enjoyable. It’ll make the planning stuff/work WAY more fun and not to mention productive.

1. Hello Captain Obvious, but Use a map

I know, this is so 1990, but it’s kinda fun! Get a real map and actually see or highlight your destinations. I think it’s smart to have a physical map with you just in case something happens to your phone. Plus, it’s a little souvenir! As you go and stop for meals, you can pull out your map and see the progress you’ve made. You can also tweak your trip as needed by finding a close hotel if you’re tired, or finding a new, less traveled route if you’re making good time. Kinda fun, right?

2. Tune Into Your Inner Type-A: Get organized & Spreadsheet all that ish

I love a good spreadsheet, so I use them for everything. I personally use Google spreadsheets because they are easy to share with people and pull up on a phone. Cover each city you’ll be staying in, and list a few options for hotels, check Yelp for a list of restaurants, and any places that you should stop. Write all those down in your spreadsheet.

  • Hotels: I usually pre-book these along a road trip because I’m not the best at winging it along the way, but whatever works for you. On a road trip, I tend to look at smaller hotels that are unique to the towns along the route. I figure you can always stay in a standard hotel. If you’re trying to stick to a routine, make sure to look for your essentials, like a gym. Or, bring a jump rope, a yoga mat, and some weights in your car and you can do your workout – or stretch out – whenever you need to. It’s up to you, but I like this option for trying to feel my best and relax after so much car time.
  • Restaurants: In my spreadsheet, I like to have a variety of places to eat per town. I cover the basics, like spots for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, depending on how much time I’ll spend in the area, but I also like to have healthy options. I find that I often crave something nutritious when I’m sitting in a car so much (slash eating ALL the candy), but that’s just me. I definitely also find any can’t miss spots by using Yelp and write those down.
  • Coffee shops: I’m big into finding and seeking out the cutest little coffee spots when visiting a new city. Especially because I’m usually not planned out enough to totally take work off, so gotta get that WiFi. I love seeing the local spots and making time in my itinerary to enjoy an hour or two reading/working along the way. They’re usually good Insta worthy places too if that’s your thing.

Since a lot of times I’m also taking blog pictures during trips, I also like to scout pretty or unique places to shoot in general. Even if you aren’t into photography, knowing some cool or unique places to take a break is nice (even just to have the option).

3. Consider Entertainment and Activities

This is HUGE with any sort of travel, and it’s the worst when you don’t plan ahead. Make sure the car you’re using will have either Bluetooth or a USB spot (and then bring a cord). Basically, make sure you know what you’re working with in the car and plan based on that. Bring CDs if you have to, but don’t get into the car and realize that you have no source of entertainment for the next 50 hours.

I like to download a handful of podcasts, then delete them and download more the next time I’m on WiFi to save storage. Music wise, I use Spotify and make sure to download a few playlists before heading into a no-WiFi zone.

If you’re traveling in a group with different tastes in entertainment, remind everyone to bring headphones and split up the time choosing what’s on the system. Sounds silly, but it’ll probably prevent an argument or allow you to zone out when you want to. Either way, plan ahead when it comes to entertainment.

4. Pro Tip: Assign tasks (delegate that ishhhh)

Assuming you’re not road tripping solo, I like to talk to whoever I’m going with and designate tasks. For example, I love looking up hotels and places to eat, so I like handling that. If you’re not into music or podcasts, let your friend handle that. You get it.

5. Pack Smart and for the car

When it comes to packing for a trip, it obviously is dependent on the weather, where you’re going, and what you’re doing. But no matter the trip, there are a few essentials to pack (or at least consider bringing) for the drive.

  • Scarf – Whether I’m on a plane or in a car, I have a scarf. Depending on the time of year, I’ll bring a lightweight or heavy one as a pretend blanket and or/pillow.
  • Neck pillow – Naps are crucial to road trips, and these pack up easier than a standard pillow.
  • Travel mug – Coffee stops need to happen, and sometimes cheap paper cups can be a disaster in a car. I like a travel mug with a legit lid for no spills.
  • Klean Kanteen – For water refills, but more on this later.
  • Napkins – A roll of paper towels – or “borrowing” a handful from a Starbucks is smart.
  • Aux cord – duh, you’ll need this for SURE! And maybe even bring some speakers if you want to park it and go sit out somewhere to enjoy the scenery.
  • Wine – if you know you’ll be hitting up lots of cool spots where you might want to get out of the car and possibly enjoy the moment….bring yourself some wine and a few glasses. You’ll thank me later!
  • Blanket and/or Chairs – going off of what I said about the wine, you’ll want something to sit on if you DO happen to get out of the car and enjoy the moment somewhere! I LOVE my Crazy Creek for this sort of thing and also bring a blanket to lay on the ground.

6. Think About the Boring stuff (like, Safety & Car “Stuff”)

This is SO blah I know – but it’s crucial.

  • When’s the last time your car had a Check-up?

If your road trip is more than a couple hundred miles—and especially if you’re traveling to more remote locations—take the time to drop your car off for a check-up prior to your trip. A sure way to make a road trip annoying is by having to find a auto shop in the middle of nowhere, especially when it was something that could have been prevented. Have them check tire pressure, oil, windshield wiper fluids, and give a quick listen to the engine. Also, don’t forget to have the repair man check your spare tire, too.

  • Worst Case Scenario – ummm do you have Roadside assistance?

Changing a tire is not my thing, and since I don’t know a ton about cars, I’m sure to have a roadside assistance membership. It’s not the most fun thing to pay for, I get it, but it’s like insurance – you need it. A lot of car insurance places actually work with roadside assistance companies, so if you don’t it, call you insurance company to see if they can help you out.

  • Food & water

God forbid something actually happens, but it’s safe to have snacks and water – for emergencies and simply for hunger. I like to grab a couple BIG water gallons and fill up a Klean Kanteen of the equivalent as we go. I keep a gallon or two untouched in my truck, too, for real emergencies. Food wise, nuts, hard cheese, jerky, bananas, crackers, and cookies are my go-to. They’re sustainable and filling. I save real meals and anything that can go bad easily for when I stop. I’ll sometimes make a PB&J or something equivalent in case we don’t pass a restaurant for a while, too.

  • Documents & Things You Need

Make sure you (and/or whoever will be driving for that matter) have a current license and registration for the car. Y’all, this is important! You don’t want to get pulled over and have to deal with that nonsense so take care of it before you leave. Also, it might be a good idea to make sure you’ve got the car’s manual – you never know when that might come in handy!

Also, it’s not exactly safety, but clean up the car before heading out! It’ll make the trip smoother and just feel better. Plus, fill up on gas #duh.

7. Consider These Things When Dreaming Up Your Route

  • Don’t Forget To Plan Gas Stops

Running out of gas is the WORST, so I try to not go under 60 miles to an empty tank. You don’t always know when the closest gas station is – and what if the closest one happens to be out of business?! Because walking to a gas station in the middle of nowhere doesn’t sound fun. And yes, you can always call your roadside assistance friends, but why waste your time when you can just handle it before hand? Plus, gas station snacks, hellooooo.

  • Consider Alternative Route To avoid traffic

This is easier when you’re driving with someone, but heading into big cities, or high traffic areas is best done at off-times. I like to head into these areas either super early in the morning or even the middle of the night. If you can avoid peak hours at all, I suggest it.

  • Allow For Lots of Sight-seeing & Random Stops

Depending on the area you’re in, I personally think spending a little more time on your trip and stopping for beautiful views – or taking slower roads is worth it. You’re often driving places you’ve never been and may never see again, so why not stop and enjoy it? Plus, it’s healthy and safe to get out, walk around a bit and shake out the sleepiness.