I have done too many road trips to count. For about three years, I attended school in Idaho while my family lived in Illinois. I made the trip back and forth so many times I lost count. Along the way, I discovered 10 tips for a successful road trip.
Of course, it didn’t take long to get tired of all the states between Illinois and Idaho. In addition to various routes between the two (some of them pretty out of the way to avoid snow or see cool things like the Mall of America), I have traveled from Idaho to Reno, NV, Idaho to Los Angeles, CA, and Illinois to Washington DC. And just a few months ago, I traveled to Florida with hubby to check out a laser cutter for our awesome new business. (Shameless plug, I know…)
In other words, I’ve learned a thing or two (well, actually 10 according to the title of this post) about road tripping. Read on for my 10 tips for a successful road trip!
1) Figure out who is going.
A road trip is only as awesome as the people you share it with. [<—Tweet this.] Make sure that the group is compatible by doing a mini road trip before embarking on something longer. The last thing you want is to deal with grouchy people and contention for hours a day with no room to hide from it all.
2) Determine the level of spontaneity.
Every person vacations differently. Some people like to go with the flow (most people I travel with). Others like to plan everything out months in advance (me). Figure out the level of spontaneity for the trip before you leave. What things are absolutes (dates, locations, etc.), and what things are flexible? This will save you from arguing or scampering while on the road.
3) Have way more music than you need.
Plan your music in advance and know how you’ll be listening. Of course, taking turns picking can be fun, but if your friend(s) or spouse HATE the music (or sports channel) you LOVE, it can cause headaches. TIP: I am a total cheapskate, so I would much rather purchase used CD’s (especially from the nineties and early 2000’s) on Amazon than pay full price on iTunes. (Example: Backstreet Boys CD for $3.98 + free Amazon Prime shipping)
4) Know your navigation style.
We use the GPS (this is the one we have) and Smartphone (iPhone always) for most of our trips, but I have taken an old-fashioned Atlas trip too. Determine your navigation style and plan for backups. Have extra phone chargers and backup maps. You never know what will happen.
5) Don’t forget your first aid kit.
You need over the counter pain medication, nausea medication, allergy medication, feminine hygiene products (if you are female, of course), and all of your prescription medications for the duration of your trip plus a few extra days. I personally recommend some chloraseptic spray and nighttime medicine as well. Being sick on a road trip is terrible. I’ve done it twice. You pay through your ears for medication at a gas station, but you may be too yucky feeling to make it to the nearest Walmart. Yes, there are areas of the country where there isn’t a Walmart on every corner.
6) Refill your water bottles.
Don’t waste room in your vehicle with cases of water. Get a nice water bottle (this is mine) and refill it at every gas station. Some gas stations only have hot water for coffee and tea. Just fill your bottle with ice and then add the hot water for a wonderful icy water. Drinking water is a great way to stay refreshed and energetic on a road trip. Stay hydrated.
7) Wear comfortable clothes and slip-on shoes.
My favorite road trip outfit is black yoga pants, comfortable shoes (my Okabashi flip flops or Uggs, depending on season), and a t-shirt. My shoes come off whenever I am in the car. Don’t forget that you will be in a lot of pictures on a road trip, so try not to dress in your pajamas… unless you just don’t care. Then, go for it.
8) Go off the beaten path.
Follow the random road signs that lead to outlooks and overviews. Stop at the 50’s style restaurant with a dinosaur sculpture garden. Never settle for ordinary on a road trip. Unique places (and pictures) are what make a road trip memorable.
9) Use your smartphone!
I always use Yelp! to find great places to eat on road trips. I had a great Cuban sandwich in Denver and the best gelato in America in Los Angeles. Seriously. That gelato. But my best find was an authentic taco place in Nebraska called Super Taco. They were so good that I intentionally routed through Lincoln on a different trip just to eat their Tacos Al Pastor again. I also use my smartphone to find free campgrounds, cheap hotels, and unique places of interest. The options are limitless. TIP: I’m a frugal living ninja, but I pay each month to have my fancy phone and good data coverage. The added value to my life, and the money we save through different apps make it worth it to me.
10) See with your eyes. Remember with your camera.
Some people say you should put the camera down and just revel in the moment. I guess I can see where they are coming from, but travel pictures are some of my most prized possessions. I rarely put the camera away when travelling because I don’t want to miss a great shot. Still, it’s important to balance photography with experience. I usually take pictures as I experience things but wait to edit them until I have downtime in the car or after the trip. And if you aren’t going to pull out your fancy DSLR (love my Canon Rebel!) for each photo, make sure that your phone has a decent camera. I used my iPhone 4S to take front-facing selfies during an entire roadtrip one time and didn’t realize they were all blurry until after I got home and looked at them on the computer. That’s one of the biggest reasons I upgraded at the time.
So, what about you? What are YOUR tips for a successful road trip? Tell me in the comments below.
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Great insight Bobbie! I find it valuable to both soak in the moment and capture it with my smart phone 🙂
What was your favorite destination?
If you have an older car that only plays CDs (I do), there are some great and inexpensive wireless FM transmitters available that will pair with your iPhone’s Bluetooth and play your tunes (and audiobooks) through an unused radio station. Mine was about $15, and love that free Amazon Prime shipping!
I’ve heard those work pretty well in some places. Here in the St. Louis area we don’t have any stations that are dead enough to tune them to so it always sounds fuzzy. I can’t complain, though, because we do have awesome radio stations. Thanks for the tip.
Well, aren’t we just a big pile of awesome! Thanks for the awesome advice! Not only will I be using this info, but I will definitely share this on my facebook page and more! This is, hands down, one of my favorite pins!
Just found your post on Pinterest. Great tips!! Just a comment for people who yearn to take a road trip but might not have a traveling companion, or for other reasons decide to travel solo. Go for it. Chase your dream. And sure, you may need to step out of your comfort zone, but this is sometimes where living life really begins.
This is a great post! You have some really great ideas. I’ve never been on just a “road trip” but it sure would be fun to do. And now, I have some helpful hints. Please come share your blog posts over at the Home Matters Linky Party! We’d love to have you for a visit. The Door is OPEN. http://lifewithlorelai.com/2015/02/19/home-matters-linky-party-25/ 🙂
Life With Lorelai
I love this post! I love road trips and love getting off the beaten path, so I agree 100% with all of these!! My only additional 2 tips are for when you’re out in areas that are more remote (I learned these while road-tripping through Wyoming & Eastern Oregon several years ago)…if you spot a gas station, I don’t care how much gas you have in the tank or if you think you don’t need the restroom…DO BOTH!! Lol. You might not see another place for either for hours…so take advantage of it when you find it (obviously, this isn’t a big deal if you’re in more urban or populated areas!). Now I’m feeling like I want to go on a road trip! lol
#3 is so important! I’ve done a few road trips and there’s nothing worse than listening to the same songs over and over on the radio… As for roadtrip advice? Have a back up plan! Sometimes the ferry you’re planning on taking isn’t running, and you need to drive around, or a Fog sets in and you’re in the middle of no where (pack a tent!) It’s easier to be more spontaneous when you’re boy-scout-ready for anything!
great post! definitely pinned 🙂
Absolutely, Laura. Back-up plans are so important. We always take a tent with us. One time we ended up having to car camp because we couldn’t find the campground and it was super late. We ended up getting creative with some cardboard to block the windows, and carved out some room in the back to lay down. It actually wasn’t too bad, but it certainly wasn’t the plan.
I went on my first road trip with friends when I was in my early 20s. It was surprisingly stressful. People decided they wanted to drive through the night (something I hate doing) and we ended up staying up all night and I think by the end of it, we were all pretty dang annoyed with each other. I don’t think we planned it out very well.
Yeah. Fatigue is a major bummer on road trips. The first few times my husband and I travelled the 1400 miles from Illinois to Idaho (or back), we drove straight through or only stopped for one night. It was miserable. Once we relaxed the reigns and started stopping two or three nights (at least), things were a lot more enjoyable! Planning is definitely the key to a good road trip. Thanks for commenting.
I love these trips so much! I love road trips, depending on who is riding (or driving) in the car with me. I definitely agree that having too much music is a MUST! There’s nothing worse than repeating songs over and over or scanning the radio. I would love to have more spontaneity on road trips. I feel like I usually just go to and from with only stops and gas stations and such. It would be fun to have other random stops and create unique and fun memories. Going off the beaten path can definitely lead to some awesome discoveries. Gosh, I just love this post so much! I’m ready for another road trip now!
Thanks for commenting. My husband and I have definitely had some boring destination-focused road trips, but it’s so much more fun when we allow ourselves to go off the beaten path. I have found, though, that you have to SEARCH for cool things to do. I guess I just assumed that there would be awesome road signs saying, “authentic dinner next exit” or “can’t miss the museum two miles ahead.” There are billboards, but they have rarely led us somewhere awesome. The best gems are the ones I find while searching Yelp! and other apps like Roadtripper and just googling certain locations.
I’ve never heard of Roadtripper! I’ll definitely be downloading that for my next trip!
I absolutely LOVE this! I recently went on a road trip to Chicago and we forgot music & me and my boyfriend are very similar when it comes to preparing for things and we go with the flow when it comes to what we are going to do… (although I prepare for outfits, things i’ll need, etc. but sometimes i forget!) so we were clueless when we got there! we had an idea about some places we wanted to visit but our smartphone saved us! we had no idea where things were! And you’re absolutely right about the camera, I enjoy feeling like a tourist LOL and taking pictures like crazy!!
Thanks for the comment! When my husband and I came back from Idaho for the last time in August, we visited Yellowstone, Mt. Rushmore, Mall of America, and Chicago’s Wrigley Field (all on our way to the St. Louis area). It was a great trip, and we found some awesome food along the way. We also camped at free campgrounds more than half of the trip which made it super affordable. Yay for smartphones and the internet (except in Wyoming where there is no data coverage!)
Such a great list. I always end up wear tennis shoes on our road trips such a bad move especially when you really need the bathroom. I loved #3 something we always do on road trips.
Yeah. It only took me one day of road tripping to realize I would never wear tennis shoes again on a road trip again! My bladder is just too annoying for that. Thanks for taking the time to comment.
Great list!! My husband and I are photographers… so we ALWAYS end up with a million pictures, lol!
My hubby and I both love taking photos (though I wouldn’t call either of us photographers). The funny thing is that we end up with a lot of the same photos when we compare after the trip. And not just normal expected touristy photos. We both have an eye for unique angles and frames, but we end up taking the same shot way more often than you’d expect. Thanks for commenting.
Nice tips, Bobbie. I am totally with you on #10. I take a million pictures & never regret doing so 🙂
Thanks for commenting, Theresa. I’m so grateful to have backup drives and the cloud to store my pictures just in case. I would be devastated if I lost my travel pics!