Road trips can be a great way to see the country, bond with friends, and get in touch with your inner explorer. But if you want to make the most of one, you need to adopt the right mindset and approach it the right way.
Here’s how to do it.
Get the Most Out of Your Road Trip
With these tips, you can have more fun and more unique experiences during your next road trip:
1. Clean and maintain the car first
You’re going to be spending a lot of time in this car, so it makes sense that you’d want to clean and maintain it first. Take it to a qualified mechanic and get a tune-up and inspection. If there are any problems or signs of wear on the vehicle, such as worn brake pads or low oil, now’s the time to get them fixed. Plus, with a clean interior and exterior, you’ll have a much more comfortable ride – and you’ll start the trip off on a good note.
2. Have a plan
Next, put some kind of plan in place. There’s a certain thrill in wandering around aimlessly, but you might miss out on some interesting stops if you do this. At the very least, you should have an idea of your ultimate destination and the states and cities you want to hit along the way. From there, you can look up interesting attractions, restaurants, and locations that are worth a stop. For example, Stewart J. Guss lists out the top road trip destinations to see in Texas.
3. But don’t be too rigid
Of course, there’s also a risk in planning too intensively. If you have a rigorous, to-the-minute schedule of where you want to go and what you want to do, your plans will inevitably go awry. A single delay, whether it’s traffic, bad weather, or a problem with the car, will throw your whole schedule off and stress you out. On top of that, you might want to spend more time or less time at certain places. Make sure your schedule has plenty of flexibility.
4. Prepare an emergency kit
Before departing on your road trip, take the time to buy or build your own emergency kit. A roadside emergency kit will include visuals (like flares), tools (for repairs), first aid, and additional supplies like food and water. Depending on where you’re headed and when you’re leaving, you might also want to bring materials to help you handle snow and ice.
5. Stay off the highways
The American highway system is impressive and convenient in many cases, but it doesn’t give you ideal scenery for a road trip – unless you love billboards and long stretches of road. Instead, it’s often better to take back roads and less-traveled routes. You’ll get much more interesting views and more unique stops (and it won’t dramatically increase the time you spend on the road).
6. Schedule some free days
While making your schedule, include at least a couple of “free” days where you don’t have to drive, and you don’t have any scheduling obligations. In a best-case scenario, this will give you the time to explore a new place you otherwise wouldn’t have considered. In a worst-case scenario, you’ll have time to decompress and relax. You can’t lose!
7. Create a master playlist
It’s hard to imagine a successful road trip without a playlist of amazing music. As for what music qualifies as “amazing” – that’s up to you and your passengers. Start making your playlist well in advance of the trip, including your favorite albums, some random jams, and if it’s appealing to you, some karaoke fodder so you and your passengers can get in touch with your performative sides.
8. Rotate driving duties (when possible)
If you’re driving with a group of people, consider sharing the driving duty. Even if you’re the type of person who genuinely loves driving, it takes a physical toll on your body (and mind). Taking a nap in the backseat or just stretching out in the passenger seat occasionally will be good for you.
9. Keep plenty of gas in the tank
It’s not much fun to run out of gas – so make it an impossibility. Try to keep your gas tank at least a quarter full at all times and fill up whenever you have the opportunity (especially if you’re going somewhere new).
10. Use road games to pass the time
Even interesting country roads can get boring when you spend enough time on them. Use interactive games to pass the time, like the classics “I Spy” or “21 Questions.” You could also get creative and invent a new game on the fly.
11. Take frequent breaks
Many road trippers love the idea of “making good time,” getting to their intended destinations as quickly as possible by taking a single, unbroken straight shot. However, it’s usually better to take frequent breaks so you can stretch, use the bathroom, rehydrate, and decompress. You’ll feel less stressed, you’ll enjoy your time, and if you have passengers, they’ll thank you.
12. Anticipate possible issues
Finally, be ready for various problems that might arise. If you get a flat tire, do you have a spare, and do you know how to put it on? If you lose your wallet, do you have backup cash or a plan to get more money? The more prepared you are, the better.
Learning From Experience
There are many ways to have a great road trip and only a handful of ways to have a bad one. While these tips were designed to give almost anyone a better road trip experience, you may find that you have different preferences than your peers. The more road trips you take, the more familiar you’ll become with the hallmarks of a great road trip – and the more you’ll become acquainted with your own personal style. That means every road trip you take has a chance to be better than the last.