I have said several times that I feel like I’m a road trip expert, so it only makes sense that I make an ultimate road trip guide! These are tips that I’ve gathered from dozens of road trips, tens of thousands of miles and millions of memories. These nineteen tips are here to help you save money, maximize your time and have your own epic road trip!
Pack Your Own Food – Convenient Stores are definitely convenient (I’ve picked up those random cravings while on the road), but they’re also up to 4x the price! I’m always sure to have plenty of snacks packed with me to cut costs way down. In addition to snacks, I like to prepare at least one meal a day for myself – usually breakfast or lunch. Packing something simple like sandwich materials and some veggies make for the perfect roadside meals!
Keep Your Food Fresh by Sealing Each in Their Own Ziplock Bag – I picked up this tip from another road warrior a few years ago and it’s GENIUS! In the past, I had let things get stale or candies get hard by not sealing them properly, but by doing this before you even head out it’s less of a hassle and by taking these things out of their boxes, it’s also a space-saver!
Plan Out the Must-Sees of Your Road Trip – I always think that planning a trip is half the fun of a trip! It’s that high from knowing an adventure is right around the corner. You want to be sure that you don’t miss out on some of the most incredible spots, so look up some top things at your final destination and along the way.
BUT Don’t Forget to Leave Time For Fun, Spontaneous Stops – However, you don’t want to create some sort of militant schedule because you’ll see signs for silly roadside attractions, state parks that you’ve never even heard of and loads of other things along the way. My family road trips have taught me to always leave room in the itinerary for those silly, beautiful, educational and fun stops that you happen upon along the way.
Make a Playlist or Go Old School with a Classic Mixed CD – Is it even possible to take a road trip without music? I know my husband and I like to take turns being ‘DJ Wunder’ in the passenger seat. I love having playlists already made because then you can sit back and enjoy the ride. Plus, if you don’t have a passenger it’s a safe option for mixing up your music.
Eat Local – It’s often tempting to drive through something familiar and quick, but part of the fun of traveling is the ability to try something new, something local and something you can’t get back home! This isn’t an every meal thing for me because it can get to be a bit more expensive, but when I’m in a town or a city I love to try something new!
If You Get Tired of Music, Have a Podcast or Audiobook Ready – I discovered just how nice this is on my drive from Missouri to Alaska. We had some insanely long drives on that trip and sometimes are music just didn’t cut it. Having a book or a podcast to listen to keeps your mind occupied in a way that makes the time completely fly by!
If You’re Just Passing Through a Big City, Avoid Rush Hour – There’s nothing worse than getting close to a big city and realizing that there’s going to be bumper to bumper traffic and it automatically adds an hour to the drive.
Have Cash or Change Ready for Tolls – I never remembered to prepare for tolls. I would roll up and have to scrounge for cash or change or dig in my wallet for my card, totally unprepared. Now, I try to keep a cup or baggie of change and a few loose dollars ready for those unexpected tolls! It doesn’t save you loads and loads of time, but it’s more just that moment of being fizzed out in the moment.
If You’re Traveling in More Remote Areas, Be Sure to Get Gas When It’s Available – This can be serious business. There’s nothing worse than getting stuck in the middle of nowhere and the even scarier thing is getting stuck and not having any cell service. This is something I’ve experienced in Alaska and in Montana – I thought that there would be another gas station, but I eeked in on fumes to the next gas station. Luckily, those were just close calls for me, but it’s a lesson that I have taken to heart!
Give Car Camping a Shot – I have become a firm believer in this! My car is a tiny hatchback and even though I’ve slept in it a time or two, it wasn’t the greatest for car-camping. My husband, however, came with an SUV so we have definitely made the most out of this! We have camped in the 4Runner multiple times and it makes for some of the absolute cheapest accommodation possible! In fact, we’ll be car camping all weekend!
See a Beautiful Landscape? Stop for a Picnic! – This is one of those things that is so magical about being on a road trip! See something beautiful? Pull over! Picnics are amazing, budget ways of embracing the road and the freedom that this kind of travel allows. Plus, solo picnics are just as fun as picnics with others if you’re on a solo road trip.
Bring a Car Charger for Charging On-the-Go – This feels like a bit of a given, but it’s one of the things I forget most often! Plus, if you’re like me, you have an older iPod, a newer iPhone and maybe something else that you need to charge along the way. Don’t be forced to pickup another cord along the way. No need to spend that money.
Pack a Paper Map – Let’s be honest, GPS’s aren’t always accurate, phones lose service and sometimes you just want to see what’s going to be along the way without using data.
Be In the Moment – Unplug, At Least a Little – I am guilty of surfing IG, FB or anything else I want to on my phone while I’m a passenger, but I’ve been trying really hard to be better at this. I also have tried very hard to limit my texting and phone calls while on the road (especially if traveling with someone) and be present in the moment and the experiences that I’m having. Also, obviously, don’t text and drive. A wreck would just totally ruin a road trip.
Have Plenty of Paper Towels / Napkins / Wet Ones – There’s nothing worse than having a spill, a mess, a runny nose or whatever else you might need a napkin or tissue for and not having access to them. Matt and I love to make use of the napkins given to us on fast food stops. Any we don’t use, we put in the glove compartment and save for later – another thing that’s slightly easier on the budget and better for then environment then just throwing away those unused napkins.
Prep Your Car – Be mindful of whether or not you should get an oil change or a tire rotation before (or even during) your trip. Also, have a first aid kit in your car along with other essentials – especially in the winter. Just be sure you’re as prepared as possible and that your car is too.
Don’t Be Afraid to Rest – This is Matt’s biggest thing. Sometimes I try to push it through a long, hard drive if I am really excited to get to the next destination. Matt is better about listening to his body, and I’ve definitely learned to embrace this. Whether it’s just to stop and stretch your legs, rewarding yourself with a treat like ice cream or a candy bar or just needing to call it a day and rest up.
Be As Comfy As Possible – Nothing beats being comfy in the car. I never dress up on days that include a long drive. I’m all about leggings, comfy loose tops and slip on shoes. My best friend Stacey reminded me about the necessity to keep socks close at hand to keep your toes warm and feel extra snug.
I hope these tips help make your next road trip the U L T I M A T E R O A D T R I P.
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