While planes, trains, and automobiles all get you from Point A to Point B, there’s something especially alluring about hitting the open road. I’ve always been a big fan of road trips, long and short. Both Christopher and I grew up going on road trip vacations and plan on continuing the tradition with our own children. Our mutual favorite road trip is along the Pacific Coast Highway from San Diego up to Seattle and if you haven’t done that, I recommend doing so! Next weekend, however, we’re heading on a short trip across the state of South Dakota! Anyways, we’re not here to talk about road trip memories – we’re here to talk about how to plan a road trip so let’s get into it.
How To Plan A Road Trip
1. Remember Murphy’s Law.
“If something can go wrong, it will go wrong.” It’s important to keep your vehicle essentials within the car. Personally, I always have a jug of oil, jumper cables, a bottle of coolant, a couple of blankets, a flashlight, and a bottle of windshield washer fluid in the trunk of my car. I also keep an ice scraper and cat litter (for traction when my car gets stuck in the snow, as it tends to do) in the trunk during the winter months as well. I know that this stuff takes up valuable space that you could use for more suitcases, but you really don’t want to get in a situation where you’re stuck and you need this stuff but you don’t have it. Especially if you live in a state that isn’t as populated like I do.
2. Take your car to get maintenance.
Doing this may prevent you from needing anything in the first tip! Seriously, like the week before you leave – take your car into any auto shop and have them check (or change) the oil, check your brakes, and check your tires. Where I live, it only costs about $30-$50 to do simple maintenance and it’s gonna save you a ton of money in the long run. You want to make sure the vehicle you’re driving will get you to your destination SAFELY and in one piece.
3. Make sure you have your spare tire + jack.
As an adult, you should probably know how to change a tire and you should know if you have a donut tire and a car jack in the trunk of your car or not. If not, you really should. This is a great thing to keep in your car because what if you get a flat tire 300+ miles from home? I never take my spare tire out of my car for this very reason, because you just never know. Also, I would rather change my own tire and get on my way rather than wait for some murderer to “offer his assistance” but that’s just me.
4. Keep your gas tank above 1/4 full.
Fill up your car all the way before you leave and don’t let it get under 1/4 full. Yes, gas is expensive and not fun to buy but you know what else isn’t fun? Running out of gas. Growing up in South Dakota where we have worse winters than Alaska (I know, seriously), I was taught to never let my gas tank get below 1/4 full because if you get stuck or stranded somewhere, you want to keep your car running to keep you and your passengers warm. Though most road trips are taken during the summer months and you don’t have to worry about staying warm, it’s still a good habit to have – especially while on a road-trip.
Also, while you’re on the road and need to get gas, try to get off on an exit with multiple gas stations. The prices tend to be cheaper since there’s competition. When I plan a road trip, I specifically make note of these exits because it’s a good way to save a few dollars.
5. Pack your own food.
Speaking of saving a few dollars, pack your own food into some coolers! While I love McDonald’s as much as the next person, I don’t love how quick fast food drains my wallet. To save money I will usually prepare some sandwiches to keep in the cooler. Plus, some bottles of water and Gatorade (for electrolytes). However, I will still…
6. Map out meal stops.
We all love food, let’s be real here. So on your road trip, you should definitely maybe try to eat somewhere new or somewhere that’s only located locally (to wherever you’re at). Whether it’s at In & Out if you’re driving through California or Lambert’s Cafe in the Ozarks, don’t forget to stop somewhere to eat. We’ll be stopping in Chamberlain, South Dakota to eat at Al’s Oasis (which is somewhere you should eat every time you travel across SoDak, honestly). It’s been a tradition in my life since I was little whenever we headed out west, so we’ll continue it!
7. Visit some cool sites along the way.
The best part about a road trip is the fact that you can stop literally anywhere you want and explore the surrounding area. You’re not confined into an airport lobby, you know, so take the opportunity to look around. Why not get lost a little bit? We’ll be stopping in the famous Badlands National Park to hike around and climb some cool rocks, Bear Country (because you know, bears) to drive through and look at beautiful scenery, and some dinosaur park in Rapid City to look at dinosaur statues. Whatever or wherever it may be, explore your surroundings a bit.
8. Switch drivers every few hours.
Unless you’re driving solo (bravo, by the way) or with someone who doesn’t have a drivers license, switch drivers. You really don’t want to tire yourself out and make the road trip unenjoyable. Take a break for a little bit. Read a book, check your social media, or take a few pictures. When I plan a road trip, Chris and I will usually decide ahead of time where we’ll switch since we both enjoy driving.
There you have it! I hope you enjoyed this post on how to plan a road trip! What are some of your favorite road trips that you’ve done? Let me know!
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