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Hopping in the car for a road trip can be a fun experience when properly planned out. If little to no planning is done before hitting the open road, there will more often than not be extra layers of stress added to a long car ride.
Being flexible is a key component to every road trip.
Yet there are some things that you can do to make long travel days more enjoyable for you, your kids and any furry friends that are joining the trip.
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If you’ve ever thought about making a road trip across the United States, or maybe a smaller journey, here are some tips and tricks for travelers.
- General road trip tips
- Tips for traveling with kids
- Trips for traveling with pets
1. General road trip tips
When taking your road trip across the country, here are some tips to enhance your travel experience before and during your trip.
Things to know before you go
- Decide how you are going to travel
- Get your car a tune up (and make sure you have roadside assistance ready to go just in case)
- Create a road trip playlist
- Plan out your stops
- Make sure you have pillow and blankets
- Pack an overnight bag
- Get the snacks ready
- Where are you staying?
- Plan for popular tourist stops
Decide how you are going to travel
When planning a giant road trip, you can choose to take your own trusty car (depending on how trusty it is), rent a car or rent an RV.
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This pretty much depends on the experience you are looking for. If you want to keep things simple with just a small car and an open road, take your own car. If you want a bit of an elevated road tripping experience, an RV may be the way to go.
Get your car a tune up (and make sure you have roadside assistance ready to go just in case)
Even if you think your car is in tip-top shape, it absolutely does not hurt to get it checked out before you drive it thousands of miles across the country.
Maybe you need an oil change or new brake pads; maybe your inspection is expired. All of these things are worth checking before hitting the road.
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With that said, be sure that you have a roadside assistance service like AAA set up so that if something does happen to your car while you’re on your road trip, you can get it taken care of quickly.
Create a road trip playlist
If you’re going to be in the car for hours at a time, a good playlist is a must. Put together a playlist that is long enough that you won’t be hearing the same songs over and over again throughout your journey.
Podcasts and audiobooks are also great for road trips. Make a list of podcasts and books you want to listen to while you’re driving.
You can change things up and listen to these when you want a break from the music.
Plan out your stops
Planning your stops down to the minute is going to be a pretty impossible task because lots of unplanned occurrences happen on road trips.
It’s important to sit down with your fellow travelers before your trip and create a rough itinerary. This is also a good time to map out where you’re going to be stopping and staying overnight throughout the trip. Try to book hotels/campgrounds ahead of time, so that way you don’t have to be full of stress looking for a hotel when you’re half asleep and finding out they’re all booked.
Make sure you have a pillow and blankets
A comfy pillow and blanket can be a huge bonus on a road trip. It can be pretty difficult to sleep in the car, but having a nice pillow and blanket with you will help you get a little bit of rest on the road.
Pack an overnight bag
You’ll likely have a large suitcase packed with all the things you’ll need when you reach your final destination. When you’re making short overnight stops, you aren’t going to need everything in that suitcase.
Plus, it can be a pain to lug around. On top of that, the more places you bring your giant suitcase to, the more times you open yourself up to forgetting something in the hotel room.
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To solve this problem, pack a much smaller bag filled with overnight essentials: a toothbrush and toothpaste, maybe a hairbrush, some pajamas, a clean outfit, potentially a swimsuit if you have time for a dip in the hotel pool.
Get the snacks ready
You’re going to want all your favorite snacks after being on the road for hours. Go on a grocery run before your trip and grab some snacks so you don’t have to stop every time someone is hungry.
Where are you staying?
Plan out the hotels or campsites you are going to be staying at before you go so that you can get reservations all set up.
Also, if you have family or friends who live anywhere along your route, consider staying with them to save some money and spend quality time with them.
Staying with friends and family is also great because they will be able to tell you about some cool spots in the area to check out before you head back on your trip.
Plan for popular tourist stops
Very popular tourist spots can often get packed. Some things you also may need to reserve and pay for.
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Do some research on the stops you want to make beforehand, that way you are prepared.
Tips for once you hit the road
- Use rest stops
- Keep food and water in an easy access spot
- Swap drivers
- Visit small town USA
Use rest stops
Make the most of rest stops. Instead of just stopping to get gas, and separately stopping at a fast food chain to get some food, find a rest stop that has it all.
Rest stops are a great time to stretch out your legs, walk around, fill up the car with gas and get something to eat. Rest stops usually have several different places to get food inside. I
f the people you are traveling with all want something different, a rest stop will probably have what everyone is looking for, rather than making all separate stops.
Keep food, water in an easy access spot
Don’t put your food or cooler deep in the trunk under all of your other things. Keep them toward the front of the car, so someone can easily access it while on the road.
If possible, swap drivers to give each other a break. This is super easy to do when traveling with a group of friends who can all take turns driving. Obviously, families with small kids don’t have that same luxury.
If it is possible to switch up drivers every once in a while, try to do so to avoid the same person driving hours and hours at a time, even if it’s just so the main driver can take a quick power nap.
Visit small town USA
On your road trip, don’t count out the small, more quaint towns along the route.
These places often have great local restaurants to stop for food and maybe some fun activities to take part in.
2. Tips for traveling with kids
Traveling with little ones can be a challenge at times, so here are some tips to make things more enjoyable for the whole family.
- Consider driving at night or early in the morning
- Schedule breaks for stretching and food
- Have an activity bag ready, with shiny new toys
- Plan out fun pit stops
- Play car games
- Have entertainment ready to go
Consider driving at night or early in the morning
Driving at night or early in the morning means that your little ones are likely to get some sleep for some of the drive.
Schedule breaks for stretching and food
Plan times for small breaks like rest stops and longer ones like a sit down restaurant or an activity to give the kids (and yourself) a break from the car.
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Have an activity bag ready, with shiny new toys
Pack a small activity bag for your kids with different things for them to do while traveling. Put some new toys in the bag to keep them entertained for even longer.
Plan out fun pit stops
Look into some spots that may be fun for little ones during your road trip.
This will break up the ride a bit, and you can talk all about your fun stop on the way there.
Play car games
I spy, road trip bingo, the famous license plate game, all great passers of time when on a long road trip.
Playing some different games with kids will help keep them occupied, at least for a little while.
Have entertainment ready to go
Since you’re going to be driving for quite a long time, you may want to have some form of entertainment, like movies or a favorite TV show ready to go.
3. Traveling with pets
If you plan on traveling with pets, there will need to be some planning involved and lots of breaks needed to give your furry friend some time to get all its energy out.
- Pack their necessities
- Plan bathroom/energy releasing breaks
- Look for dog-friendly hotels, restaurants and other locations
- Create a comfy car space for pets
Pack all their necessities
You’ll need to pack lots of toys, a leash, food and water bowls, etc., before you go.
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Plan bathroom/energy releasing breaks
You’re going to have to make some frequent bathroom breaks during your travels. These breaks are also a good time to let your pup run around and let out some energy before getting back into the car.
This would be a good time for your pet to have some food and water.
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Look for dog-friendly hotels, restaurants and other locations
When planning out your road trip, look for hotels that are dog friendly as well as restaurants so that you can take your dog with you while you grab a meal.
Camping is always a great option if you have a dog with you since most are dog friendly, and it will give them some needed time outside during the trip.
Create a comfy car space for pets
Since your pet is going to be spending a lot of time in the car, make sure that it is a nice and cozy space for your furry friend.
Create a place with lots of toys, a comfy blanket and maybe even a dog bed.