Road trips are one of the best ways to travel—ever. It’s you, long stretches on the road, the sun in your eyes, cheap gas station food, small, worn-down roadside motels, and a fantastic playlist on your speakers. You can’t beat that. It is the rare sights outside the window and the split-second decisions to change your course and drive through this small town instead that make it so unique. Road trips can go right, giving you some of the best memories of your life, or it can go wrong, making it drab, uninteresting, and worse—a pain. Well, no one wants that. And, that’s why we are here! Giving you hard-earned advice on how to make sure your road trip is the road trip of your dreams, ensuring that your experience categorically is in the former camp rather than the latter camp.
What separates a good road trip from a great road trip is finding the balance between planning and improvisation. Meaning, while you have to have everything organized, you should still have room to go wild and crazy. Doing this can become hard, especially during a time like this. With a global pandemic upon us, taking a road trip might seem complicated—but it’s not impossible.
So let us look at some COVID specific guidelines:
Stay Close to Home: We are all antsy staying at home, and all want to get out, and we all want to travel, but when you chose to do so, it is better to travel local and close to home instead of picking a far-off destination.
Do Your Research: When you are deciding where you want to go, research the situation of the place. Look at their COVID statistics, their timings, and the safety guidelines. You don’t want to visit a site that is still closed (that would suck big time!)
Avoid Crowded Areas: It is a no-brainer, but it still needs to be said. Please do not pick a place with too many people, where people are not following social distancing rules or not wearing their masks.
Now that we have gotten all this out the way. Let us look at some road-tripping essentials. Onward and upward, as they say!
Pick a Vehicle
First and foremost, decide how you want to travel. You have a lot of options to consider, so deliberating on the pros and cons of each is an essential step. You know you’re going to be stuck in this vehicle for the entire duration of your road trip, so do your due diligence!
Let us look at some of your options.
Your Car: It’s a classic. One of the best choices there is—it gives you the most freedom regarding what you can do with it. You can just up and go at any moment, and you don’t have to be answerable to anyone. But there are some things you should consider before you decide it’s what you want to do. Namely, is your car reliable? How much gas does it guzzle? Can it withstand long distances? Once you’re confident about all these answers, you’re good to go!
A Rental Car: If your car is not up for the job or you have the budget to ride in style, like with a convertible, this is what you should go for.
A Van: If there are many people involved in this fun road trip of yours or you don’t want to spend money on motels, ready to camp out in your van on an open field instead, this is the way to go! You can even take a kitchen-on-wheels if you want to save some money.
Make a Packing List
You cannot travel seventy miles from home, and remember you did not forget to bring your phone charger or speakers so that sunblock you like with the high SPF. It is not acceptable. Let this serve as a reminder that you should make a checklist to ensure that you have everything you need.
Think you don’t need those extra pairs of socks? Think again, you will be stuck in your car for long periods, and everything begins to smell at some point.
But the more significant question is: What do you need to include in your road trip packing list?
There are essentials like your: driver’s license and registration (always, always have it with you, no matter what), your wallet, your skincare products, your phone charger (multiple USB cables if you have them), sunglasses, sunscreen, a small pillow, a blanket, and travel insurance.
Less apparent but still essential items include an emergency first aid kit, air fresheners, an emergency car breakdown kit, a reusable water bottle, and a flashlight. If you’re going to be camping, bring more blankets and pillows, and mosquito repellents. If you’re going to make food on the road, bring some culinary essentials (but no perishables!).
No doubt, this is a long list. But over-packing is just as detrimental as under-packing, so watch out for that as well!
Set a Road Trip Budget
Everything needs to have a budget. When you are an adult, there is no escaping it; you probably know this already. You probably have your finances haunting your dreams. We are assuming you do not have a well full of Benjamins, so you will have to plan out your trip and set a budget.
The budget depends on your expenses, the place you are going, the route you will be taking, and how long it takes to get there. You can make your budget flexible, setting a strict upper limit, or you can plan for every meal and stop. It is all your choice! As long as you stick to it, there should not be much of a problem, either way.
Scour the internet for every offer and discount and promo code you can find. Find motels with cheap packages, save money wherever you can—even if it just a few bucks. Those things will keep your bank account more than you realize.
The last thing you want to do is make it back home and look at a list of numbers telling you how much you went over budget. None of us wants that for you.
We have approached the end—the piece de resistance. The thing that will make or break your road trip more than everything else on the list combined—yes, it is your route.
Ready for it? Let us go!
Picking the Route for your Road Trip
You! Yes, you! It is time to break out that old map and chart a route for your road trip. Or well, if you do not have an actual physical map or much less seen one, now is the time to go on Google Maps to begin planning.
Make a List: You know where to g, but do not know how to get there? Quite literally so? Well, this is an excellent time to look for some inspiration. Make a Pinterest board or scroll through Instagram or a few travel blogs you like to find interesting places. Maybe you want to go ghost hunting or see that cat cafe or visit that retro diner. Until you do some research, you might not find what you are looking for.
Plot Your Destinations: Once you’ve made a list, it is time for you to plot them out on a map. You can always do it with paper and some thumbtacks, but you can do this on Google Maps, as well. You can also break it up by region or state if you are that Type-A. We do not judge! Whatever helps you get to wherever you need to go!
Refine Your Route: Now that you have brainstormed and plotted them all out on your map, it is time to edit. Eliminate any outliers. Sure, it is an excellent camping ground, but are you willing to drive three hours out of your way to get there? Perhaps, it is the whole reason you are going on this road trip. Whatever it may be—mark it in a particular color or throw it away. You want to identify what is most important and what it is not. That way, when you are on the road, you will not be wasting time.
Find A Place to Stay
The last thing you need to decide is to find a place to stay. You can either decide to camp—or you can find some accommodation. But whatever you choose, you must pick it before you even get in the car. These are not choices you make on the way.
Camping: There are several options if you want to go camping. You can find ground in national parks, state parks, national forests, and private campgrounds. A lot of these require you to book your spot in advance, so keep that in mind! If you comb through the internet enough, you might even find free camping grounds! Camping can be a rewarding experience, but it can also be uncomfortable, so be sure this is absolutely what you want to do!
Motels: If you want a great American road trip experience, motels are the way to go. It has the ambiance, the grit—and maybe someone was murdered there? Who knows? It is all adventure. However, before you book one, make sure you compare prices on different sites to find the best deal. Find out if breakfast or lunch is included in your package—and if there are any parking fees. Pick smaller motel chains over larger ones if you are on a tight budget. And if something is free, do not forget to take it!
Airbnb: Airbnbs is one of the top choices of accommodations when you are on a road trip. They can be a unique rental experience and less expensive than motels or hotels, but more comfortable than camping. Make sure your Airbnb has a kitchen so you can cook food—thus, saving money. Try to find a “unique stay” if you want to enrich your travel experience. Also, ensure that there is a place to park your car, do your laundry, and have at least some of the things you find necessary. And do not forget to avoid any red flags!
Whew! Well, this felt like a journey all on its own. But we have come to an end, folks. Stick to all of these tips, and you will be guaranteed a brilliant road trip experience. Go live your life—from the highway to the highway!