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Road trips are one of my favorite things when it comes to long vacations and short ones. A road trip can take you anywhere—you can go across the state to a museum, across the country to see the ocean, or attend a huge festival. Picking where to go is part of the fun.
However, there are things that can cause your road trip to be a little less fun. That’s why planning is important.
1. Decide where you want to go.
You might have a loose plan, like that you want to go to a specific city, town, or state. You might not have a specific destination. Or you might have a specific destination planned as your “final” stop, but you might have a dozen stops between home and there, too.
Knowing where you’re going will help you with the rest of your planning. It will also help you know what to pack. If you’re planning beach stops and it’s nice out, you might want to bring a bathing suit. If it’s snowing and you’re going someplace with lots of the white stuff, you might want to bring skis or a sled.
2. Map out your trip.
Whether you get out an old-fashioned state map, an atlas (if you’re crossing state borders), or you print your itinerary—you want to have a mapped out plan. This way you’re less likely to need to backtrack if you miss a desired destination.
3. Loosely plan your stops.
When you’re driving somewhere, there’s a good chance you’ll come upon some other possible tourist destinations. If you like roadside attractions and tourist traps, make sure you leave yourself some leeway in your planned stops.
Who knows, you might happen by a nice park with a walking path that calls to you. Don’t pass it up just because you expected to be at the dental museum at a specific time. Obviously, if you have to be at the museum before it closes and it’s close to closing time, you’ll want to decide which seems more interesting to you.
4. Make a packing list.
Never pack for any trip, no matter how near or far away you are going, without an actual packing list. Writing down everything you need and then checking it off as you pack the items helps to ensure that you don’t forget anything you need (or it makes it less likely anyway).
5. Double check your packing list.
Go back through the stuff you packed and check it again against your list. It’s easy to accidentally check off something you didn’t mean to.
Sure, you can buy stuff on the road, but wouldn’t you rather save your money for gas or souvenirs?
6. Take snacks.
Aside from the cost for admittance into tourist traps, one of the other most expensive things about going on a road trip is the food. Instead of stopping to dine at a restaurant for every single meal, and instead of spending triple the price for gas station junk food, take some shelf-stable snacks with you.
Granola bars, trail mix, breakfast bars, granola snacks, and nuts are all great snacks that will give you a healthy boost of protein, too. You can also take dried fruit. And don’t forget to bring plenty of water.
7. Update your GPS—or better yet, use your phone.
If you haven’t updated your GPS recently, do it now. It may take you on detours that are no longer there, which will mess with your trip time frame if you don’t take it inside and update it through the internet.
Most often, the GPS on your phone will be more reliable. It might also alert you to traffic accidents and other incidences that can make your trip slower.
8. Be prepared for the unexpected.
Check the air in your tires, make sure you have a spare tire, and maybe even take the car in for a tune-up if it’s been awhile. Consider all the things you’ll need if you get a flat or have an accident—including your car insurance info and your health insurance info. (And don’t forget a first aid kit.)
You might not have any issues on your trip, but it’s always smart to be prepared.
9. Take pictures!
Photos taken by you are far cheaper than the price of souvenirs. You can make your own postcards when you get home, have them turned into coffee cups and puzzles, and more. If you don’t have a camera, use your smartphone!
10. Bring some entertainment.
There are times when driving in silence is going to get boring. You might not be able to find a good radio station, so bringing some CDs with you is a good idea. If you have kids, bring a portable movie player or some individual tablets to entertain them. And, just in case you do have some car trouble, bring a book to read!
The most important tips: Have fun and drive safe!