We’ve been taking more and more road trips both in the United States and in Europe. They are great for week long trips and quick weekend getaways. Road trips can also be a relatively inexpensive way to travel compared to purchasing plane or train tickets for a family. But in order to squeeze every penny out of your travel budget, it’s best to plan ahead. That way you can pack smart to save money, time and sanity. Clean out the junk, pack snacks and don’t forget the map!
Road tripping is not only a fun way for families to travel, but it also allows us to see places that we might have otherwise only seen from the air. Take advantage of interesting stops along the way, play games with the kids and enjoy the extra time together as a family. To help you plan for your next adventure on the road, we’ve put together 8 simple tips to get you started.
Plan Road Trip with 8 Simple Tips:
1. Clean out the junk: Before heading out on a road trip; clear out the trash, extra toys and junk from the trunk and backseat. Not only will it make fitting in your travel gear easier, you’ll save money by not weighing down your vehicle with with unnecessary stuff!
2. Give the car a check-up: Make sure your tires have correct pressure, filters have been changed, and fluids are topped off. A well maintained vehicle can help stretch a few more miles out of that tank of gas. While you’re at it, grab a bucket of soap and water to start your trip off squeaky clean.
3. Pack drinks and snacks: Purchase bottled water, juice boxes, or sodas at the grocery store. Keep a cooler handy for a few drinks during the trip and the rest can stay in the back to swap out later.
Bring snacks that are easy to munch on such as pretzels or carrot sticks to keep the driver and passengers happy. Also, consider packing a few special treats for the kids if they start getting moody. My kids rarely get fruit snacks, so getting that special snack sure puts a smile on their faces!
If you plan to take a long trip or you travel often, consider investing in an electric cooler that plugs into your cars cigarette lighter. You won’t have to worry about replenishing the ice or dumping water during the trip.
4. Pack lunch: Avoid the drive-thru and pack lunch. Sandwiches can be made ahead of time or pack all the fixings and assemble when it’s time to eat. Most rest stops have picnic tables where your family can eat lunch and stretch their legs.
5. Keep kids entertained: Pack the kids travel size games, coloring books, small toys or books. Just don’t overdo it with the toys. You don’t want to have things falling out of the car at every stop! These items don’t have to be new, just not something they don’t play with everyday. All kids seem to have an iPad, Kindle or phone these days so make sure it’s charged and you have a charging cord handy in the car. My teenagers now pretty much stick with their headphones and cellphones during trips. Although we do make them get off and look at the scenery or chat with us along the way.
Games are also a great way to beat boredom. Play I-Spy, License Plates or 20 Questions to keep the kids from getting “bored” and to engage as a family.
Bonus Tip – Grab tourist brochures from rest stops to play I-spy. You can use signs and try to find landmarks from the brochures.
6. Plan road trip route in advance: Before you head out, make sure you at least have a basic idea of where you’re headed and how long it will take you to get there. If you have AAA, get them to create a TripTik for you to use as a guide in your travels. You can pick the fastest route, choose to avoid tolls or take the scenic route.
It’s also always wise to know ahead of time if you’ll be passing through areas that don’t have convenient exits. You don’t want to reach a point where you need gas or a bathroom break and next exit isn’t for another 50 miles.
Hubs & I were driving home from a short trip to Wilmington, NC. We needed gas but the station was busy, so we decided to continue on until we hit the next service station. We drove on and on, and ON! Still nowhere to stop. The few exits we did pass, didn’t have a gas station or anything for that matter – just another lonely stretch of road.
Just when we were starting to get desperate, we see a sign! A beautiful blue sign telling us the next exit had a gas station just .5 mi off the exit! RELIEF! That was the last time we ever gambled with a fuel stop!
7. Make interesting stops: Are there any fun or unique stops you can make along the way? Visit the Field of Dreams in Iowa, Ben & Jerry’s in Vermont or see the world’s largest boot in Minnesota. Even pulling over a viewpoints can give everyone a break, a chance to stretch and can make for a great family photo or selfie.
Just a quick 30 minute stop or detour can create a fun family memory. Derrick still talks about stopping for an ice cream in the middle of the desert as his family drove across the U.S. Yes, the kids will love visiting Disneyland or seeing Grandma, but the Corn Palace will probably be something everyone talks about for years to come.
8. Navigation: Everyone seems to have a GPS, so skip the cost of buying your own and borrow a friends. We rely heavily on a navigation app on our phone in the US, but I found a GPS to be priceless in Europe. Especially for someone as navigationally challenged as myself! We still use Google Maps, but Waze is my absolute favorite navigation app!
Bonus Tip – I always make sure to have a good paper map in the car as well. Occasionally, the GPS or phone provides bad directions or you’ll lose service. Having a back-up plan will save you a headache. Trust me. I’ve been there – in an RV – in New York City!
Most importantly, have fun! Enjoy the scenery and just being together. That’s why you wanted to get away in the first place, right?
Need more tips? Plan for your next adventure on the road and start your holiday stress free.
Now that you’ve checked, plan road trip, off your to-do list. You can starting thinking about more important things, like what to wear!
What are your tips to plan a road trip?