This is going to round out my series of road trip recaps (Check out my Itinerary in Road Trip Recap- Part 2 and my Trip Overview in Road Trip Recap- Part 1). In this last road trip related post, I am going to focus on the planning and preparation for the trip to highlight some of my Tips and Tricks for an AWESOME ROAD TRIP!
- Map out your route and review alternative routes. While we were planning for this trip we went through many itierations of our route… This was actually fun and got us excited as we talked about cities and stopping points. But from a planning standpoint, it was really helpful by thinking through fastest/shortest/most interesting routes and best cities to stop in.
- Make a checklist. And check it twice (at least)
- Make a budget. Think about all your likely expenses: food/gas/hotel/excursions/tolls. Determine if there are any opportunities to save money.
- Check weather. Our trip went from Orange County (FL) to Orange County (CA) in January and we saw temperatures as high as 80 degrees and as low as 30 degrees. Having an idea of what the weather would be was critical to know what to pack.
- Don’t forget time zones… When traveling across the country, it is really helpful to know when you will be crossing time zones and when they will be advantageous to the trip. Also, there were parts of the trip where the time went back and forth as we crossed back and forth time zones, so that was fun (and confusing)
- Look at blogs/websites/articles- Here are a few I recommend: For some roadside attraction ideas, tips, tricks, more tips and packing suggestions
- Do your research! Not only is it fun to think about, it really helps maximize the trip. Decide what cities you want to stop in and consider what roadside attractions/food/activities would be fun.
- But be flexible. While we planned the majority of our stopping points along our itinerary we had enough room to stay flexible, which provided us great surprises like a singing musical revue steak dinner in Flagstaff, AZ or a live jazz performance at Preservation Jazz Hall in New Orleans. Don’t forget, it’s not just the destination…it’s also the journey. 🙂
- Use packing cubes. I am convinced packing cubes are part fabric/part mesh/part witch craft magic! I can fit so much in them. Also… roll your clothes (don’t fold!)
- Freeze water bottles. If you are going to bring a cooler, freeze water bottles rather than packing ice packs… once the water bottles have melted you can drink the water.
- Use all available spaces… Use the spaces under the seats, in the glove compartment… we even hung bags on the backs of our seats to maximize vertical space.
- Don’t forget extra chargers and batteries.
- Prioritize! If you are like me you will pack more than you can bring/can fit in the car. Make sure you determine what are the Must-Haves and what items you can live without so that if you reach critical mass you don’t have to redo all your packed items.
- Must have apps! Here are some that I recommend: Gas Buddy, Hotel Tonight, iExit, TVFoodMaps
- Make sure your vehicle is road-trip ready. My car is 9 years old with well over 100,000 miles. As much as I love her, I didn’t want to risk her on this extensive drive. Tom’s car is stick shift (and I am a non-stick shift driver). We reasoned that a minivan from a rental company made the most sense for our trip. It was incredibly reliable (virtually no mileage), nice and roomy and one less thing to worry about.
- Snap a photo- Take photos of essential reservations, IDs and insurance cards. That way if you lose something you have it on your phone.
- Figure out what you will use most. We learned quickly that if we put the stuff we would need each night in a place in our minivan that was easy to grab, it made for a much less chaotic load-in process at the hotel.
- Bring your own food. On the few weeks before our trip, I scoured deals at the grocery store and bought snacks when they were on sale. We made sandwiches for lunch, had apples, breakfast bars and muffins for a quick breakfast on the road and lots of healthy-ish snacks packed.
- Compare prices and shop around.
- Ask for trip-related gifts… Our trip was right after the holidays. Knowing we had this trip we asked family and friends things that would benefit us for the trip like gas cards or cash
- Invest in a National Park Annual Pass. If you plan to visit any National Parks, this is a great way to go… $80 for two people good for all National Parks and many National Landmarks and Monuments for a whole year!
- Make a cash fund. I always like having cash for vacations. Try a savings challenge to jump start a cash fund for extra spending money on your trip.
Other Trip Essentials
- Music is a must! Make new playlists and if you need some inspiration I found lots of road trip playlist recommendations like this or this
- Audio Books. I rented a few audiobooks from my local library that I downloaded onto my phone for FREE using apps like Overdrive or Hoopla. I loved Tina Fey’s Bossypants, which was funny and entertaining, keeping me great company through the long drive of Texas. Here is another list of some good audio books to keep you going on long drives
- Keep your car tidy. By Day 2 of the trip our rented Kia Sedona minivan felt less like a vehicle and more like our home. If you keep it cleaner, it will make you feel much less gross. We packed hand sanitizer and paper towels and set up a designated trash bag to toss all of our trash to keep the car clean.
- Stay comfortable. You are going to do a lot of lounging/sleeping in the car. Pack blankets and pillows, and rock those sweatshirts and yoga pants like a champion.
- Last but not least- HAVE FUN and ENJOY THE RIDE! 🙂