When you love your ride, road trips are a blessing. It’s nothing but you, your chosen passengers and the open road. But just because it’s pleasurable doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easy.
Before you embark on your pavement-laden journey, you’ll want to prepare. First and foremost, think about safety. You’ll want to do everything you can to ensure you don’t get stuck on the road. And then, you’ll need a plan for what happens if you do.
Next comes the fun part. How are you going to keep your clan fed, hydrated and happy on this trek?
Follow these 7 steps to prepare for your next road trip and you’ll be prepared for anything.
1. Plan your route
Even if you’re a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of person, it’s a good idea to have at least a loose understanding of the roads you’ll take on your journey. You probably don’t want to be stuck in the middle of nowhere when you really need a gas station or a hotel. Plan your trip according to how long it will take to get to each destination. Map out gas stations in rural areas, so you don’t find yourself stuck.
2. Prepare your car for anything
Are you driving through the mountains or the countryside? If there’s a chance of inclement weather, make sure your car is prepared. Maintenance is important, so get to the mechanic if you haven’t been in a while. Here are a few other things you can do to prepare your car for any weather:
- Check your engine coolant and antifreeze – Your engine really can freeze without antifreeze and overheat without coolant. It’s crucial that you top off these fluids.
- Check tire pressure and tread – You never know when you’ll encounter slick roads, and attacking this with worn or semi-deflated tires can be a recipe for disaster. Follow your manufacturer’s guidelines for tire pressure and replace tires that are worn. If you’re not sure whether a tire needs replacing, put a penny into one of the treads with Lincoln’s head facing the tire. If you can see his whole head, you need new tires.
- Pack winter supplies – If you’re going to be traveling in cold or snowy weather, pack everything you may need. This includes a shovel and an ice scraper. Regardless of weather, pack a flashlight, road flares and a first aid kit.
3. Get snacks… and lots of them
Try to plan at least two different types of snacks for each day you’re in the car. This will keep things interesting enough that you won’t be craving a pit stop for some gas station beef jerky.
If you really want to be nice, plan to bring a favorite snack for each person in the car. If your son loves peanut butter cups, everyone can have them for one of their snacks.
When you’re in the car for a long time, there’s not much to do but eat, so be sure to pack more snacks than you think you’ll need.
If you’re at a loss, here are some snack ideas to get you started:
- Trail mix
- Graham crackers
- Mixed nuts
- Beef jerky
- String cheese
- Carrot sticks
4. Create a playlist
What’s a road trip without great music? Do you even want to find out? You can get creative with your playlist by organizing songs by genre, era, band or theme. Make sure you keep the playlist generic enough so everyone enjoys themselves. It’s okay to sneak in a death metal song here and there, but don’t make that a playlist if everyone doesn’t love it.
5. Plan some games
Isn’t forced interaction the best? Well, sometimes it’s enough to break the ice and get everyone talking. So, there’s that. Road trip games are silly, so you’re sure to get a giggle or at least a smirk from even the most reluctant of the bunch.
You can get creative with your game ideas or go with old classics like:
- Name that tune
- 20 questions
- I spy
- Punch buggy
- Add-on story telling (one person starts the story and each person adds a part until it’s done)
6. Think about mealtime
If you want to save money, you’re going to be all about having lunch in the car. If you’re planning this, make sure you’ve got a cooler on hand. You can easily pack sandwiches and stop at a park for a picnic and save lots of dough.
If you’re going to be on the road for a few days, try mixing up these lunch ideas to keep things interesting:
- Whole wheat wraps with shredded chicken, veggies and hummus
- Pasta salad with beans and cherry tomatoes
- Steamed broccoli and rice
- Assorted cold cuts and breads to make your own sandwiches
7. Plan or book hotels in advance
Especially if you’re traveling with kids, you’ll want to know where and when you’ll be resting your heads. It’s definitely a gamble to book hotels for a road trip because you never know if you’ll be delayed. Even if you don’t book in advance, you should have an idea of where you’ll stop. Find out if those places have availability. If you run into an area that doesn’t have available lodging, consider whether you’ll continue driving or if you want to plan an earlier stop. It’s much easier to handle these hiccups when you plan your hotel stops before you get into that car.
We’ve all been on that one road trip that didn’t go as well as it could (maybe someone else was in charge of planning). But these long drives are supposed to be a fun time to relax and kick back with family or friends.
And if you’re traveling alone, it’s even more important for things to go smoothly. Just because you don’t have companions doesn’t mean it’ll be a boring trip. Who says you can’t play punch buggy by yourself?
Follow these tips and your next road trip is sure to be even better than your last.