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How to Plan a Successful Road Trip

Joanna Rentz

The road trip is an all-American, classic vacation. Hitting the open road is a wild and inspiring way to see the country, and an ideal alternative to ease overall travel costs. Windows down, singing to the oldies, the wind dancing in your hair — it’s all quite dreamy. Still, planning a road trip is no easy task. It takes heaps of preparation, research, and flexibility. But there’s no need to get overwhelmed or intimidated with your planning. Follow these tips on how to plan a successful, stress-free road trip.

Prepare Your Car

Whether you are spending the majority of your day on the road or just a few hours, you are going to want a clean and somewhat organized vehicle. Begin your adventure on the right foot by tidying your wheels before departing because your car will – unfortunately, undoubtedly – get messy. 

Hot tip: pack a small garbage bag or two so you will have somewhere to put your trash mid-drive.

Part two is to ensure that your car’s nuts and bolts are in working order. Speaking from embarrassing experience, don’t get stranded in the middle of anywhere because of a neglected oil change. Check your fluid levels, brakes, tires, and anything else that may cause problems. Don’t forget to pack jumper cables.

Hot tip: Fully inflate your spare tire before leaving.

Image Courtesy of Unsplash // Averie Woodard

Download Entertainment

Most likely, there will be long stretches of road where you will not have service or wifi, so be prepared. Download music playlists, podcasts, audiobooks, TV shows, and movies to stay entertained. 

Hot tip: ask your friends for podcast recommendations and shared music mixes before you leave so you’ll have plenty of variety. And don’t forget your phone charger.

Map the Route 

Creating and mapping out a plan is one of the most fun — and overwhelming —  tasks when preparing for a road trip. Pull out a map (either physically or digitally) and mark your starting point and ending destination. Now, look between those two spots to find locations of interest that you may want to check out. (This will take some research.) Mark those locales as well. Once you choose the final destinations, connect the dots by following highways and roads. Voila! Now you have a rough plan in motion! 

Hot tip: Road Trippers is a comprehensive resource for designing your path. Both a website and app, Road Trippers offers points of interest, scenic drives, and must-sees along your way. 

Download Road Trip Apps — and Maps! 

As  previously mentioned, you’ll likely run into service-less zones, especially along the coast, in National Parks, and the mountains. But while you are in service, download the maps that you need as well as road trip apps that will assist you in finding cool places, lodging, dining, and more.

Hot tip: a few favorite travel apps include Road Trippers, TripIt, Google Trips, Airbnb, Pocket Earth, LocalEats, National Parks Service, and mTrip

Expect the Unexpected

Not to be the bearer of unfortunate news, but something is bound to go array at some point on your trip. Whether you encounter a closed road, flat tire, or endless hours of traffic, remaining flexible and patient is of the utmost importance. Expect the unexpected, and nothing will surprise you or cause unwanted stress.

Hot tip: start your day off with a little self-care. Take a hot shower with essential oils, meditate, or do yoga. Check-in with yourself each day, let go of anxiety, and welcome the unexpected.


Load up on Healthy Snacks

Diners, fast food, and donut shops are readily available on the road, but your body will probably be craving sustenance. Before your trip, load up on healthy snacks that you can pull out in a pinch. If you run out, opt for healthier alternatives at gas station convenience stores like beef jerky, almonds, protein bars, greek yogurt, veggie chips, dried fruit, and sparkling water.

Hot tip: bring a reusable water bottle. When you’re empty, refill at the gas station so you can easily (and immediately) recycle the bottle and keep your car free from empty containers.

Have Your Documents on Hand

Pack your driver’s license, passport, insurance cards, roadside assistance card, registration, and anything else that’s essential to your travel.

Hot tip: snap photos of each document, so you have a digital record as well.

Image Courtesy of Unsplash // Connor Robertson


By all means possible, get out and explore! Take the detours and country roads. Drive an extra 20 minutes to a vista. Pull the car over to enjoy the sunset. Pop into local shops. The advantage of a road trip is that you can appreciate the scenery in real-time. So take it all in!

Where will your road trip take you?