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How do I Plan a Road Trip?

Amy Pollick
Updated: May 23, 2024

"Road trip!" The words evoke visions of the open highway, vistas rolling out before the driver, adventure, freedom. The reality is that, while a road trip is much more flexible than catching a plane to the same destination, a certain amount of planning is required for everything to work out.

A road trip usually involves driving several hours -- or days! -- to a destination, then driving back. The advantage is that the travelers are able to stop along the way to see various attractions and soak in some local flavor before moving on. It's certainly a leisurely way to travel.

There are two basic ways to plan a road trip. The first is the organized trip, in which the travelers plot out their route in advance, plan stopping points along the way, look for hotels in particular towns, and make reservations in advance. One advantage to this method is that the travelers know where they will be staying and do not have to worry about being able to get a room. Some travelers may find pre-planned stops a bit too confining. For these folks, the open-ended method of planning a road trip may be preferable.

For this kind of road trip, the travelers will usually plot their route, but instead of planning stops, they stop at will, staying overnight wherever they are when they are too tired to drive any further. The obvious disadvantage of this method is finding a decent place to stay on short notice. Some travelers swear by this method, however. And, if the travelers do not insist on staying in chain motels, they may be able to find a local place with a good price.

Travelers should always prepare for emergencies on a road trip. This includes taking the car to a mechanic beforehand and having the oil changed and the fluids checked and topped off. The mechanic should also check the tires, balance and/or rotate them if necessary, check the spare tire and jack, and look at all the belts and hoses, replacing them if needed. The traveler should also ask the mechanic to check the radiator cap for proper pressure when he checks the coolant levels.

A good emergency road trip kit for the car will include: two gallons of plain water, four quarts of oil, a quart each of transmission and power steering fluid, a can of brake fluid, washer fluid, paper towels, and a couple of rags. The traveler should also either have a set of jumper cables or a jump start power pack in the trunk.

Travelers should also carry a standard first-aid kit, available in discount stores and drugstores. They should also take all prescription drugs they will need for the duration of the trip, as well as a list of all prescription drugs they take. If they have to make a trip to the emergency room, this information will be critical. Travelers should also make sure to have their auto and health insurance cards, as well as a car charger for the cell phone.

Comfort is crucial on a road trip, so travelers may want to bring their favorite snacks, as well as a pillow for naptime and hotel use. Small soft-sided coolers are readily available, and a "blue ice" block will fit inside nicely to keep drinks cool. Finally, a traveler should always take along an atlas or road map and extra cash, along with a couple of dollars in change. Following these guidelines should help ensure a trouble-free road trip.

WiseTour is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Amy Pollick
By Amy Pollick
Amy Pollick, a talented content writer and editor, brings her diverse writing background to her work at WiseTour. With experience in various roles and numerous articles under her belt, she crafts compelling content that informs and engages readers across various platforms on topics of all levels of complexity.
Discussion Comments
By subway11 — On Aug 30, 2010

Greenweaver- I agree using a GPS is a must for any road trip especially for a winter road trip where you might encounter snow.

I like to take road trips in the winter because here in Florida, there are no changes in season. I like to drive up to Georgia and actually see snow. It is so pretty, but since I am not used to driving in these weather conditions, I usually refer to my GPS to tell me the weather conditions in the city that I am traveling to.

It really helps you to prepare for a road trip especially if this is your first time venturing out to that particular location.

By GreenWeaver — On Aug 30, 2010

Cafe41-I love my satellite radio too. I listen to XM radio and I have all my stations preset.

What I like to do when they go on a road trip, is instead of using road trip maps, I use my GPS device.

I program the starting address and the address of my destination. It then tells me the most efficient route to getting to my destination. It usually saves me a lot of time, and I found this to be the best way to plan a road trip route.

I keep a road trip map just in case but I usually referred to just the GPS unit. I don't know what I would do without my GPS unit. I prefer my Tom-Tom over Garmin because it is more specific with the information and provides better accuracy with respect to city traffic.

By cafe41 — On Aug 30, 2010

Having enough road trip music is really important. Sometimes when you drive through rural and semi rural locales the radio frequencies are limited.

A great source of entertainment would be to subscribe to satellite radio. Satellite radio offers commercial free continuous music throughout several hundred channels.

I found when I take a road trip I have to use my satellite music. You really get spoiled because there are no commericials and it is back-to-back music.

They also have entertainment news, regular news, and even sports. There are really so many channels it is so hard to keep track of.

They offer a three year agreement and a lifetime agreement for a little more. The three year agreement runs about $300, but if you take a lot of road trips it is best to inquire about the lifetime agreement.

By amita — On Oct 03, 2007

We love road trips and as suggested a bit of planning can make it a lot more enjoyable. Road trip brings people together, and a good road trip will create memories that last a lifetime. Not sure if you know that but a road trip is the most common type of vacation in North America, and it is no wonder why even with this unbelievable gas price:( Anyhow I have found good resources for trip ideas and planning online.

Amy Pollick
Amy Pollick
Amy Pollick, a talented content writer and editor, brings her diverse writing background to her work at WiseTour. With...
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