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Road Trip Basics: What to Know Before You Go

Catherine Andrews

5 Things to Do Before Setting a Road TripGoing on a road trip can be an awesome adventure, for the well-prepared. These tips help would-be trekkers ensure they have everything they need.

1. Create an Itinerary

Some people love to set off on a road trip without much planning done in advance. Others need to have a fairly tight schedule in order to feel like the traveling will be worthwhile. Wherever interested travelers fall on this spectrum, they should create some sort of road trip itinerary to guide them. Identifying a few central locations where they will want to stop is a good way to start. They should look at the common roads and highways in every region they plan to drive through, with some alternate routes in case of accidents or heavy construction. A paper map can be an invaluable asset along the road, especially in areas with spotty coverage for GPS.

2. Find Agreement With Fellow Travelers

There is a reason that family road trips and holidays have become such fodder for entertainment over the years. People who stick themselves into a vehicle together for hours at a time, day after day, often discover exactly how much they do not have in common. It is funny to watch on the screen, but not so much in person. Before people finalize any plans for the road trip, they should confirm that they are on the same page with their fellow trippers on places to stop, types of accommodations, and even how to take periodic breaks from each other.

3. Plan Accommodations

While the scenery of the open road is often the biggest draw of the road trip, finding a great place to sleep off the sights is really important for travel success. If people are going through a region they do not know well, they should consider the following:

Some people prefer to schedule lodging once they arrive at their destination for the night, but this can be somewhat risky. Anyone who does not have something booked in advance should have a few backup options, in case the one they want is full.

4. How to Pack

Packing to drive somewhere feels much less inhibiting than packing to fly, but it is still somewhat limiting. People are bound by the space available in the vehicle they choose to take, and must also plan to bring a few items for the car itself. If shopping is on the itinerary, travelers should be sure to leave extra space in their bags and extra room in the trunk, for souvenirs they pick up along the way. Getting the car serviced will help to flush out any unknown problems. Keeping a small gas can, a quart of oil, and the manual for the car readily available will minimize the likelihood of disaster.

5. Prepare for the Unexpected

Every trip includes at least a moment of the completely unexpected. Travelers will arrive at a location they thought would be empty, only to discover that it is chock full of tourists there for a yearly event. Savvy road trippers build some flexibility into the itinerary so that they can change plans quickly if they need to. Making a list with relevant emergency contact information and health insurance coverage for each passenger could keep a minor problem from spiraling out of control.

Road trip planning takes some time, but it is well worth the effort. A little preparation for the likely and the predictable could ensure a happier time had by all.

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