For my family, December means a nineteen-hour road trip. We have gone on a lot of road trips during our time in the military and I’ve come to love them. Successful road trips do take some planning and research. In my experience the more I plan, the less anxious I will be before the trip. Of course, not everything goes according to plan, but at least having a plan makes me feel confident before we ever hit the road. I’d love to share my tips for road-tripping!
- Plan your route first. This is an obvious place to start, but when you have a long road trip there are multiple options for your course. On the way there sometimes, we plan to go the most scenic route, and on the way back we plan the fastest, most direct route. You might find that looking at the map of your route and the cities you pass through can help determine how long you need to go on a certain day. Also, having something sprinkled into our route to look forward to is always a bonus. If we must stop overnight, I’ll usually look up a popular local restaurant so we can experience something different from fast food.
- Total the costs. Working out how much the trip will cost will also help alleviate stress. Once I know the mileage, I can find a gas estimator website for how much gas will cost. They can even calculate your exact route and give you a much better-tailored idea of how much to budget for gas. Then I find the hotels and record how much they will be. Don’t forget pet fees, too. They add up quickly and they aren’t something you want to forget to budget for. Next, I budget for meals and snacks. Lastly, I budget for an oil change or any other vehicle maintenance that needs to be done before you leave. When I have priced everything out, I can plan accordingly for the budget. The earlier you do it, the more time you’ll have to save for the trip.
- Save a buck. Speaking of saving a buck, road trips are expensive! They might not be as expensive as flying, but they can come close. When we are looking to save a buck, we pack snacks for lunches. Fruit, trail mix and crackers are our go-to. We also pack our own water, so we don’t have to spend a lot on bottled water throughout the trip. And if you really want to save a buck, consider driving through the night. Some parents prefer to drive at night so their kids can sleep. I’d only recommend it if there are at least two adults to switch driving in the middle of the night. My best friend and I road-tripped from New York to Texas with two dogs, a kitten and a two-year-old. We chose to drive back to New York by driving through the night, and it was rough! But it was quieter, less stops and we saved money on hotels.
- Special passengers. If you are road-tripping with little kids or dogs, you need to get creative. When my daughter was two, we drove solo from New York to Texas. I made little goody bags for her to open every two hours along the way. They were filled with an inexpensive toy or snack and helped keep the time passing quickly. There are loads of suggestions on Pinterest for creative road trip ideas for special passengers!
- Have some fun. Lifelong memories are made while road-tripping and to make them good memories, you need to have fun! There are countless road-trip games and activities to do. We love to incorporate music into our trips. On long road trips, we will play through several musicals, each person having their own character. The beginning and end of the day can have an assigned song to make the trip more memorable. And don’t forget to make some fun stops from point A to point B, even if it’s just throwing a football at a rest stop. My husband and mom played Words With Friends for a solid part of our trip from West Virginia to Arkansas once, and they still talk about their epic games.
- My must-haves: There are some items I cannot go without when we are talking about long road trips.
- Tablet holder
- Travel blankets and pillows
- Activities bag (this stays in my car all year round)
- Small bucket for car-sick passengers
- Noise-cancelling headphones
- Window shades
- Medical kit
- Fix a Flat spray can
- Magazines and conversation starter cards
I hope you are already looking forward to your next road trip as much as I am — don’t forget to document them with pictures and videos to share with us!