You want the road trip of a lifetime, but you don’t want to put in much work. That makes sense. Road trips by nature are supposed to be spontaneous and full of fun, and where’s the fun in a bunch of planning? Unfortunately, it’s usually not a good idea to totally blow caution to the wind when you take to the open road. However, planning for a road trip doesn’t need to require color-coded sticky notes or long group chats debating the pros and cons of every diner along the way.
If you want to make the most of your next road trip with minimal effort, check out these five easy tips:
#1 Assign one person to do the itinerary planning
If you’re traveling with a group, there’s a good chance one person involved is going to be stoked about all the planning. If that’s not you, put them in charge with a few ideas of what you’d like to see or experience. Delegation can make the trip easier on everyone, and it will feel like you have your very own travel agent on hand. If you don’t want to be involved in any of the planning, give them your personal budget for items like hotels and dining and let them go wild. You can choose to get the itinerary beforehand or let the surprises unroll along the way. No matter how you slice it, putting the planner in charge is going to relieve quite a few headaches for you.
#2 Know the basics of car maintenance before you hit the road
You don’t need to take a vocational course on car mechanics, but everyone should learn handy car tricks for when you get into trouble. For example, every driver should know how to change oil and change a tire. You should be able to assess whether or not you have enough tread on your tires. These are life skills that aren’t being regularly taught anymore but are readily available on YouTube. Consider it a task not just for your road trip, but for every time you’re on the road.
#3 Get the app
What app? Whatever app you need to make your trip easier. Maybe it’s the GasBuddy app so you can find the best or cheapest gas stations nearest you. Maybe it’s a foodie app so you can easily filter nearby diners by price or type of cuisine. Downloading apps in preparation for your trip can be free, fast, and even fun. Many national parks, cities, states, and even destinations like museums and zoos have their very own apps so you can maximize your outings. These apps are often free and readily updated, so why not take advantage of them?
#4 Plug in your destinations in the built-in GPS before you go
You should already have “Home” saved, but if you don’t now is the time to take care of this easy task. Some built-in systems can be annoying to program, but if you have kids, they might think it’s a blast to “take command.” You can also input known destinations such as hotels and tourist hot spots. This frees up your phone and keeps the battery from draining. Plus, it helps you stay hands-free with the screen available at all times. Just a little programming now can make a huge difference in any road trip.
#5 Choose the right road trip buddies
Sometimes you don’t have a choice, like if it’s a family outing. However, if you’re traveling with friends, remember that just because you get along at happy hour doesn’t mean you’re suited for spending hours or days in a car together. Thinking of traveling alone? It can be an incredible experience and you’ll learn a lot about yourself. However, you’ll want to incorporate some added safety into the planning—like giving a trusted friend your itinerary and checking in on a regular basis.
A road trip used to be a rite of passage, a milestone, and part of the American dream. Unfortunately, people are driving less and getting their licenses at a later age (if at all). With some companies like Ford claiming they’re ditching sedans altogether and commutes getting longer, people seem to be spending less time behind the wheel and more time in eco-friendly cars. Don’t miss out on what can be a life-changing event. Nothing compares to traveling on the open road, avoiding airports and public transportation hubs, and exploring. There are destinations only accessible by car, especially if you have 4WD, and when you’re in full control of where you go the options are limitless.
Make sure you’re in a well-maintained vehicle with proper coverage, lease miles (if applicable), and have everything you need for a safe trip including emergency kits and first-aid kits.