Tips for road trips, because hopefully you’re using some time off this summer, to go and do and see and explore. 🙂
Road trippin’! For some people the road trip is at least half the fun, while others hit the road strictly out of necessity. And some people find a 3 hour drive to be a road trip, while others don’t even count it as a road trip unless there’s a couple of nights between home and destination.
Either way, here are some numbers that will tell you just how popular road trippin’ is in America: according to a survey by The Vacationer, nearly 80% of people are planning to take a road trip this summer. That’s about 206 million people! And that’s a lot of miles.
Why drive instead of fly?
Of course affordability is a major benefit of driving vs. flying. This cost benefit increases with the number of travelers, and is one reason why it’s often the choice of families with children. Here’s a quick example: flights from Knoxville, TN to Cambridge, MA are $406 right now, so multiply that times 5 for Dad & Mom and 3 kids, and you’re at $2030…
On the other hand driving a car that gets 20 mpg would take less than 50 gallons of gas, so even at $5.00/gallon, gas for that same trip is about $250. Even after you add a night at a hotel for $150, you’re still way ahead of the cost of flying.
Plan your trip around either where you want to stop…
Driving also allows you to plan your trip around places you want to see. In our example of Knoxville, TN to Cambridge, MA, you might make it a six hour drive day one and an 8 hour drive on day 2, instead of splitting it 50/50, if it means you can spend some time at 2 destinations.
…or else around your limiting factors
On the other, plan the places you stop around your trip if you’re in a time crunch or the destination is more important than the road trip. When the border to Canada finally opened in August 2021 after being shut of nearly 19 months, you had to reserve a time to cross and have all your ducks in a row as far as 72 hour covid testing etc. Not the kind of trip to dawdle.
Two of the most critical tips for road trips: start rested, and don’t drive tired.
Now this next point is easier said than done, but don’t start your road trip tired. Get some rest ahead of time. And cardinal rule: when you’re tired, pull over somewhere safe and sleep. Note – somewhere safe! Think about somewhere well lit and with plenty of people, like a rest area or gas station, even though it might be a bit noisy.
Snacks and drinks – choose carefully
As far as tips for road trips go, put some thought into your snacks and drinks – no road trip is complete without them. But you really don’t have to bring EVERYTHING with you if you plan carefully: keep tabs on how much you have in your cooler, and when you stop, top up your supply of things like water, fruit, ice, etc at grocery stores.
Also, it’s tempting to pack tons of chips, but if salty isn’t what you thrive on at home, you’re not going to feel good if you’re living on chips and pop for a few days. Pack some healthier alternatives like juice boxes, and think of easy, portable fruits like clementines, bananas and grapes, and veggies like baby carrots and snap peas. Just make sure you dump your garbage each time you stop at a rest area…those banana peels won’t make you happy when you get back in the car…
Deal with trash
Oh, did we just mention garbage? Tuck some grocery store bags into seat back pockets for garbage bags. Ideally, have a trash bag open and within reach of each passenger, whether they’re 8 or 80 years old. It won’t guarantee that juice boxes don’t end up on the floor, but at least you’ll hedge your bets a little as far as dealing with mess.
Necessary tech as you plan your trip
What do you need in your car for tech? A lot of cars have navigation built in now, but if you’ll be using your phone’s GPS, make sure you have a dash mount and a phone charger. If your car doesn’t have a USB port, you might need to get a button charger that plugs into your car’s cigarette lighter.
Speaking of the cigarette lighter – you can get a rechargeable flashlight that plugs into it and charges between uses. This means that when you need your flashlight, not only will you be able to locate it quickly, but it will even have a full charge. Bonus!
Bring some quiet toys and games for kids…
If you’re travelling with kids you’ll need some books and games…and some creativity to unleash when someone gets bored, tired, or grumpy. (Or does that only happen to my kids?!) If you normally limit screen time at home, you’ll probably still want to limit it somewhat in the car. Hit the library before you hit the road, and also bring some paper, colored pencils, and those little folding games with magnetic pieces, like chess or checkers for older kids, or ‘I Spy’ games for younger ones. Yes, they still make them! Just Google ‘magnetic car games’ and you’ll find some options.
And as you plan your trip, you might as well download some printable travel bingo sheets as well.
…as well as something active
Sometimes the best tips for road trips are also the simplest. Bring a couple of active toys for when you stop. Ones that we’ve seen used successfully include a football, a frisbee, and even a yo-yo. None of them take up too much space in the car, but they keep kids (and parents!) active when you stop for a break.
Enjoy the journey
Finally, before we finish our top tips for road trips, it’s worth remembering that with a road trip you do want to enjoy the journey, not just the destination. Take plenty of photos when you stop.
Work-life balance really is important, so as you plan your trip, remember to plan time to stop and smell the roses.