This article was submitted by Goats on the Road, a website aimed at teaching others to turn travel into a lifestyle. Check them out to learn how to start a travel blog and how to make money on the road so you can travel indefinitely.
Summertime travel can be spontaneous and fun, especially when you have the convenience of traveling with your own car. Road trips are prime time for epic travel, as they allow you to see things along the way you would've never imagined before you set out.
But planning a road trip can be hard when trying to find the right balance between carefully planning an itinerary that makes sense and simultaneously allowing enough time for unplanned ventures to naturally unfold along the way.
There's some element of adventure to setting off on the open road, so here are a few tips that will help you to enhance that thrill while also ensuring that you don't go too far into uncharted territory.
1. Plan Ahead
There is some planning that can help make sure a road trip goes as smoothly as possible. When planning your trip, you need to consider how long you'll be on the road and which key stops will serve as an anchor. Determining these stops will give shape to your journey, so to speak, and allow you to relax knowing you don't have to plan everything on the fly.
These stops should include major sites, cities, or places that you don't want to miss along the way. Having a good map is crucial, and a functioning GPS is even better at making sure you stay on route while exploring between these main sites.
As part of your planning, you'll want to make sure you have the appropriate travel paraphernalia. Yes, this means packing car chargers. Consider how many people will be going on the trip and determine whether you need multiple places to charge.
You'll also want to be conscious of how much screen time you want to have on the trip. Sometimes the best moments are those without all of the gadgets.
2. Put Your Smart Phone to Work
Now that you've got the chargers packed, you can download a few apps that will help things go smoothly when you're on the road.
Waze is a great app that allows you to avoid unnecessary traffic. It will alert you to backed-up highways and suggest alternative routes so you don't end up sitting in traffic for hours. Plus, it can help you figure out fun activities on the fly by alerting you when there are local sites to see on your route. If you're feeling ready for a break, check out a nearby spot you probably wouldn't have noticed!
Speaking of great road trip apps, Gas Buddy can save travelers in the U.S. and Canada some serious money and stress by finding them the nearest- and cheapest- gas stations. The app reveals your nearest fuel options and each station's current cost per gallon so you can compare prices.
Road tripping through the U.S.? Don't miss these top 10 destinations.
3. Make Your Car Your Haven
Since you'll be spending a lot of time in your car, think about ways to make it as comfy and cozy as possible. Consider it your home on the road and treat it as such! Pack a few blankets and neck pillows so everyone can settle in and enjoy the ride. Consider attaching sun shades to un-tinted windows, suggests USA Today, and create a seat schedule so you can rotate in and out of the comfiest seats. The site also suggests taking books, handheld devices, and earphones.
As comfortable as your car is, it's essential that you also plan for time outside of the car- and ideally plan time for some physical activity. Long hours in the car can lead to everybody getting a little stir crazy. Schedule stops every two to three hours so you can get out and stretch.
When you're planning your trip, don't just focus on the distance you're covering. Consider certain places where you'll want to spend more than one night and allow yourself time to explore these destinations in a bit more depth. This will also allow you to take a break from driving long distances every day.
4. Get Jamming
Good playlists and podcasts are road trip essentials, so don't forget about them during the planning phase of your trip.
Audible is a good place to find interesting books on tape, which you can download right to your iPod or phone for convenient listening. And when you sign up for Audible, you can get your first book free!
So what are some of our favorites? Amy Poehler and Tina Fey both narrate their own books on tape, which makes for a funny way to pass the time during long stretches in the car.
Be sure to download these other great travel apps before your trip!
5. Stay Nourished
Pack healthy snacks. You never know what kind of food you'll find along the way, but you can always have some healthy things to munch on in the car, just in case.
Baby carrots and other fruits and veggies are easy to pack in a cooler, and they'll be much more appealing than some pre-packaged food from the convenience store just off the highway. USA Today notes the importance of packing low-sugar snacks like string cheese, nuts, and rice cakes, as these won't be accompanied by a sugar rush (and crash!).
6. Don't Throw Safety to the Wind
You don't need to be obsessed with safety to the point that you miss out on certain adventures, but you can take a few precautions to ensure that you won't get in trouble while you're out on the road.
Prepare your car or RV for long-distance travel by having it serviced before you leave. Always travel with a spare tire and a first aid kit, but also know that Triple AAA will bring you gas if you run out and help you change a flat tire if the occasion calls for it.
Keep physical maps and a guidebook in your vehicle and always travel with extra water in case of an emergency where hydration may save your life. Have an emergency plan in place in case severe weather hits, and keep your valuables safe by locking them in your glove compartment or trunk before you reach your destination.
If you do have an issue on the road, it's important to know how to deal with emergencies while travelling.
A road trip should be fun and freeing. By taking care of just a few of these things before you leave, you'll be able to let your hair blow in the wind once you hit the road—completely carefree.