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How to Plan Your Next Road Trip

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Decide where you're going

Whether making a coast-to-coast trip or just driving across the state, road trips can be enjoyable, laid back, and a less expensive way to travel than air. Especially when traveling with a group, options can get pretty pricey. At least when driving with a group, you can usually split the cost of gas and other necessities before or during the trip.

Understand the U.S. highway system before you take off on the road. Know which way each cardinal direction and what roads run north to south versus east to west.

Inspect your car

One of the first things to check is if your car is due for an oil change. This task is relatively easy to do yourself when you have the tools; however, it can be less of a stressful experience if you just take it to your local auto shop. Oil changes usually only cost between $35 and $75. This errand could be saving you loads of cash if your car has been run to the point of the oil becoming sludge. The oil no longer pulls heat away from the engine at this point, which can mean complete engine failure. No one wants that to happen during a road trip!

There are two things to check with the car’s brakes. First, make sure the fluid is full. The people at the auto shop could also check this while checking your oil. If pressing the break feels “spongy,” you may need to top off your brake fluid. Next, check that your brake pads aren't too old. Noisy brakes are an indicator of the pads being too worn out.

Charge your car's battery. Ensure your car’s battery is up to date and charged for the long journey. Experts suggest two years of use before replacing. Double-check the casing. Corrosion can happen when battery acid leaks into the guts of the car.

Calculate distance and gas cost

To figure out how much a road trip will cost, first calculate the distance of the journey. How many miles will you be traveling? Will you use your car the whole time or find a place to park it while exploring? Once you have the distance of what you’ll be traveling, divide that number by how many miles the vehicle gets to the gallon. This calculation will give you how many gallons of gas your car will need for the trip. Take this number and multiply it by the average gas price, and you have the estimated total of how much your journey will be. Make sure to add the cost of toll roads, parking, and entrance pass fees to this amount.

The RoadTrippers app will make all of these calculations for you when you add stops to your trip. Find the best adventures along your routes with just the touch of a button. Download the best travel companion here.

Sleeping arrangements

Is this a trip you will drive straight through, or are you planning to stop along the way? Check-in with friends and family that live along your route to catch up and maybe even crash on the couch. If you’re looking for something more private, you can always find hotels in neighboring cities. It’s also super fun to check out these small towns. If you’re looking for an even cheaper alternative, you can always find campgrounds and set up for the night. Pack your camping equipment for the days you do decide to stop.

Check out stops along the way with Roadtrippers.

This app is my go-to for any long drive. Whether driving to the end of the state or the country, RoadTrippers is always on my phone. I always input my destination into their map to see what we can do along the way. Frequent stops gives everybody a chance to stretch out and move before continuing on the route. With this app, you can add pit stops to your trip, and it will automatically calculate the best way. It will also tell you how many miles you should expect to be driving and how much gas will most likely be. We ended up at the Dutch Windmill in Elk Horn, Iowa and took some photos before continuing on the road.

Plan out meals and snacks

It’s always a good idea to have snacks on snacks when going for long drives. Everyone likes to munch on something, especially when stuck in a car for so long. Check out these quick and easy recipes for car-friendly foods you can prepare before your trip. On top of planning out grab-and-go meals, be sure to stock up on fresh fruit and veggies. These are healthy, grabbable snacks with minimal cleanup or waste. Oranges, carrots, grape tomatoes, cucumber slices, apples, and bananas can be great pick-me-ups on the road.

Pack it Up!

Double-check the weather for the time that you will be at your destination. Are there going to be more warm days? Be sure to pack light but wear layers. Since you will not be flying, there is no “weight restriction.” This freedom also means that it’s up to you to be mindful of what you need to bring. Make sure to bring comfy clothes for the car ride and outfits for your destination.

Fill up on gas

With gas prices rising, it may be hard to fill up the first couple of times. The app Gas Buddy is an excellent tool for finding the cheapest gas prices in your area. Updated by the people in the app community, prices per gallon can be compared side-by-side at different nearby gas stations. This app can be beneficial in areas you’re not as familiar with when traveling. They also offer gas back when using partner brands such as Postmates, Sam’s Club, and Uber when linking your checking account to its GasBuddy Card. A membership-like gasoline savings card, earning you up to 25¢ a gallon. Great news in today’s current situation, but read each station's cheapest gas policy. It may be cheaper to pay with cash!

Download playlists

If you’re traveling along the vast highways, It's super important to make sure that your tunes are downloaded onto your device. This simple task can eliminate roaming fees or excessive data use. Make sure to get a variety of artists, genres, and classics to keep the party going throughout the drive. Need help finding the right music? Check out these Spotify playlists made by yours truly.

Hit the road

Now that you're all packed, it's time to hit the road. Set up your space with the most used items closest to you. I pack my snacks either in the backseat or just within reach in the trunk for easy access. If you have space, place them in the middle of the backseat for them to be reached from any seat. Try to keep your toothbrush, a facecloth, and hair ties near you to use along the way. Now get on with your adventure!
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