There are plenty of reasons to decide to go on a road trip: a special event, like a concert, is happening out of state; you want to go visit a friend or relative out of town; you are relocating for school or work and need to take your car with you; gas prices have finally dropped five cents a gallon. But whatever the reason for going, you’re sure to have a more fun and relaxing trip if you take care of some of the planning beforehand.
Decide Where You’re Going
So one thing every successful road trip needs is of course a destination. Even if you want to simply ride where the wind takes you, it’s good to know at least what general geographic area you plan to end up in when you’re finished said riding. Also, it may be easier to entice people to join you if you seem to have at least some vague idea of what the plan is.
Decide who is going
It’s not really a road trip if you go by yourself, so you will want to bring a friend or two along for the ride. Try to think of who would be the most fun to hang out with in the car for hours on end and who won’t bristle at the thought of pitching in a few bucks for gas every once in a while. Then ask them if they have the time and the inclination to join you. Of course they will. Who wouldn’t want to come along?
Three: Choose your vehicle
Now that you’ve got your group put together, you need to decide who has the most reliable mode of transportation. If everyone’s car is equally good, the next best way to choose your wheels is by which one gets the best gas mileage. Alternately, if none of your vehicle’s are reliable, you may want to consider renting a car or van, same if none of your vehicles is large enough to comfortably fit all of people who are traveling. (Don’t try to cram extra people into a tiny car. You can get pulled over if there are not enough seatbelts for the number of passengers in the vehicle, and having someone’s elbow in your face never does much to lighten the mood.)
*If you are taking any vehicle besides a rental, you may want to get an oil change and a tune up before you leave just to make sure everything is in working order. You don’t want to end up stranded on the side of the road when the alternator blows out. Also, pack a car first aid kit, your jack and spare tire and extra fluids for the car, such as oil and coolant, just in case.
Map your route
Sure, in this age of the global positioning unit, or GPS, paper maps are not quite as important as they used to be. Unless, of course, you don’t own a GPS or something happens and your GPS can’t find an address, or even worse, get a signal. It’s always best to have a map in the car with your route highlighted on it just in case. If you’re a member of AAA, give them a call and they can prepare a map and send it out to you, highlights and all. Don’t have access to AAA? Just take a marker and an atlas or a free tourism map and do it yourself.
*Depending on how spontaneous you want to be, you may want to book a couple of hostel or hotel rooms before you leave or at least find friends or family to stay with during your travels. This is particularly important if you are traveling in order to attend a special event. The hotels near your destination may be booked solid if you don’t call ahead.
Find things to do along your route
AAA may also have a list of fun and interesting attractions that you will pass on the way to your destination. Other good resources are a travel agent or a book, such as a Lonely Planet guide, which you can find at the local bookstore or at the library. In addition, there are plenty of websites that can give you ideas of things to do, such as RandMcNally.com and RoadTripAmerica.com. The official tourism site for your destination is also a good bet.
*Don’t forget. You are going on a road trip. This is a time to see things that may be a little offbeat and unconventional. So what if the world’s largest frying pan seems a little silly? You never know when you may pass this way again, so take the time to check it out.
Pack the Car
Remember to consider the size of your vehicle before you start packing it up. If your car is a two-door compact, do not bring the complete set of full size Sampsonites. Duffel bags and similar luggage are suggestible since they tend to squish more easily when you stack them on top of other luggage, giving you a little more room to work with. And it pretty much goes unsaid with this squish factor, but you don’t want to pack anything delicate or breakable on your road trip. For more details on some items that you should pack, see how to pack a suitcase.
*Since you’ll be sitting in the car for long periods of time, you will probably also want to pack the following: blankets and pillows, music that everyone in your party can put up with for at least a couple hours, bottles of water, snack foods, trash bags, napkins.
Enjoy your trip!
Now that you’ve gotten all of the planning sorted out, the only thing left to do is hop in the car and hit the road. Just make sure to keep an eye on the car temperature and the gas gauge.