When you’re thinking about getting away this spring but the idea of air travel is less than enticing, remember that there is no better way to see this beautiful country than by taking to its almost 47,000 miles of highway. You may prefer to getaway on your own; just you, alone, on the open road, or perhaps your ideal road trip involves a convertible overflowing with friends, or a mini-van with just you, your spouse and kids. Whomever you choose to travel with, there are a few things to consider if you want to ensure that a good time is had by all.
Get together with your travel buddies to discuss the timing of your trip. Once you have mutually agreeable dates, determine how far you can travel in the allotted time by rolling out a map and perusing it together. Pinpoint all your potential destinations based on the criteria that matter most to you: budget, desirable driving distance per day, people or places you may want to visit, or attractions you’d like to see.
With countless places worth visiting in the US, deciding where you want to go will help you determine the best way to get there. There are plenty of sites like Expedia, Booking, Hotels, and so on, that will help you book your rental car and accommodations, while offering insights into each location and the best places to eat, visit, and shop there. For a road trip, however, there are a few sites that can take your planning to the next level. When you’re choosing your destination, RoadtripUSA is a great place to start, offering a detailed view of eleven classic US driving routes, from coast to coast, and from Canada to Mexico.
When considering your budget, lodging and meals are the categories with the most flexibility. Decide whether you want to camp out, crash with friends, “rough it” in bargain basement motels, book on AirBnB, or experience a different luxury hotel in each city you pass through. Mark off your intended accommodations for each night and adjust your budget accordingly. And if you want to avoid subsisting on fast food and gas stations snacks, checkout TVFoodMaps for the Food Network’s guide to great eats nationwide.
Unless budget is of no concern, it’s a good idea to consider every possible expense, starting with the big three: gas, food and lodging. TravelMath is a website that will help you assess the cost versus time for each route option for you, while FuelMyRoute will help you find the cheapest places along your chosen route to fill up your tank.
Once you’re on the road, having a GPS is a great and comforting resource, but it should not replace your paper maps. In fact, it’s best to print out everything before you go – directions, reservation information, rental car info, etc. – so you don’t have to rely on available cell signals or WiFi to find what you need. Create a binder with all your travel details and put the pages in order of your journey. Also, make sure to sign up for AAA or an equivalent nationwide roadside assistance program.
Lastly, be sure to add these essential items to your packing list, both for road safety, as well as for the pleasure and comfort of your passengers:
- MP3 and DVD players, along with headphones or ear buds
- A blanket, football, Frisbee, etc., so you’re prepared for an impromptu picnic lunch
- A cooler and freezer packs to keep snacks and beverages handy
- Bathroom tissue, garbage bags, and Wet Wipes to make it a bit more comfortable when nature calls and you’re in the middle of nowhere
- A first aid kit with all the basics for minor injuries, headaches and car sickness
- Small pillows and a blanket or two for anyone who needs to catch some shuteye
- A couple of flashlights and extra batteries
- Jumper cables
- A spare tire and jack
- A second set of car keys
Once you have your companions, budget, route, destination and supplies sorted out, the best thing about a road trip is the feeling of freedom it conjures, because with the planning taken care of, there’s nothing to worry about but having a good time.
Have you ever taken a truly fantastic road trip? How about the one you wish you’d never taken? Please share your experiences in the comments below, and let us know your best tips for planning an epic, awesome road trip this spring. And, next time you see me, ask about my moving myself from Kansas City to Washington, DC. #Nightmare