Ah, nothing says adventure quite like the iconic road trip. Just you, your closest friends or family, the open road, and blue skies ahead.
But if this is your first road trip, it’s important to realize that adventures sometimes involve breakdowns, bickerings, traffic jams, and bad weather too—to name a few.
To make the most of your journey, here are 7 tips to make your first road trip unforgettable.
No. 1: Choose your travel companions wisely
While it’s tempting to invite any friend who’s willing to ride passenger seat, just because you like hanging out with someone doesn’t mean you’ll enjoy spending an entire week crammed into a car with them.
So ask yourself: Have you traveled with this person before? Do they tend to be nit-picky and uptight, or are they easy-going and open to change? Do you share the same travel interests?
Don’t stress out about this too much, though. If you really want to invite someone, go for it. The most important thing is that you set boundaries with each other beforehand, so you have clear expectations. For example, if you know you need an hour to yourself every morning or you’ll go insane, let your road trip companions know. Respect each other’s boundaries, and you’re way more likely to have a successful trip.
No. 2: Make a plan
Plans? Boring! I know, I know, planning seems like the opposite of adventure. But it’s essential to have at least a rough idea of where you want to go. When you’ve been on the road for days making hundreds of tiny decisions, it becomes difficult to make one more choice.
Make a list of your “must-see” sites. These are the things you absolutely cannot miss on the road trip. Then, find out if there are any constraints that will dictate when you have to visit them. For example, is that museum closed on Mondays? Or is that park only open on weekends?
From there, decide which days will be dedicated to which sites. You don’t have to get down to the nitty-gritty of what time you’ll get there or how long you’ll spend. You just need to know, in general, which days you can visit your must-see attractions.
No. 3: Embrace the unexpected
Even though it’s smart to make plans, you definitely should not expect things to go according to plan 100 percent of the time. Sometimes you’ll stumble upon a cool site that you want to explore, even if that means missing something else you had planned. Other times, you’ll be delayed thanks to traffic jams or a flat tire.
It’s moments like these where it’s important to embrace the unexpected! Some of the mishaps will become funny stories later. And when things go wrong, that’s when you and your travel partners really get to work together as a team and bond in ways you never could before.
No. 4: Pack an emergency kit
In case something goes wrong, be sure to pack some emergency kit essentials. Here are some items you might include in your emergency kit:
- Jumper cables
- Tire inflator
- Tire patch kit
- First aid kit
No. 5: Stock up on snacks
Oh yes, my favorite part of road tripping! Since meals will be irregular, and you never know when you’ll see another restaurant, it’s key to stock up on your favorite snacks.
For these, you’ll want to opt for pre-packaged items that don’t need refrigeration. Some good road trip snacks include:
- Granola bars
- Dried or fresh fruits
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Potato chips
- Rice cakes
No. 6: Create a road trip playlist
Spending hours on the road can get boring, even when you’re traveling with friends. To keep you pumped up, curate a playlist for your trip. Whether it’s via CDs, Pandora, Spotify, or iTunes, you’ll be glad to have some music to keep you going when you’re on hour 7 of driving.
No. 7: Consider camping to save money
If you’ve got a tight road trip budget, try camping at state and national parks. Most of these sites have fees for overnight stays, but it’s still way cheaper than a hotel. You can also try U.S. national forests, some of which allow you to camp overnight for free. Follow these tips for how to find free campsites.
And if you just need a spot to pull over and catch some shut-eye, many Walmart parking lots will let you park there overnight.
There are also sites and apps that can help you locate free camping, such as:
Have fun on your road trip!
For all your preparations, inevitably, there will be times when you stray from the plans. It’s all part of the adventure. Savor the fun moments, and safe travels!
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