Road trips are potentially life-changing coming-of-age experiences that everyone should do at least once. There’s something inspiring about the long journey from one destination to another and how it serves as a metaphor for our lives. It’s not about where you start or end up; it’s about the fun you have along the way and the people you’re with.

If you’re interested in taking a bucket-list-worthy road trip, it can be hard to figure out where to begin. For your convenience, here are a few basic things to keep in mind before you hit the road on your journey!


Iron out the initial details.

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Of course, the first step is to decide what kind of road trip you’d like to take. Are you taking a weekend journey down the coast? A one-day drive exploring your state? Or are you carving out a week to travel across the country? Figure out what your goals are, what you’re interested in seeing, and what you’re capable of doing.

In addition to figuring out your route, choosing who to go with is an incredibly important part of planning a road trip. The journey is one thing, but the company makes it all the better.

A road trip with your best friends or family members can be one of the most memorable, rewarding experiences you’ll ever have. On the other hand, driving for days on end with someone you don’t click with isn’t going to be enjoyable.

Once you figure out all these initial details, you’ll have a solid foundation.


Plan the route, but be flexible.

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Once you have a plan in mind, it’s time to set some goals on where you want to be and by when. Be realistic in how many days it’ll take to get to each stop, factoring in necessary breaks and attractions you’d like to see along the way. Give yourself time to explore some of the areas you’re going to pass through, especially small towns that you may not get the opportunity to visit again.

Things to consider incorporating into your route are:

Once the route is mapped out, take a deep breath and accept that it may not go according to plan. Maybe you’ll be ahead of schedule, or you’ll decide to veer off-course and add a few new destinations.

Be flexible, be open-minded, and realize that, like life, your road trip won’t go exactly according to plan. And that might be for the better!


Make sure the car is ready.

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The car you’re taking on the road trip needs to be in tip-top shape. Not only is it where you’re spending most of your time, but it’s your mode of transportation for the entire trip!

Here are some factors to consider when deciding on transportation:

  • Personal vehicle vs. rental car: Taking a familiar car can be helpful, especially if your road trip is going to begin and end in the same spot. While it can be convenient and comfortable using your own car, that’s not always an option. Renting a car is necessary if you’re taking a one-way trip or if none of your vehicles are fitting for a long-distance drive.
  • Gas mileage: If your road trip is a significant distance, you don’t want to constantly be pulling over to fill up. Not only is this time-consuming, but it can drain your wallets. Plus, if you’re traveling through rural areas, you can never be sure where the next gas station will be. In some places, you can go hours without passing one. This can be potentially dangerous for those with a gas-guzzler. Take mileage into consideration when choosing your vehicle.
  • Car insurance: Car insurance is a necessary part of any driving journey. If you’re renting a car, there are multiple options to choose from just in case the car gets any dings or scratches along the way. If anything, car insurance is there to give you some peace of mind during your trip.
  • Tune-ups or inspection: You want to make sure your car is ready to handle the trip. The last thing you want to worry about is car trouble while you’re cruising down the highway. If you’re taking a personal vehicle, head to a mechanic a few days in advance to make sure everything is good to go.
  • Cleanliness: Starting your journey in a clean car, free of miscellaneous receipts, wrappers, and other junk, is more important than you may realize. No one wants to spend hours on end with clutter and trash surrounding them. Clean out the car, pop in an air freshener, and you have yourself a comfortable environment to spend your road trip.


Download helpful apps.

There is no shortage of travel apps out there to help make road trips go as smoothly as possible.

If you’re struggling to plan the ideal route, the app Roadtrippers may be of use to you. Roadtrippers allows you to plan your route, search for stops along the way, and create shareable itineraries.

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Once you’re on the road, Waze can help not only with navigation but also with alerting you about police, disabled cars, and debris up ahead.

iExit is another app that can be helpful along the way. This app allows you to search the next 100 exits on the highway and shares points of interest located near each one.

Google Maps is also convenient for searching for stops along your route and for sharing your location. Sharing your location with someone back home via Google Maps allows them to check in on you every so often, for safety’s sake.

The Yelp and TripAdvisor apps provide restaurant and hotel reviews so you can decide where to stop.

A road trip is full of memory-making, and you’ll probably take lots of pictures along the way. This is where Google Photos comes into play. With this app, you and your travel companions can create a group album, and all the pictures you take will be in one place!

Lastly, the Spotify app is a must-have for music during your car ride.


Prepare your entertainment.

That brings us to our next point: Make sure you have plenty of entertainment options to keep things interesting during your road trip.

Spotify is probably the most popular music app, and it features collaborative playlists. These playlists allow you and your travel buddies to add whatever songs you’d like to hear on your journey, easily making a master playlist.

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In addition to music, Spotify has a wide array of fantastic podcasts. The same goes for Apple Music, so download some of your favorite ones to entertain you along the drive.

No matter what music app you’re using, make sure you download your playlists ahead of time. Depending on where you’re going, you may lose service along the way.

In addition to music apps, you may want to make some mixed CDs. There’s something special about putting together your favorite songs into one CD and keeping it as a souvenir. It’ll also help save your phone’s battery life.

Other road trip entertainment includes simple games, such as the license plate game. If your road trip isn’t that long, and there’s no way you’re going to be able to find all 50 states, here are a few other game ideas:

  • I Spy
  • 20 Questions
  • Would You Rather
  • Never Have I Ever
  • Word Chain (You pick a category, and the word you say has to begin with the letter that the previous word ended with.)
  • Cows on My Side (You get points for every cow you pass, and if you pass a graveyard, you lose them all!)


Be clear on everyone’s role.

road tripIf it’s going to be a long journey, you need to make sure everyone’s on board to help each other out. A few rules will help the trip go more smoothly.

For example, the person riding shotgun might be expected to help navigate so the driver isn’t alone in figuring out where to go. What about music? Does the driver get to choose, or is it a better idea for a passenger to play DJ?

At least one passenger should always be awake with the driver. And speaking of being awake, is there someone who’d rather relax during the day and take the wheel at night? Are any of you an early bird that thrives on hitting the road at sunrise with a coffee in hand?

Establish these roles and expectations ahead of time so everyone is on the same page.


Acquire necessary supplies.

Since you’re spending a lot of time in the car, you need to be prepared with some essentials. You don’t want to be stopping at Walmart every few hours to pick up something you missed, so make sure you have the basics. These include:

  • A car charger for your phones
  • Tissues, paper towels, and wet wipes
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Water bottles
  • Non-messy snacks
  • A pillow
  • A small cooler
  • A first aid kit

With these items, you’ll be ready for the trip. Of course, other necessities may pop up, but this is a good place to start!


Have a backup plan for unexpected challenges.

As is true with any sort of travel, there are going to be hiccups along the way. You don’t know what you’re going to face out on the road, so it’s good to be prepared.

For example, car sickness is a common issue. If someone in your group is prone to motion sickness, stock up on various medicines, drinks, and snacks to alleviate their symptoms. Ginger ale, saltine crackers, Dramamine, and being in the front seat with the window open usually does the trick!

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Be prepared for traffic by regularly fueling up before the tank gets too low; use the bathroom whenever possible; and switch drivers if someone is guilty of road rage.

You might experience car troubles too, so having jumper cables or an AAA membership can definitely come in handy.

Lastly, if you’re traveling in cold weather, be prepared with an ice scraper, windshield wiper fluid, and even some rock salt.


Document the experience.

A road trip, if done well, can be one of the greatest experiences of your life. There’s so much room for deep conversations, unforgettable sights, and new adventures.

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With this in mind, it’s important that you document everything along the way. It’s easy to forget the little things as time goes on, so take lots of photos, jot down your favorite moments, and maybe even film some parts of the drive.

A fun way to document your progress is to take a photo at each state sign or do a quick vlog every hour. This way, you have an activity to pass the time and will create lots of content to look back on.

Documenting your trip is also a great way to update those back home. They can then keep track of your progress, see all the fantastic things you’re experiencing, and be reassured that you’re safe and having fun.


Enjoy the journey!

“It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey.” This may be a cliche, but it rings true for road trips. The best part of the experience isn’t necessarily where you’re going, but how you get there.

road trip

You can have the time of your life on the road, making unforgettable memories and seeing amazing things along the way. Driving through new places gives you a chance to see things you wouldn’t otherwise, like small towns and quirky roadside attractions.

Don’t stress too much about the hiccups along the way; they’re all part of what makes a road trip so memorable and fun. Keep your eyes and mind open to the new experiences surrounding you, and enjoy every moment of this unforgettable journey.