7 Must-Know Tips to Have a Successful Road Trip

June 05, 2019

Road trips are one of the greatest vacation pastimes for so many people. From family trips to college spring break trips, hitting the open road can make for a very memorable vacation. In order to make your road trip as successful as possible, there are some steps you can take to ensure everything runs smoothly. Keep reading for some tips on how to have the best road trip you’ve ever had.

#1: Make a Plan

The first step to having a successful road trip is to plan accordingly. If you really want things to go smoothly, research everything, from the route you plan, to take to the places you want to visit, to where you want to stay. Research is the greatest way to plan ahead and make sure you don’t experience any unwanted surprises along the way.

Although you may not want to plan every waking moment of your trip, still create an itinerary. Even if it’s tentative, an itinerary can be very helpful in creating some structure for your road trip. Map out the route you plan to take and when you plan to reach each destination you have in mind. Then, you can make reservations accordingly. A tentative itinerary can be key in creating a strong foundation for the rest of your trip.

The most important puzzle piece when planning a road trip is time management. Make sure that you are realistic as you plan and budget your time. You want to give yourself enough travel time, as well as ample time to enjoy the destinations you stop at. Budgeting your time wisely will help you to get the most out of your next road trip.

#2: Get the Local Experience

To make your overall road trip experience more authentic, try to eat and stay local. By doing so, you are supporting local businesses while also getting more genuine experiences. Eating and dining locally will allow you to experience the true culture of the place you are visiting, making your overall trip more meaningful.

In order to get a local experience, try to steer clear of activities that are obviously geared towards tourists. Although tourist traps can be fun, to get a truly local experience, you need to visit the places that actual locals go. Pay special attention to smaller, more relaxed restaurants and stores. These locations tend to be more authentic because they are not geared towards tourists.

#3: Pack Smarter, Not Harder

When packing for your next road trip, take the time to make sure you have all the necessary supplies. Packing for a road trip can be a slightly different challenge than packing for a vacation because you need to ensure you have all the items necessary for your car and the journey. Alongside your typical vacation packing list, make sure you include these road trip-specific items:

  • Spare tire: This is essential when traveling long distances. A spare tire is always a good thing to keep in your car because you never know when you might need it.
  • Roadside emergency kit: This is also necessary in case of any minor car trouble. It’s always a good idea to have some basic tools and supplies stored in your car, just in case you need them.
  • Paper maps: Maps are a key item to pack for your road trip. In case you reach a dead zone or your GPS stops working, traditional paper maps will help you stay on track.
  • Cash/spare change for tolls: While traveling, it is always a good idea to keep some cash on hand. Especially during a road trip, make sure you bring some spare change just in case you encounter any tolls along your journey.
  • Flashlight: A flashlight is another item that is always a good idea to keep in your car. Just in case you experience any car trouble at night, a flashlight can help you get a better look at what’s going on.
  • Water bottles: It is always smart to store some extra water bottles in your car, especially during a road trip. If something happens to your car during the drive, the last thing you want is to be stranded without any water.
  • Blanket and travel pillow: These are good items to pack for comfort’s sake. A blanket and travel pillow are always nice to have on hand so you can be comfortable during a long drive.
  • Day pack/personal care items: A day pack with all your necessary personal items is a great thing to keep within arm’s reach during your road trip. This way, you’ll always be prepared to hop out of the car and go on an adventure.
  • Snacks: Snacks are a staple during a road trip. Don’t forget to load the car up with snacks before you head out on your trip.

#4: Keep Track of Your Finances

When traveling, it is always a good idea to create a budget for your trip. Again, make sure you research everything you plan on purchasing so that you can make well-informed purchase decisions throughout your trip. Also, if you research ahead of time, you may be able to find some deals that you wouldn’t know about otherwise.

Spend some time creating your budget, and don’t forget to consider all of the little expenses you may have throughout your road trip. For example, don’t forget to account for any tools you may encounter on tollways as you travel. Accounting for these small expenses can help ensure that your budget is complete and accurate so that you are not surprised by any costs along the way.

To be more financially savvy on your next road trip, here are some road trip car tips to consider:

  • Think about getting a gas card to use on your trip. That way, you can get cash back for all of the fuel that you will be purchasing anyway.
  • Plan ahead and pack your own food and drinks for the car. This is a great way to save lots of time and money while traveling because you won’t have to stop for food along the way. Instead, you can save your money for enjoying dining at your actual destination.
  • Try to avoid traveling during peak seasons. Throughout peak seasons, the cost of everything can be heightened, from gas to hotel room prices. Things can get really expensive fast during these seasons, so try to plan your trip during another time if your dates are flexible.

#5: Have a Sense of Direction

When going on a road trip, your GPS and maps are your best friends. Make sure you have your maps application downloaded onto your smartphone and ready to go, whether that is Google Maps, Apple Maps, or another GPS app. Also, if you use a GPS device or the GPS installed in your car, make sure it is working and ready before you head out.

Make sure you always pack an old-fashioned, paper map as well. You never know when you’re going to hit a dead zone or have technical difficulties, so a traditional map is always good to have as a backup. A fun idea is to bring a sharpie and draw your route on your map, which can make the map a cool memento from the trip.

#6: Entertain Your Passengers

To make your road trip go much more smoothly, try to keep everyone in the car entertained. The most obvious method of road trip entertainment is music. One of the best options for road trip music is using apps like Spotify and Apple Music, where you can create a playlist for your trip. Also, you can always try throwing in a CD, which can be super helpful if you’re in a dead zone where you don’t have service.

Another good option for road trip entertainment is podcasts. There are so many podcast options nowadays, from those that are created purely for entertainment, to those with an educational purpose. Also, podcasts are a free entertainment option, which makes them a great choice for your road trip.

Audiobooks are also a great way to keep everyone in the car entertained. In this day in age, most books are available in audio format. You will likely be able to find an audiobook that everyone can enjoy and be entertained by for hours.

In addition, you can consider some technology-free options for road trip entertainment. Stock up on books and magazines before embarking on your trip, and encourage everyone to play some traditional road trip games along the way.

#7: Keep the Car Clean

Before packing up for your journey, spend some time cleaning your car. Your car is bound to get messy throughout your journey, so starting with a clean slate is a great way to make sure it doesn’t get out of hand too fast.

To clean your car, start by washing the outside. Then, wipe down the inside of your car, from the dashboard to the windows, with your favorite multi-purpose cleaner. This will leave your car feeling fresh and clean for the road trip.

Also, before heading out on your trip, make sure your car is on track with regular maintenance. Get your car and all fluids checked before leaving so that you don’t get in a sticky situation during your trip that could have been prevented.

Throughout your trip, do a quick cleaning of your car every night. Especially if you are traveling with kids, your car will probably get pretty messy if everyone is in it all day. Cleaning out your car every night can help you ensure it is fresh and ready for continuing your journey the next morning.


Road trips can be a lot of fun and will run smoothly if you plan ahead, budget, and make the car ride as enjoyable as possible. Now that you’ve heard these tips, you should know how to have a successful road trip!