Plan for the Best Road Trip Ever

While there are several kinds of road trips, they all have two things in common:

1) All road trips have a final destination, whether it is a permanent move across the country, or a scenic round trip back to your home.

2) All road trips can be fun, with just a little bit of planning.

Hitting the open roads in the United States can be a scary situation for some and an exhilarating idea for others. This country has so much variety to offer the road tripper. For those who want to get somewhere fast, there are the U.S. Interstates and a myriad of truck stops, which usually end up as great fodder for road tripping stories. For those seeking out the things that make this country such a great place to live in, there are “The National Scenic Byways.”

The National Scenic Byways Program “is a grass-roots collaborative effort established to help recognize, preserve and enhance selected roads throughout the United States” and is a part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration. There are ninety-six byways that are recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation as “All-American Roads or National Scenic Byways based on one or more archeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational and scenic qualities.” Visit their website for more information, and don’t forget to get your own free map of America’s Byways, to help you plan your trip.

If you are the type to have a panic attack at the thought of a road trip, put your fears to rest with these road tripping rules, and get ready to hit the road:


– Consider joining AAA or another membership organization that offers roadside assistance, travel planning services, etc. The membership fees are really reasonable and are usually far cheaper than the cost of a roadside repair or tow truck (both services that are offered by AAA).

Plan your route using a current road atlas, keeping the gas mileage of your vehicle in mind, as well as the limitations of your vehicle. You might not want to take a scooter on a high-traffic U.S. Interstate, or a classic or spendy car on a gravel road.

– Check your vehicle’s fluids: oil, coolant, brake, and windshield fluids are all important ingredients for a smooth road tripping experience. While you’re at it, check your tires: both air pressure and general wear and tear. And the belts – don’t forget those; better check the vehicle’s lights, too! You don’t want to be one of those “pediddles” the rest of us point at out there on the highway, do you?

– Take a cellular phone that has nationwide coverage with you (borrow one, if you have to), and make sure that your emergency contacts know the number, and that you have theirs stored on the phone or with you in the vehicle.

– Pack an “emergency” gallon of water and an energy bar (or candy bar) for each person traveling with you. If you get to the end of your road trip and you didn’t need them, you can pat yourself on the back for being an expert planner (and have a snack!).

– Pack an extra pint or two of motor oil, and — if you have room — a small gas can. Oh yeah, and a roll of duct tape; never hurts to have one of those in your car!

– Plan on never letting your gas tank fall below a quarter of a tank while on your road trip (or else you might find yourself using that gas can).

– Plan on spending at least $100 more than you think will on your trip — and have those funds available (cash, traveler’s checks, or credit card). You can prove me wrong and not end up needing it; but if I’m right, you’ll be glad you had it along.

– Bring along some great road tripping music; mix CDs or tapes are often the best road trip companions.

– Remember your sunglasses! There’s nothing quite like a headache from hours and hours of squinting at the road.

– Pack a camera, some binoculars, a journal, and maybe even a small dry erase board and some markers. If you have traveling companions, they can liven up the journey by writing messages to fellow road-trippers passing by; and you might need that camera or set of binoculars if you happen upon any strange alien activity (especially in the Southwestern US) . . . or maybe just some interesting wild life.

– Remember to have as much fun as you can on your road trip. Take in the sights, the smells (even the bad ones), the unique people and places that you come across while traveling: this is an adventure!


– Forget your road atlas or maps — you’ll need them on your trip!

– Leave home without a valid driver’s license, current vehicle registration, proof of insurance, and some emergency money.

– Wait until your gas tank falls below a quarter of a tank before you start looking for a gas station en route. Doing so may result in you taking a long, hot walk — or calling a tow truck.

– Stop for hitch hikers or bums; if you see someone that looks like they need help, call 911 instead — the local authorities will be able to help them out, and besides – you have road tripping to do!

– Drive until your eyes are crossing and you can’t drive in a straight line. Even a twenty minute nap will help; so if you don’t have a rested driver ready to take on a few miles, pull into a rest area, a parking lot, or just as far over and off the road as you can, and lock your doors. Remember: you’re supposed to be having fun on your trip, not torturing yourself and flirting with total disaster.

– Forget to bring one of those great U-shaped neck pillows for your passengers; there’s not much that’s more entertaining than the chronic head-dropping of a fellow traveler, but if they’re helping you with the driving responsibilities, they should get good rest instead of giving you good laughs.

– Let anything keep you from having a great and memorable road trip!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

7 − one =