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At the beginning of 2020, I never would have thought my husband and I would go on a road trip, let alone I would have gone on multiple extensive road trips and be sharing my best road trip tips.
I’m very type A and always scheming so of course I had other trips planned that were canceled in 2020. The biggest disappointment was our two-week trip to Italy where all the details were arranged. It was hard not to be bummed while under stay-at-home orders in Minnesota. When the day came that we were supposed to be traveling to Italy, it wasn’t a great day. There was a lot of pent-up excitement that was very quickly deflated. (Thanks a lot ‘Rona!)
We did eventually fly a few months later. Here’s a more detailed account of how flying during a pandemic really went.
We canceled our initial trip to Italy that was to occur at the end of April into May 2020. But, being cautiously optimistic we rescheduled for the first part of September of the same year. (But that ended up being canceled too.) Cue the tiny violins! We saved a significant amount of accrued PTO (paid time off) and hoped there was a shred of chance we could still go to Italy in 2020. (Spoiler, we went in 2021 and it was AMAZING! Read more about our two-week Italy trip.) As I liked to say, we were being cautiously optimistic. We waited a few weeks before canceling the 2020 September trip to Italy.
At that point, we shifted our plans and planned a first-time road trip. This road trip was one hundred percent influenced by bingeing beachfront bargain hunt and of course, it ended up being a brewery road trip. (Where our stops were dictated by breweries we wanted to visit!) Cue google search, how to road trip.
Extended Road Trip
Cue, 2022 when we decided to relocate from Minnesota to Texas and literally go on an extended road trip living out of a travel trailer, working remotely, and exploring many new National Parks & states in the Western part of the United States. So, I guess you could say I went from not being a fan of road trips to fully embracing them. Let’s dive into the road trip tips and things I’ve learned to have a successful road trip!
Deciding to go on a Road Trip
In 2020, our backup plan came to fruition, or as we so adoringly call it “The Consolation Corona-cation”. Up until this point, we weren’t really fond of road trips, but we also hadn’t been on one together. (Together meaning myself and my husband as well as our dog.) So we decided to plan it out and make it happen, besides we so desperately needed a change of scenery!
Our itinerary included 12 ½ days, 48 hours of total drive time, 3k miles, passing through 10 states, and visiting 20 craft breweries. We even had time to golf twice and get in some beach time! It was busy yet relaxing at the same time and ultimately it was exactly what we needed. We learned a lot from our journey. We’re doing it again, and will continue to road trip across our new home base state of Texas so I’d say overall the road trip was a success!
Based on the things we did (or rather didn’t) do, I’m sharing some tips for long drives in the car and road-tripping to save you the time and effort of learning the hard way!
Top Road Trip Tips:
Be realistic about the time you have and how long you plan to be in transit on each travel day. We learned this the hard way and determined that 12 hours is the maximum for us to drive in one day. Usually closer to 10 makes it a lot more enjoyable. But, breaking up your days and driving only 6 hours or less allows much more time to stop and have more leisurely meals or even quirky roadside attractions.
Plan your Time
When you’re planning, be sure to account for stops and random fun finds along the road (Not everything has to be so planned out!) There are several really fun apps that can track and find fun roadside stops. Click to see more about the Roadtrippers app & get $5 off! Roadtrippers road trip app
Also, I love to pin random things on my google maps. Which has come in handy several times! If you’re in a location you don’t frequent you can always pull up your map and see if there’s anything nearby that you’ve saved for later reference. (I have wayyyyyy too many lists of cities and countries I hope to visit in the future. The lists consist of sites and things I want to do as well as important restaurants and breweries.)
Pack a cooler and a tote with snacks and drinks. This will eliminate the number of times you have to stop and save you money from buying snacks at gas stations. This way you can pack a lot of healthier options that are cheaper from either Costco or the grocery store. During much of our recent road-tripping, I had this down to a science, especially when visiting National Parks I’d pre-make mini charcuterie boxes or sandwiches when we wouldn’t have access to restaurants but would need to eat something after hiking.
Account for Traffic
Within reason, you can plan or account for traffic. Especially if you think you’ll be passing through a larger metropolitan area during rush hour. Don’t forget to add some extra time in case you encounter some traffic congestion.
Road trips can be fun solo, but I’ve always had the most fun when I bring my favorites with me! My husband, our dog Barkley and I have covered some serious miles road tripping in the past few years. Road trip tips for couples could be a whole other thing in itself. We now have an RV, so we definitely will continue to explore! When we lived out of our RV and worked remotely out of it for over 4 1/2 months recently it was a great way to road trip more often and make our way to some remote parts of Western states in the USA.
Plan your Route
One of the things I used the most when planning our trip was Google Maps. However, we took a nonconventional route due to some of the random towns we wanted to visit that had craft breweries there. But that’s the fun of planning your own route! You don’t have to just hit the highway and cruise, although if that’s more your speed have at it! There are definitely more common road trip routes such as the Pacific Coast Highway on the West Coast in California or Route 66 spanning multiple different states. The best part about planning your route is as long as there is a road, you can get there and the path is up to you!
Sure, you have your route & itinerary set but there are always the not-so-fun things to do before you set out. An important thing to do before a road trip is to ensure you are up to date on any vehicle maintenance/oil changes and your car is in good working shape. But, be sure to plan for the unexpected. If you break down or get a flat what are your contingency plans? Do you have AAA or service through your insurance company that offers roadside assistance? Be sure to have an emergency kit in your vehicle with jumper cables etc.
Things NOT to do on a Road Trip
Sure, it’s great to just get there sometimes. But overcommitting and driving too much in one day doesn’t do anyone any good. When we drove 12 hours in one day we were so exhausted we didn’t want to do much once we got to our destination and it just wasn’t worth it to drive to the point of exhaustion. So know your limits and don’t overcommit by trying to drive too far in one day. Try to drive a maximum of 12 hours on a single day. Anything beyond that is too much! We found 10 is usually the sweet spot, but definitely only 10 when towing an RV. But just with a vehicle and long-distance car driving 12 hours is doable.
Just because you don’t have to check your bags doesn’t mean you should pack too much! Sure, there isn’t a weight limit to your luggage like there would be if you were flying. But, that doesn’t mean it’s easy to lug around stuff you don’t need. In some of the places we stayed, we were only there for a night and my bag was way too heavy! Keep that in mind when you’re setting out on your next road trip. Make a trip packing list and stick to it!
Do not only pack for one type of weather or climate. Especially if you’re going on an extensive road trip across multiple states. We experienced intense heat, very cool evenings, humidity, and rain so make sure you pack appropriately. Keep your destinations in mind while packing as well as the time of year that you’re going. It’s crazy, the difference in the climate you can experience at the beginning of one day and after driving ten or so hours it completely changes! Long-distance driving and tips for long-distance driving are no joke! Road trips are a great way to experience a lot of different weather.
Do not expect to see everything! You’ll be tired from driving and need R & R. Don’t try to pack in too much otherwise your road trip won’t be as enjoyable. Especially if you’re wanting to go to craft beer breweries or have a few drinks with dinner, you won’t want to drive after that! Be sure to be realistic with your expectations and where you’re staying.
It’s so easy to underestimate the drive time needed from one destination to the next. Sure, you can pull it up on Google maps and it says X # of hours, but you have to take into account many things. Such as the terrain, weather, and other elements that could possibly slow you down. You will need to stop for gas, and food, and to take our dog out to go to the bathroom and give him water. (If you’re traveling w a furry companion.) Just to be safe I’d allow at least a few extra hours onto your actual drive time for these extras. Planning your long-distance drive is crucial!
Conclusion: Road Trip tips
Whether you’re headed just a few hours away or many states away, it’s a road trip that you need to be prepared for. There’s nothing worse than setting out on an adventure being ill-prepared. I hope these long distance road trip tips gave you some things to think about to better prepare you for your next driving vacation! Let me know if you think there are any that I missed. Happy Road Trippin’!