The Ultimate Checklist for Your Next Long Road Trip

By Kayla Ferrari

Road trips are the perfect escape when you’re feeling the tug of wanderlust. Traveling by car gives you the flexibility to make detours that can lead to discovering places you might not have otherwise visited. And when it comes to road trips, the joy is most definitely in the journey. Here are a few tips that will help you make the most of your next road trip.

Roys Motel & Cafe with vintage car

Consider the Time Frame

The great thing about traveling by car is you can set your own schedule. But on the flip side, driving does take longer than hopping on the train or a plane. When planning your road trip, make sure to leave enough wiggle room in your itinerary to allow for detours and unplanned stops. Whether you’re taking advantage of a long weekend or planning an epic journey, there is nothing more stressful than having to race from place to place to stay on schedule. Road trips, by their very nature, are prone to delays, so set aside extra time in case of traffic or if you want to spend a few extra minutes at that cool restaurant you found. Be realistic when planning your trip so you can relax and enjoy the ride.

Choose Your Traveling Partners Carefully   

Not everyone makes a great road trip partner! If you are headed out on a family or group adventure, make sure your crew is all on the same page regarding top priority destinations and the planned pace of your journey. If you’re planning long stretches in the car, be sure to choose folks who enjoy similar interests. There is nothing worse than being stuck in a car for hours with someone who hates your favorite music or can’t appreciate an engrossing true-crime podcast. And don’t be afraid to go solo. There is something to be said for enjoying your own company and traveling on your own schedule.

Top 10 Packing Essentials

●  USB car charger to keep your phone (and GPS) alive

●  Proof of car insurance/automobile club card

●  Emergency car kit—you never know what can happen on the road!

●  Spare tire

●  Snacks and plenty of water

●  Napkins—road trips can get messy with fast food stops

●  Toilet paper for remote areas without a proper restroom

●  Personal care supplies like sunscreen and dry shampoo

●  Blankets to use for a picnic stop or to keep warm

●  Entertainment like “The Book of Questions” (a brilliant book to keep the car conversations going)

Plan Your Stops

Before any road trip, check out a map and highlight the cities you’ll be driving through. Then, do a little research on what there is to see in each city—are there any notable restaurants? National Parks? Jot down the key places to stop at to ensure enough time to hit every destination.

Convertible car on dirt road with lone driver

Avoid Rush Hours

If you’re driving through big cities with heavy traffic, leave early to avoid rush hour. This will save several hours and keep your car companions from becoming grumpy.

Plan Your Overnight Stay

If your road trip will require you to stay overnight somewhere, make sure to plan ahead on where you’ll be sleeping. You definitely don’t want to drive tired as that can be dangerous for yourself and others! Book your hotel accommodations ahead of time to ensure a place to sleep.

For those wanting a cheaper alternative, most states allow you to stay overnight in rest areas for a period of no longer than eight hours. If you find yourself near a national park, it is legal to stay on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land in the areas listed on their website.

Walking on a rocky deserted stretch of land

Read the Road Signs (And Follow Them)

Be alert to the road signs you come across. Not following road signs is dangerous and can lead to a big fine. Similarly, keep an eye out for signage that might indicate historical markers or scenic overlooks to stop at. Your legs could use a stretch, anyway!

Be Spontaneous

My favorite part about any road trip is simply winging it and randomly stopping at places. I like to think of it as finding hidden treasure along the way—you don't know what you'll see, but when you do, it’s the best surprise!

Lone person at Arches National Park

Best Apps for a Road Trip

●  Roadtrippers: An app to help you plan your road trip from start to end, offering routes, travel guides, and places to see along the way.

●  Waze: Almost everyone has a GPS uploaded into their phone already, but I prefer Waze as my navigation app. It is not only a GPS, but it also shows roadblocks, police activity, and accidents.

●  HotelTonight: In case of unexpected delays on your trip, this app is a great resource to find hotel lodging last minute.

●  RoadsideAmerica: This app provides maps and directions, gives suggestions of unique attractions, and tells stories and tips from travelers as entertainment to read while on your drive.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author of this article and may not reflect the view of AAA—The Auto Club Group. For more information about insurance with AAA, please visit AAA.com/AutoInsurance. 

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