By Maggie Reichel
A road trip is such a fun way to see the landscape of an area while you drive to a destination. You could be heading to a spot you’ve visited many times before, or somewhere brand new. The romance of a road trip is bolstered in America because of the incredible geography we are privileged to call home.
On the other hand, *planning* a road trip can be viewed as an exciting introduction to the journey, or a special kind of hell, depending on who you ask. I personally view it closer to the former, and while it’s not as exciting as the actual trip, gets me so pumped up that when the day actually comes I enjoy it even more.
In my experience, a successful road trip involves planning. And if you can plan things enough to give you a good start, it’s easy to deviate from the plan if something comes up! So here goes, these are my 8 tips for planning a successful road trip:
1 – Plan out your destination
I know, I know, you already picked a place that you want to go to. But where will you stay once you get there? Are you car camping on BLM land? Pitching a tent away from the crowds? Do you want a sunrise view to wake you up in the morning? Or would you rather be in some trees, protected from any passer-bys? Making sure you know your final coordinates helps you plan for when you need to leave to make your destination in a timely manner (pitching a tent in the dark is the pits if you ask me), as well as any local restrictions (maybe car camping isn’t allowed closer to town).
2 – Pick a route (but don’t be afraid to deviate)
Are you going to take the quickest Google Maps-recommended route? Or is there a way to go off the beaten path? When my husband and I were heading to our honeymoon in Sedona from Colorado, we realized we would be passing by the Grand Canyon on the way. Having some flexibility with our route gave us the freedom to make a 2-hr pit stop to take in the gorgeous views!
3 – Nail down who’s in the party
Alright, who’s coming?! Get a committed headcount so you know you have the space in the vehicle (which also has to fit your stuff!). Make sure everyone knows where you’re daily meet up spot is if you’re caravanning!
4 – Delegate responsibilities
If you’re got a crew tagging along, delegate responsibilities. Snack duty, music duty and directions duty are all critical aspects of a successful road trip. It’s a good idea to let those folks know how significant their role is. No one wants to get stuck driving through the dead zones of Kansas with nothing to listen to but that weird U2 album that was automatically downloaded to everyone’s phones (unless you’re into that).
5 – Pick your activities beforehand
Ok this is two-fold. Part 1 – activities for the car. Podcasts and good tunes will get you far, but if you’re really in for the long haul it’s good to mix it up. My best friend and I moved out to Colorado at the same time, but in different vehicles, we were about 2-6 hrs off of each other the whole time. She had the genius idea to create a scavenger hunt on the drive from Virginia to the Rockies. The list of about 15 items ranged from a tumbleweed to an armadillo (there’s a Brass Armadillo store right next to I-70 on the west side of Denver that I saw and it put me and my uncle 1 up on my friend and her boyfriend). It was such a great way to pass the time and keep us alert.
Part 2 – Any plans for once you reach your destination? It’s nice to have a short list of activities in an area. Over the summer we camped outside Buena Vista, CO and there was a bluegrass festival going on in town that we could walk to from our campsite. Are there multiple sites or hikes in the area you’re heading to? Having a list of possibilities is always fun to discuss with your posse around the campfire the night before.
6 – Make sure you have all your equipment
Now that you know what you’re going to do once you get there, you need to do a gear check! For my husband and I, we’re normally heading to a spot to go mountain biking. That means we need our packs, spare tubes, helmets, shoes, pads, shorts, snacks and…our bikes. Make sure you have a list of all the equipment you’ll need once you reach your destination based on the activities you plan on doing. It SUCKS knowing you just drove X hours and you forgot something important.
7 – Prep food beforehand
This one is my favorite! I love planning out meals and snacks for a trip and the idea of having plenty of good food options around me just makes me feel more comfortable ha! Prepping meals beforehand can be tough if your road trip is more spur of the moment, but even little things can go a long way.
We are totally spoiled in our Boreas camper, with a Domestic fridge and 2-burner stove. But even with that, at one point last summer I pre-cooked some spaghetti noodles so that when we got to camp I was able to use just one pan to heat up the noodles and sauce. This saved 40 minutes (exaggeration for dramatic effect) of waiting for the water to boil, not to mention all of the wasted water.
I am also a big fan of bags. Plastic bags (and I keep, wash and re-use mine!) are great for holding said soggy noodles and will fit into spaces that larger, stiffer containers won’t. And when you’ve used whatever is in the bag, it takes up basically no space, whereas Tupperware is still as big empty as full. I’ll also put something like asparagus in a bag with olive oil, salt and pepper. Then I can just dump it in the pan when it’s ready to go instead of having to bring all of those things in their separate containers. Save space, save time, save clean up afterwards. That’s a yes from me.
Having meals lined out (or assigned to members of the party, see point 4) beforehand takes the pressure off once you arrive at your destination. If you have snacks and food ready to go (or even a menu so the trip to the grocery store has some focus) it’s nice to know it’s taken care of and you can head straight to camp (and potentially get a better spot!) then if you had to spend another hour stocking up.
8 – Have the knowledge
Do you have a map if you get out of cell service? Do you need a permit to camp? Do you know the rules of the area that you’re going? Could you change your tire if you got a flat? These are all things to know before you hit the road on your trip. Making sure you have all the right information on an area, especially those that are more delicate than others, is a great way to make sure you have a successful road trip.
Another way to get the knowledge is by attending events like Off-Grid Expo. Taking place in Golden, CO at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds October 2-4, 2020, there will be dozens of vendors with the equipment, knowledge and know-how to get you where you need to go (and back again safely!).
And there you have it, 8 tips for making a road trip a success. We hope that you found this list helpful to getting out on the road for your next getaway. We’d love to hear thoughts on different ways to make your road trips more enjoyable. Let us know what road trip tips you’ve found helpful in your own adventures by commenting below.