Road trips are a great summer pastime, with an estimated 89 percent of Americans taking summer getaways, according to a Bridgestone Americas survey. And, more than a third of all Americans plan to take a family trip 50 miles or more away from home this year, AAA says.
AAA's research indicates road trips are the most popular form of family vacations, ranking ahead of national parks, theme parks, international destinations, and cruises. Road trips can be lots of fun, but successfully pulling them off requires smart planning. Here are some tips to help you plan a perfect road trip this summer.
Set Your Road Trip Goals
Matt Kepnes, author of How to Travel the World on $50 a Day, says the travel-planning process should begin with you and family members narrowing down some concrete goals. These include deciding on a destination, how long you plan to travel and how much cash you want to budget. Kepnes recommends first deciding on your destination, but in many cases, that may be dictated by a slew of factors, including:
- How many days you can take off work
- How far you can travel by car or plane
- How much money you can spend
Accordingly, USA Today travel writer Rebecca Chandos recommends brainstorming several possible destinations, as well as reviewing your projected vacation budget and schedule in order to narrow down some realistic options.
Select a Destination
Plan Your Route, Itinerary
Once you've selected a destination, you can then start planning how to get there. Roadtrippers provides travelers with directions based on Google Maps to help you plan the best route to reach your destination. The Roadtrippers website and app also lets you calculate distance, time and fuel costs; browse area attractions and natural wonders; and check out hotels.
To locate area restaurants, parks, and shopping locations, use an app like Along the Way. Because you'll likely be traveling to an unfamiliar destination, you should also become familiar with the traffic laws in these locales. Driving-Tests.org provides online resources you can use to familiarize yourself with state traffic laws.
Plan Ways to Save
When refueling on the open road, look for exit signs with multiple gas stations and restaurants, which is an indicator of competition and lower prices. To cut down on food costs, pack some food in a cooler before you leave. You should also be able to find online deals for hotels and amusement parks.
Check Your Car
Another important step to take before traveling is ensuring your vehicle is road-ready. Mobil offers a vehicle maintenance checklist you should inspect before hitting the road. These include engine oil, transmission and differential fluids, hoses, belts, tire pressure and tread, and your car battery. You should also give your car a quick test ride on the local freeway to check for anything unusual.
Pack Up Your Ride
Last but not least is packing your car. Packing as much as you can into each bag to consolidate your luggage will leave you with more space to store items. On the contrary, you can pack as light as you need, while still packing all the essentials.
Travel blogger Nienke Krook provides a checklist of essential items you should pack before hitting the road. These items include a spare tire, first-aid kit, tool box, list of emergency numbers, navigation system, clothing, toiletries, entertainment, and food and water.
What is the best road trip you have taken?