Having spent the last couple years traveling all around North America, we’ve learned a few lessons on how to plan a successful road trip. Some things we picked up seem obvious now in hindsight (#3), others we still struggle to remember (#9).
Do we always take our own advice? No. Do we wish we did? Almost, always. So that’s why we’ve compiled this list. For you and for us. Setting off on a big road trip can be a liberating and freeing experience, but if you want to avoid some of the classic pitfalls, it helps to cover some of the basics.
1. Pack the Right Snacks
Don’t drive hangry, eat snacks! Easy-to-reach, portable snacks are essential for a long road trip. While we have a pretty diverse snacking diet when we’re traveling, we’ve recently been enjoying Field Trip Jerky. Their grass-fed, gluten free beef jerky is loaded with protein that delivers long-lasting energy. Regardless of which snacks you choose, make sure you have some diversity. Variety is the spice of life (did we mention Field Trip has over 10 different flavors?). So pick up something new and give it a try.
2. Carry Extra Water
It is super easy to get dehydrated while driving, so be sure to bring along plenty of water. Especially when we’re traveling out in the west, we always travel with at least a gallon of water on us. With so much emptiness around us, it’s always good to be prepared.
3. Paper Maps
We have a love/hate relationship with Google Maps. When it’s working, it’s amazing. But sometimes when our service drops and it stops working. And sometimes the app becomes self-aware and malevolent and sends us 6 hours out of our way down an impassable forest road. That’s when you need a real, genuine paper map. Benchmark Road Atlases have been a great investment for us.
4. Double Walled Insulated Tumbler
Coffee is an essential part of any road trip, but we hate wasting disposable cups along the way. The answer is to buy a double walled insulated tumbler. They are reusable and keep your beverage hot (or cold) for hours. ProTip: Most coffee shops and gas stations will only charge you for a refill if you bring in your own reusable mug. Over time buying an insulated mug will literally pay for itself!
5. Buy a 12v Inverter
Easily one of the smartest road trip purchases we have ever made. Don’t rely on your car’s one underpowered USB charger to keep all your devices charged. Plug in this 12v inverter into your cigarette lighter and get two additional USB ports and two 110v wall power sockets.
6. Use the GasBuddy App
The gas right off the highway is always the most expensive. GasBuddy lets you find where the cheapest gas is along your route, so you can plan accordingly. Shaving a few cents off the gallon can save you a lot of money over the course of a trip.
7. Highway Cruise Control
If your car has a cruise control function, use it. Not only does it increase fuel efficiency by keeping an even consistent speed, but it also allows you to relax your body and prevents leg cramping.
9. Sunscreen & Long Sleeves
It’s easy to forget when you’ve got the A/C cranking, but long hours behind the wheel can result in a lot of UV exposure. So make sure you’re getting yourself covered before you get into the vehicle.
10. AAA Roadside Assistance
This is absolutely worth it. Even if you never need to use it, the peace of mind alone is worth the yearly membership. Besides, if you’re a member you get to go into any AAA office and get free road maps.
11. Planned Spontaneity
There is a benefit to planning out your trip, but it is easy to over plan as well. Having too tight a timeline can prevent you from enjoying the moment. So give your trip some structure, but leave room for some spontaneity and find your own adventure. The Outbound and Outdoor Project are great resources for finding outdoor activities in your area. Having an annual National Parks Pass makes visiting a national park much more accessible and hassle-free.
Do you have any essential road trip tips that you think we should add? Let us know in the comments below.
Thanks to Field Trip Jerky for sponsoring this post, and thank you for supporting the brands that help us to keep producing content for Fresh Off the Grid!