Now that you’ve addressed everything you’ll leave behind and everything you’ll bring with you, it’s time for the fun part—the actual road trip. This article includes some of our top road trip tips to help you prepare for all that might (or might not) happen along the way.
Ask yourself the following questions: What is the goal of your road trip? Do you have one specific destination in mind, or many places that you’d like to see along the way? Are you trying to do as much as possible, or would you rather travel slowly and see what happens along the way? You’re bound to miss certain stops and run short on time at different points. What is the one thing along your route that you’d be especially disappointed to miss? Make sure to plan extra time around these non-negotiable stops.
Addressing your road trip style and your expectations will help you get the most out of your time on the road—and if you’re traveling with other people, it’ll help everyone stay on the same page.
Highways will get you from point A to point B quickly, but they can make for a boring way to travel. Consider getting off the highway to enjoy scenic routes and detours for a more interesting drive. A traditional atlas and regional maps can be game-changers when it comes to understanding the options and picking the best one. You might not realize a bucket-list destination is just 50 miles north if you’re only looking at the zoomed-in version of the map on your phone.
It should also be clear who is navigating. It can be difficult for a driver to consult alternate routes when a road closure or traffic jam suddenly appears. Giving a passenger the role of navigator will make these situations significantly less stressful.
When the driver is using a phone to navigate, it should always be on a hands-free holder—in many states, this is the law.
The weather can also have a big impact on your planned route and driving conditions. Checking the weather for an entire road trip is trickier than checking the weather where you’re at; if you’re driving 600 miles in a day, you need to know if a storm is cutting across your route at mile 300.
WeatherBUG is a helpful app that will let you track weather in multiple locations at once. Refer to satellite images of bigger areas before you depart each day, and consider checking weather conditions at your halfway point and final destination before you take off.
You’ll want to pack tire chains, a windshield scraper and a small shovel if there’s any chance you’ll encounter snow. (And don’t forget about mountain passes—they see snow much earlier than other destinations, and sometimes year-round.)
The best road trip apps and entertainment
Stretches of almost any road trip may lack decent cell coverage—embrace it. Desolate highways, scenic mountain passes, and quiet backroads are perfect places to let your mind wander (while keeping your eyes on the road!) and enjoy the world as it passes by.
Then again, there will also be plenty of time to enjoy a rockin’ playlist, get sucked into an audiobook, or use apps to check on weather, traffic, or things to do along the way.
These are some of the best road trip apps that can provide insight and entertainment on your route:
- Roadtrippers: We may be biased, but we don’t travel without it. Available for iOS and Android.
- Waze: User input makes Waze a trusted, up-to-date source of traffic information. Available for iOS and Android.
- GasBuddy: Find the nearest gas stations and compare prices along your route. Available for iOS and Android.
- Spotify: The monthly subscription fee will cut out commercials and allow you to listen to tunes offline. Available for iOS and Android.
- Recreation.gov: Visiting national or state parks? You can manage campground reservations and explore park options through the Recreation.gov app. Available for iOS and Android.
Speaking of apps, it’s important to understand your data plan before you start your road trip. Looking at maps, sharing photos of the World’s Largest Ball of Twine, and streaming music all require data, and you don’t want to run into unexpected charges by going over your limit. Consider switching to an unlimited data plan if you think you’ll want access to these things from the road.
Road trip music
A road trip is not the time to default to the one album you’ve been listening to on repeat for the past six months. With so much time in the car, you’re going to want to mix it up and have lots of road trip music on hand.
Ask your friends on social media to suggest their favorite road trip tunes. Create a collaborative playlist on Spotify where everyone can add their favorite songs. This is a fun way to connect with friends and discover the music they love.
To avoid using too much data on streaming music services, download your playlists for offline access before you hit the road.
Road trip games
Not all road trip entertainment requires your cell phone. These road trip games offer simple, old-fashioned fun for everyone in the car.
Road trip games for adults and big kids
A road trip scavenger hunt will encourage everyone to pay extra attention to the passing scenery, and you’ll have a record of what you saw along the way. Create a scavenger hunt checklist before you leave. Some suggestions: Hawaii license plate, deer crossing sign, Sasquatch bumper sticker, and a hot pink storefront.
The Movie Game can turn into an intense competition between movie buffs, and families can relive their favorite movies from decades past. One person starts with the name of a movie, then someone follows with an actor from that movie. The next person must name another movie featuring that actor, and the next person names another movie, and so on.
Would you rather eat a spider or drink a bottle of ketchup? The classic, “Would you rather?” game can be customized for the audience: Make the questions extra gross or weird with your adult friends, or keep it clean for the kids.
Road trip games for families and younger kids
License Plate Bingo is an easy one for kids that will keep their eyes glued to passing cars, searching for an elusive Delaware plate (when you’re in California) or New Mexico plate (when you’re in Maine). See how many states you can spot along your trip.
The Alphabet Game is another one that encourages everyone in the car to pay attention to the passing scenery and signs. Start with A and look for a sign that starts with that letter, then make your way through the alphabet.
Road trip snacks
You’re sure to discover some regional treats and strange roadside snacks along your route—so don’t overpack when it comes to food. But do bring some healthier road trip snacks for when the options are limited to gas stations and fast food.
Some things to consider before you pack your snacks: Avoid sticky or saucy foods, bring foods that are durable and won’t be ruined if something is packed on top of them, and focus on healthy options that will make you feel energized instead of lethargic—there will be plenty of opportunities to grab junk food when the cravings strike.
Peanut butter and crackers, carrot sticks, granola bars, dried fruit, jerky, apples, oranges, and trail mix are all convenient crowd-pleasers for the road.
Motion sickness remedies
Winding country roads and mountain passes are beautiful—until someone gets carsick. Here are some motion sickness remedies to keep in mind.
If you know you get carsick, bring motion sickness medicine and take it before you begin your drive each day.
Anyone who struggles with car sickness will typically feel better if they sit in the front seat, avoid reading materials, and focus on something inside of the car, rather than looking out the window. Someone who gets car sick is not the best person to navigate—looking at a map or reading directions can quickly make things worse. Avoid alcohol, spicy and heavy foods, or anything that might not agree with you.
When car sickness sneaks up on someone, take the opportunity to pull over and relax. If you’re on a road without pull-offs, roll down the windows and take it slow.
Have the best time
Your road trip plan will only get you so far. Hopefully, it will ease the stress of leaving home, help you remember the essentials, and keep your plan on track. But don’t be afraid to embrace the unexpected. Getting lost, wasting time on disappointing roadside attractions, sitting in traffic, and any type of delay or confusion can be turned into an opportunity for unexpected memories. You can’t possibly anticipate everything the road has in store for you—and that’s half the fun.