I have been on at least a dozen road trips. My husband and I do lots of driving. I am under thirty and yet I have been to all but 4 states in the USA. I really enjoy travel, but as I have driven I have come to realize that some tips and tricks can make the trips more enjoyable and easier.
Tip 1: Know that it will get easier with practice.
This could be a tip for life in general not just traveling on a trip. The more experience you have the more realistic your expectations and the more you will know what works for you. The best way to get better at something is to do it more often. Our first road trip was way more of a hot mess than our later ones that being said we noticed that our most recent road trip felt too long and we are now brainstorming ways to avoid that, staying in one place for more than a day or shortening the trip to not feel so frantic.
Tip 2: Set a reasonable pace.
Do not expect to drive 10-12 hour days. At least not on your first road trip. Plan for less hours of driving and plan to stop regularly to stretch your legs.
Tip 3: Think through your food choices.
As someone who has been on many a road trip can tell you, food and what to do for it is a choice. You can go down the snacking route and try to bring high quality snacks and things the driver can quickly or easily eat, but that is not my preferred method. One tip that seems counter productive, but I often find isn’t is stop for your meals and get out and leave the car. Eat in a place and feel like a person not just someone who drives. For me I found it to be better to eat at a place, eat real food and give up snacking so I do not feel gross eating unhealthfully while on the road, especially as the person who does not usually drive.
Side note: Here are some tips for finding good places to eat while out. TV Food Maps is a free app that shows locations of restaurants that have been on television shows. I have found it to be hit or miss. I feel the same way about Yelp. Usually TripAdvisor is fairly reliable, especially when overseas. In the US, my most recent way to find restaurants is to use Google Maps. When you are at a place you want to stop you use the Explore menu and select Restaurants. Once there the trick is to scroll until you find a restaurant with a special symbol underneath. In the screen shot below you will notice that symbol is an E. The symbol can be a number of things, but what it ultimately means is that there is an article or blog somewhere that recommends this restaurant. I have found great luck with reviewed restaurants in cities and places I do not know. You can click on the symbol and read the entire article to see if it is a location that is interesting to you.
Tip 4: Stop frequently.
One thing about a road trip is because you are driving it is best to try to enjoy the drive. When you have to stop for food or bathroom breaks, get out and stretch your legs and body, enjoy the movement. Realize that rather than trying to push through if you slow down a bit the trip will be more fun for everyone involved.
Tip 5: Plan for fun while driving.
As someone who does not do tons of the driving, at a certain point you will notice that everything starts to look the same. Not all the time, but there will be moments you will think all forests look the same, or why so much corn. It helps to plan and have ideas for ways to enjoy the trip. There is the obvious, choose good music that people will love. One thing my husband and I like to do is listen to an audiobook, because at some point we run out of things to say. You could listen to a podcast as well. I like to listen to something together and take the time to pause and stop. I find detective novels are quite good for this. Another idea is to have some type of car game, there are many. One thing I like to do is to play the license plate game and see how many states I can find plates from on our journey. I use the States and Pl8ts app to track that, keep in mind it will be really exciting the first couple days and the excitement will die down as you only have a few plates left to find. I also sometimes bring knitting or crocheting, something I can do without tons of thought but that will keep my hands busy. I know growing up we had cards for car bingo we used on road trips that were quite fun.
Tip 6: Make stops for odd attractions.
One great thing about being on a road trip is you stop by small towns you might otherwise never visit. Use this as an opportunity to do the cheesy thing and enjoy it. We have used the app Roadtrippers to help us plan out those things ahead of time or to know what is available.
I hope this helps you in your willingness to take a road trip. They are fun and formative experiences that can tie a family together. Are there any tips you think I forgot? If so leave them below.