Planning Your First Road Trip? Follow These 8 Tried-and-True Tips

Spring is a great time to plan a road trip. The weather begins to warm, flowers start to bloom, and landscapes burst with life and color. With a bit of extra care, you can road trip and still safely social distance even during Covid-19.

Road trips are great because they have built-in flexibility. Find an area you like, and you can stay longer. Discover that a destination you’ve always wanted to visit is a bust, and you can move along.

Planning your first road trip is a lot of fun. But it can seem a bit overwhelming if you’ve never ventured across the country before so we’ve compiled a list of the best road trip tips to help you on your way.

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Follow These 8 Road Trip Tips to Have a Fun, Amazing, and Safe Adventure:

Use these tips from an experienced road-tripper to help you plan your first trip.

1. Have a Plan, But Allow for Spontaneity

If you’re planning on staying at a National or State Park it’s best to make reservations ahead of time. Due to growing popularity over the past several years, it can be difficult to find vacancy at these parks. So make reservations for these spots well in advance.

Once you have these days planned, then allow for some flexibility in the days leading to or following your park stay. Some of the best road trips have only a loose plan with a destination in mind. This allows you freedom to fill your days with whatever interesting things you find along the way.

Start looking for accommodations about three hours before you’re ready to settle down for the night. This gives you enough time to find a campground or hotel, and flexibility to drive a bit farther if needed to find accommodations.

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2. Take Back Roads

Road trips are a great time to explore some backroads. Interstate highways are faster and smoother, but they can also be boring. There’s a lot of beauty, adventure, and character waiting to be discovered on backroads.

Cell service is often sparse on these backroad adventures. So make sure you’re prepared in case you get lost and bring along a road atlas. For some nostalgia, try putting your GPS and cell phone away, and rely only on maps for guidance.

My favorite road atlas is Rand McNally’s.

3. Eat Healthy

Eating healthy can be a real challenge while on the road. Fast food restaurants might seem easy and enticing, but you don’t want to rely on these.

Plan to stop every couple of days to load up on fresh fruit and veggies. Things like apples, oranges, lemons, carrots, zucchini, and mini sweet peppers travel well, making them great options.

Softer skin fruit and veggies, such as pears, bananas, avocados, and cucumbers bruise easily and don’t travel well. Only grab those if you plan on eating them right away.

Prepare a few healthy items ahead of time. I like to make a big batch of hearty soup before I leave and freeze them in individual servings. They easily reheat on a camp stove and make for a nutritious and quick meal. Restock your cooler with ice once a day, and you can make the soup last for about a week.

Another option is to make some premixed salad toppers. Mix up a big bag of nuts, granola, seeds, and dried fruit. Pack a few cans of tuna or chicken. Grab some mixed salad while on the road, add some of your bag mix and canned protein, squeeze a lemon over it all, and you’ve got a pretty yummy salad.

4. Keep an Eye on Your Gas

Along I-70 in Utah there is a 106-mile stretch without a filling station! 30 to 50 miles between stations is common in other places both on interstates and backroads.

So as a general rule of thumb, never let your gas get below a quarter of a tank.

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5. Pack a First Aid and Tool Kit

Don’t forget to bring along a well-stocked first aid and toolkit for emergencies. If you’re only staying in hotels on your road trip, you can skip a few items on the toolkit.

Your first aid kit should include at a minimum:

  • 1 gallon of water
  • Various sizes of bandages, gauze, and butterfly strips
  • Medical tape
  • Tweezers
  • Scissors
  • Antiseptic wipes
  • First aid cream
  • Bite/sting cream
  • Sunscreen and aloe vera
  • Over the counter pain, antihistamine, and antidiarrheal medicine
  • Instant cold and hot packs
  • Space blanket


Your toolkit needs to have:

  • Flashlight or headlamp
  • Adjustable pliers
  • Hammer
  • Screwdrivers, both Philips and flat
  • Pocket knife or multi-tool
  • Crescent wrench
  • Hammer
  • Axe or hatchet
  • Baling wire
  • Duct tape
  • Zip ties


6. Prepare Your Vehicle

Before you head out, you’ll want to make sure your vehicle is up for the trip. Check your tire air pressure, including your spare. If you can afford it, replace your donut with a real tire.

Donuts don’t hold up well on a lot of backroads and are designed for limited mileage. If you get a flat in the middle of nowhere, a donut may not get you to the next service station.

Check your brakes and battery to make sure they don’t need replacing before you go. Top off your washer fluid. Check the levels on all your other fluids including engine oil, power steering, transmission, break, and antifreeze.

7. Set a Budget

Road trips are great as they fit almost any budget. Use your car and tent camp for a low-cost option. Rent an RV or stay at hotels if you have some extra spending money.

There are several different ways to set a trip budget. What I’ve found most effective is to set a daily limit, along with an activity and souvenir budget. Use a small notepad to keep track of spending as you go.

The daily limit should be enough to cover food, gas, lodging, or any other needs you have. The activity and souvenir budget is for the whole trip. Any money not used in the daily limit can be rolled over into the activity or souvenir fund.

Having different budgets may seem a bit excessive. But it keeps you on track and makes sure you don’t blow all your money at the beginning of your trip. In addition to the budget, it’s helpful to take a couple of rolls of change along for laundry machines and toll roads.

8. Limit Your Driving Time

Long periods of driving will make you tense and can impair your judgement on the road. So stop every two to three hours to stretch out, walk around, or enjoy an unusual spot you found along the way.

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Keep in mind that road trips are about the journey, not just the destination. So limit your total driving time each day to between five to eight hours (or less if you find something along the way that sparks your interest!).

Use These Road Trip Tips and Have the Time of Your Life

Follow these road trip tips to make planning your adventure a breeze so you can hit the road with confidence and make your first road trip your best vacation yet.

What are your favorite road trip tips and routes? Let us know in the comments below!

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Tonya Wetzel

Tonya is a RYT-200 yoga teacher at Loft Yoga, BSL in Bay St Louis, Mississippi. She loves that she gets to share the joy and healing that yoga brought to her life. In addition to teaching yoga, she flips houses with her husband. Outside of work, Tonya is a travel enthusiast who loves the outdoors and adventure, spending time at the local beach, good wine, geocaching, and playing with her three dogs.

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