road trip car driving in wyoming

Road trip tips: 7 rules for a smooth ride

by Larissa on August 22, 2013

Whenever you take a road trip it’s important to set up some rules of the road.  A simple road trip tip (or seven) can keep a dream drive from turning into a nightmare.  You want wide-open spaces and adventure, not wrong turns and flat tires.

Outback Driving cropped flipped (575x423)

Michael and I have taken road trips on five continents, and we’ve made our share of mistakes. But we’ve learned a few things along the way; following a few of these simple road trip tips can make sure your ride goes smoothly:

Road trip tip #1:  Delegate Responsibilities

Will you share driving duties?  Will one of you drive while the other navigates?  Who is responsible for tracking expenses or booking lodging? There is no right or wrong way, but unless you have a mutual understanding of whom does what your road trip will hit a pothole pretty quickly.

Road trip tip #2:  Map it out

Nothing ruins a trip faster than getting hopelessly lost.  Make sure you have a good old-fashioned paper copy map, and you know your route options. GPS and phone apps are great when seeking a specific destination, but they won’t give you an overall sense of the area, and those tiny screens can become tedious. In remote areas it’s also possible that mobile phone coverage will either be unavailable or limited to voice-only calling.

generic motel

Road trip tip #3:  Sleep on it 

Regardless of whether you’re staying in a hotel, an RV or a tent it’s a good idea to know where you’ll be laying your head that night. Enjoying a relaxing evening ensures you’ll be refreshed for the next day’s drive.  Putting on an extra miles looking for a place to stop when you’re tired at the end of a long day is draining. Camping by the side of a busy road or getting the last motel room (next to the dumpster) doesn’t exactly promote sweet dreams.

Road trip tip #4:  Let yourself wander

When on a road trip the journey is the destination, which means you should indulge your curiosity along the way. Be realistic about the distance you plan to cover in a day and remember:  it’s the little detours and unscheduled stops that make the trip fun.

Dudes Steakhouse WYoming (575x443)

Road trip tip #5:  Food for thought

Depending on where you’re headed, dining options on the road will vary greatly and grumbling stomachs can cause grumpy conversations.  Consider packing a picnic lunch, and keep a few nibbles on hand to stave off hunger and make sure those freewheeling spirits stay high. Be sure to have plenty of water as well.

Road trip tip #6:  Off and running

When you’re 100 miles from anywhere it is not a good time to discover you’re about to run out of gas or you don’t know how to use the jack to change your flat tire. You don’t have to be a master mechanic, but it’s common sense to know a few basics about the vehicle that is a major part of your holiday.

Road trip tip #7:  Music to your ears

There’s something fundamental that links music to a trip on the open road.  Whether it’s “Born to be Wild” by Steppenwolf, Beethoven’s 9th Symphony or anything in between, be sure to bring music you love. It will enhance the experience while you’re driving, and the soundtrack of your trip will trigger fond memories every time you hear it.

What are some of your favorite road trip tips?

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Stan August 22, 2013 at 10:17 am

No GPS? How do you manage?

Mitch August 22, 2013 at 11:26 am

Does Michael take directions well when he’s driving?

wanderingeducators November 5, 2013 at 11:34 am

great tips! and make sure your car is fit to go, AND you’ve got supplies just in case (esp in winter)…

Kenin Bassart November 5, 2013 at 12:02 pm

We’ve driven over 60K miles in the last year, I can tell you that Rule #4 is the most important!!

Cat of Sunshine and Siestas November 6, 2013 at 2:46 am

My biggest dream as a teen was to roadtrip around America—exactly when gas prices shot up! I’m hoping to take a long weekend to drive around all of the small villages near me in Spain. Having a car is expensive, but so liberating!

Theodora November 6, 2013 at 3:13 am

100% with you on the old-school paper map. But I kinda like the idea of not knowing where you’re sleeping — although my roadtrips have typically been more in the developing world, where accommodation is cheaper. I like to go with an idea of where we might end up sleeping, but the freedom to stop at will….

Kate November 6, 2013 at 2:11 pm

We always take a cooler in the car for road trips. Having cool drinks helps us stay alert. I take anti-nausea meds because I get motion sick. I definitely think it’s worth packing those if you’re driving on winding roads.

Val-This Way To Paradise November 7, 2013 at 4:21 pm

My favorite tip is Food For Thought, of course!!

Micki @ The Barefoot Nomad November 9, 2013 at 1:59 am

Great tips! I’ll second the snacks in the car tip. We travel with kids, and snacks are essential in preventing full scale meltdowns. And the kids can get grumpy without a snack, too 😉

Mary @ Green Global Travel November 9, 2013 at 8:36 am

Thanks for the tips! We love taking books on CDs with us on road trips. It turns a 14 hr road trip on a boring highway into an adventure.

Aleah | November 19, 2013 at 3:11 pm

I’ve never been on a road trip, but you can be sure there would be lots of good music and food with me!

Liz March 17, 2014 at 2:36 pm

Totally agree! Planning everything ahead leaves less room for life to take you wherever you need to go. I travelled a lot and I always end up in places I never thought I would, and they turned out to be the best!. Just go with the flow.

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