Tips to help you plan your next epic road trip
Updated May 2023
Let’s help you plan an epic road trip! I’ve added some additional information to help you navigate the current travel situation and make the most of your travels, no matter how far you are going. These road trip planning tips will ensure you have a great trip.
There’s no better time to support local businesses and have fun at the same time while exploring our own backyards. Far too often, we hastily drive-by attractions while stating that we’d like to go there one day. Yet, we never do. It’s time to change that. Let’s help you plan the best road trip ever!
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Road trips can be a great way to explore an area, but only if you do it right. They do take more planning than an all-inclusive vacation or cruise because you’re behind the wheel – literally. With a little extra planning, they can be the vacation of a lifetime. Here are my eight tips for how to plan a road trip.
How to plan a good road trip – 8 pro tips
1. Get your vehicle serviced before your road trip
Nobody wants to waste hours on the side of the highway waiting for a tow truck. Make sure that you (or your trusted mechanic) check all of your fluid levels as well as your tire pressure. Proper tire pressure improves your fuel efficiency so this one can save you money as well, bonus!
Before I head out on a road trip, I always check to see if I should get my oil change done, even if it’s a bit early. I’d certainly rather be safe than sorry. Book any necessary appointments well in advance. I am finding appointment times can still take longer than usual. Planning early helps to avoid frustration and disappointment.
2. Plan your route in advance
I am all for winging it, but this is not the time. Especially with many places still requiring reservations. This might be the new normal. You will need to book a lot of things in advance. Please don’t show up at a hotel at 10 pm and hope they have space for you.
Ditto showing up at attractions and activities you really want to do. It takes effort to plan a road trip, but it’s well worth it to avoid disappointment.
You need to spend some quality time plotting out your route. Where will you be stopping to sleep? Book your accommodations. What activities do you want to make sure you do? Book those as well. You should have a basic idea of where you want to go and what you want to see along the way.
You don’t need to book everything, but you should research your desired activities to see if a reservation is a must to avoid disappointment. I have missed out on attractions because I failed to see if I needed to purchase advance entry. Don’t make the same mistake.
The easiest way to do this? The best way to plan a road trip with multiple stops is to use a planning app. There are free ones available and I highly recommend using one.
I use Roadtrippers (screenshot pictured above) to plan out my road trips. This app is extremely helpful because it shows you the top attractions, activities, accommodations and more along your route. After reading about them, you have the option to add them to your trip as a stop. You can also book a lot of them from within the app itself.
I have learned about so many new places by using Roadtrippers. There is a free version; however, I do use the paid version. This gives me the freedom to add as many stops as I like. I highly recommend it and find it worth the money for all the time it saves me from researching places on my own.
Click this link to save $5 off the paid version of Roadtrippers!
3. Be spontaneous
I’m not contradicting myself here, I promise. While you should have your route plotted out, it’s important to leave yourself the flexibility to make unplanned stops. I suggest that you commit to making at least one random stop per day. This helps get you into the mindset that it’s about the journey and not the destination.
With current restrictions, your spur-of-the-moment stops will likely be limited to roadside attractions and those that don’t require pre-booking. I still recommend leaving some time for these. After all, you are going on a road trip, not commuting to the office.
You should have the freedom to stop when and where you want, especially if you spot a farmer’s market or winery along your drive. I managed to find a few wineries along my Okanagan Valley wineries road trip that didn’t require reservations. Oftentimes, it’s the unplanned pit stops that make the best memories.
4. Download music playlists
The apps we count on for music work great when there is a signal, but be sure to download some playlists to your phone to ensure you have music in case you lose cell signal. It’s surprising how often one can actually come across dead zones while road-tripping.
I use Amazon Prime Music, but most of my friends like Spotify. Ensuring that you have downloaded music or podcasts is a key factor in how to plan a good road trip. Driving in silence is no fun for anybody!
5. Bring supplies for you
If you have the time (and desire) to make cookies or other healthy(ish) treats beforehand it will save you from eating gas station munchies every day. Take the time to make some goodies and you’ll be thanking yourself later, I guarantee it.
My personal favourite road trip snack is Rice Krispie Squares, they are easy to eat, not messy, and count as breakfast if you want to get an early start 😉 Dining out frequently comes with the territory of road-tripping, so homemade treats go a long way.
I also suggest bringing along a reusable water bottle and a travel mug. If you love coffee as much as I do, you’ll appreciate drinking it out of your own cup. If you prefer tea, check out this awesome tea maker travel mug that lets you brew loose-leaf tea on the go. Leave those to-go cups in your hotel room. By bringing your own, you help save the environment as well.
A few more items to bring with you are hand sanitizer and wipes. This should be second nature by now, but I’m adding it to make sure you have lots. Be sure to use your hand sanitizer after gassing up.
Gas station pumps are one of the dirtiest things we ever touch. I also recommend having garbage bags on-hand as they really help to keep your vehicle tidy between stops.
Don’t forget the ever-important phone charger for your vehicle. Using the GPS sucks the life out of your phone’s battery. It’s also a great idea to have a printed map or screenshot of where you are going just in case you hit a dead zone and lose your GPS signal.
If, like me, you have a TON of cords with you when you travel, this handy organizer will keep everything together.
Since you’ll likely be using your phone for both directions and music, I suggest using a dash or windshield car mount to keep your phone in view and reduce distracted driving. Plus, your cup holder is for your coffee, not your phone 😉
6. Bring emergency supplies for your vehicle
This includes the following items: jumper cables or battery booster, windshield washer fluid, extra oil, a car jack and a spare tire, as well as the knowledge of how to use the jack and change a tire. If you are not mechanically inclined, you may wish to ensure you have roadside assistance insurance in case anything happens.
If you know you will be doing a fair amount of driving at night, I also recommend a flashlight and a candle with lighter or matches. A blanket is also a great idea to help with any disagreements regarding the vehicle’s temperature.
7. Have a first aid kit with you
I could have slotted this in with the emergency car supplies, but I feel it’s important enough to have its own section. Perhaps this is because I’m accident-prone, but it’s also because I feel most people don’t think about it. I suggest including items such as tweezers and after-bite, as well as Polysporin and band-aids.
Eye drops are also a great addition, along with tea tree oil, ibuprofen and an antihistamine, such as Benedryl, in case of an allergic reaction. If you’d rather not put one together yourself, this Adventure Medical Kit is ready to go.
8. Pick the right road trip partner
Travelling with the right person always helps, but it makes a HUGE difference in whether or not your road trip will be epic. When staying at a resort you can have a morning person and a night owl on different eating schedules and it doesn’t affect your vacation too much.
However, on a road trip, not only are you going to be confined to a vehicle for hours on end but if you’re stopping for food every two hours you aren’t going to get very far.
If you know that one of you is a night owl and the other is a morning person, this doesn’t mean you can’t travel together. You just need to set boundaries and be prepared to spend some time alone. Bring headphones to stay quiet while the other person sleeps.
Bring a book so you can read before or after your partner goes to bed. A little planning goes a long way to ensure you both get your beauty sleep.
Bonus: How to plan a road trip if you’re in the Vancouver area
Since I was updating this post, I decided to add a bonus section to help my fellow Vancouverites plan a road trip. It’s also helpful for anyone planning a road trip to this area.
The scenic Sea to Sky Highway is one of my favourite drives. It’s shocking the number of times I had driven right by Shannon Falls before I finally stopped to check them out. Visible from the highway, they are much better close up. Check them out, along with 4 other stunning waterfalls a short drive from Vancouver. There is 5 beautiful spots that require little-to-no hiking.
If a Napa Valley vibe is what you’re hoping for this year, then I suggest checking out the posts I wrote about how Stunning Okanagan Valley is Napa of the North, as well as some Beautiful Oliver Wineries that are Worth a Visit. If a Vancouver day trip is more what you’re looking for then check out this post on all of the delicious and scenic Langley Wineries.
And there you have it, my tips for how to plan a good road trip, as well as a few road trip ideas for where to go. If you think I missed anything, or have something to add, let me know!
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