The Ultimate Guide – A US Road Trip

The Ultimate Guide – A US Road Trip

by Guest Author
road trip

Summer certainly isn’t the only time of the year when you can take a vacation, but it’s often the best time. Good weather, more travel and destination options, and flexibility in your family’s schedule lend themselves to ideal travel in the summer season. If you’re looking for a way to explore new places and experience new adventures, a road trip is perfect. To get the most out of this excursion and have an enjoyable and safe time, you need to prepare effectively.

Of course, you can’t anticipate every roadblock or challenge that may come up during your road trip. There are ways to maximize the chances that you’ll see what you want to see and do what you want to do during your trip. By following some simple tips, you can have peace of mind and create lasting memories for you and your family on your coming summer road trips.

Plan Your Activities

planning your activities

The sky’s the limit with road trips. You can get away for a couple of days to a favorite spot in the next state over. You could also opt for a multiweek trek to a brand-new place across the country. And there are plenty of options in between. Sit down as a family and decide what you want to experience. There is no shortage of choices in the U.S. You could hit the beach, enjoy some city nightlife, rough it in the mountains, or combine all of these and more into a single trip. Do what works for you and what suits your style, preferences, and budget.

Some people like to follow a theme on their road trips. Examples include visiting multiple national parks, checking out historic places, or even eating at famous restaurants. A road trip can lead you to a place where you can relax and take it easy for a while. Or, your trip may be filled with hour-to-hour exploring. Choose some activities for your trip and when you would like to go. This will get the ball rolling so you can move on to the next steps.

Plan Early

You don’t always have to plan a trip well in advance. A spur-of-the-moment excursion can be exciting. But it is best to avoid a more spontaneous road trip. With so much logistics to consider, it’s risky not to plan carefully. For your road trip, you need to consider making reservations at hotels, campgrounds, and other venues before they fill up. You must make sure the places you want to visit are open during your trip. You’ll also want to ensure you can get tickets to events and destinations you want to experience. For example, many amusement parks require that you buy tickets in advance online. You don’t want to miss out on the chance to book the place you want to see.

Careful planning can eliminate stress and disappointment on your road trip. You’re more likely to see and do more when you make trip arrangements weeks or even months before you leave.

Look at Your Budget

Road trip costs can quickly skyrocket. A smart planner sets a budget and allows for plenty of wiggle room. You don’t want to get halfway through your trip and discover you don’t have the funds to do everything on your itinerary. The following items should be part of your budget:

·             Fuel costs. Be mindful that gasoline can be higher or lower than it is in your hometown. Estimate how far you’ll drive and how often you will fill up.

·             Food costs. Does your budget allow for eating in sit-down restaurants or fast food? Perhaps you are considering packing your own food.

·             Lodging costs. Decide whether it makes financial sense to stay in nice hotels or whether your budget is suited for motels or modest Airbnb stays.

·             Types of attractions and activities you want to see and do. A higher budget allows for visits to theme parks, concerts, sporting events, or far-away destinations. If you have budget constraints, it may be better to hit national parks or inexpensive museums.

·             Length of the road trip. How long you spend on your trip will depend on how much time off work you have. Your budget will also be a factor.

Be mindful of the other bills and costs you’ll have during your vacation, such as home utility payments, loan and installment payments, and other obligations you have during the time of the month you will be gone. Your budget will also largely determine where you can travel.

Book Accommodations and Make the Necessary Reservations

Once you know what you want to do, when you’d like to go, and how much money you can spend, it is time to start booking for your road trip. As soon as possible, go online and reserve your lodging. If your road trip is long and covers a lot of miles, it may require you to make reservations at more than one place. The sooner you can book a room, the better chance you have of finding a suitable place with good amenities in the price range you are looking for.

Purchase tickets to the parks, ball games, shows, or whatever entertainment you decide to enjoy on your trip. Be sure to ask about cancellation fees or other costs associated with your purchase. Look for discounts and booking aides, such as Priceline, Expedia, and

Top Road Trips

top road trips

Some people know precisely where they want to head for their next road trip. Other people may be searching for ideas on fun and memorable spots to visit. If you’re in the latter category, it’s helpful to consult a list of some of the best U.S. road trips.

One you should try is the Olympic Peninsula Loop in the state of Washington. This route includes a drive to Olympic National Park and drives across some scenic highways. You can also drive through rainforests and see the unique ecosystem.

Another road trip to put on your list is down to Miami and Key West. This route gives you incredible ocean views and chances for fishing. Going from Miami through Key West takes about four hours, but there are lots of places to stop along the way.

The famed Pacific Coast Highway from the top of Washington through Oregon and along the long stretch of California is a famed route. This road trip gives you an extended look of the Pacific Ocean. You’ll be able to see how the landscape changes as you drive down the western part of the country.

To see an older part of the country and North American continent, check out the drive from Maine to Quebec City, Canada. This route will take you close to museums and white-water rafting adventures. Once in Quebec City, you can check out one of North America’s oldest cities, complete with cobblestone roads and even a walled portion of the city.

When you think of Nevada, Las Vegas may first come to your mind. But a gorgeous road trip is one to breathtaking Lake Tahoe. On this clear lake, you can paddleboard, boat, and fish. There are biking and hiking trails around and near the lake. Plus, nearby cities, including Reno, have a rich history of Western traditions, such as rodeos.

Lastly, driving from Phoenix, Arizona, to the Grand Canyon is one that every adventurer should do. The 240-mile route has some unique views along the way. Plus, this trip rewards you with an amazing destination. You’ll see stunning scenery and enjoy a range of hiking and biking trails.

Plan Your Route

It has never been easier than today to find your way to your destination. Long gone are the days when you have to unfold those pesky physical maps and find your way on interstates, highways, and city roads. GPS and other navigation tools, such as Google Maps, can help you to travel safely and efficiently. Before you leave for your road trip, take a look at the best route to get to your endpoint. Keep an eye out for stretches that may have construction work, traffic delays, or difficult terrain.

In addition to choosing the right route, you need to pace yourself properly. Build in plenty of time on your trip so you aren’t driving too much. For instance, a good rule of thumb is to drive no more than eight hours in a single day. If you need to drive more than that in a day, switch drivers. Therefore, if your destination is 24 hours a day, plan to take three days of driving to arrive there. As you drive, stop a few times to use the restroom, stretch out, rest, and refuel the car.

Your route planning should also include a decision of whether you want to drive during nighttime. While there will be less traffic at night, try to keep your driving to the morning, afternoon, and early evening. You’re less likely to feel sleepy during these times. In addition, visibility on the road will be better.

Get Your Vehicle Ready

Vehicle maintenance is one of the most crucial aspects of your road trip. Never head out before taking care of preventive maintenance and necessary services on your car. Pre-trip vehicle maintenance will put your mind at ease. It will also significantly lessen the likelihood that you will suffer a breakdown or experience other car problems on the road. On the other hand, if you start a road trip without taking your car in for service, you leave yourself open to a wide array of distressing problems, inconvenience, and even danger.


The following are some services to focus on before your road trip:

·             Get an oil change. Mechanics recommend that you change the oil in your vehicle every 7,500 to 10,000 miles. This is a change from the old standard of every 3,000 miles, as oil and car engines have improved. Still, never neglect this essential maintenance. Changing the oil regularly helps the engine to run smoothly. Replacing old oil with fresh oil removes dirt, sludge, and other debris from the engine. It can also improve gas mileage. Even if you recently had an oil change, you should get one before your road trip, as you’re bound to put a lot of mileage on your vehicle during the excursion.

·             Check the brakes. Perhaps no other component on your vehicle plays a more crucial role in the safety of your car than the brakes. Going on a road trip with poor or failing brakes is a poor decision. It could lead to accidents or even injuries or death for you and others on the road. Before your trip, take your vehicle to a reputable technician to inspect the brakes. This professional will recommend whether it’s time to replace the brake pads or other braking parts, such as the calipers and rotors.

·             Check the battery. A dead battery is a common cause of your car not starting. Imagine the frustration and stress of being stranded on the side of the road far from home. Before you leave your house, let a professional test your battery. You can even look for signs that the battery is having problems. These include trouble starting the car, dimming lights, or noticeable corrosion on the battery terminals.

·             Check the tires. Make sure the tires on your vehicle have plenty of tread for your upcoming trip. If the tires are questionable, you’ll want to purchase new ones. Anything less than 3/32 of an inch of tread is not fit for a road trip. If you are concerned about the state of your vehicle’s tires, ask a professional. Explain that you are planning a road trip, so the technician can assess if you should get new tires before you leave. Even if you don’t need new tires, you may need to rotate or balance them. Tire service should occur about every 5,000 to 7,500 miles. It’s a good idea to do this maintenance before a long trip.

·             Replace other fluids. Along with changing the oil, other fluids may need attention before your road trip. These include radiator fluid, transmission fluid, brake fluid, and power steering fluid. Topping up or replacing these fluids before an extended drive will help the car to perform well.

·             Inspect the belts and hoses. While a mechanic is under the hood, have a professional look at the various belts and hoses, including the serpentine belt. Any cracks or leaks could bring your vehicle to a halt.

In addition to servicing your car, you should thoroughly clean it before your road trip as well. A clean car is much more comfortable and pleasant to ride in. Vacuum the upholstery and carpets. Clean the dash, steering column, and windows. Wash the exterior and wax it. Your car will look, feel, and smell better for the many miles you have ahead of you.

If your vehicle requires extensive repairs, you may want to consider other options. Renting a vehicle may make more sense than spending hundreds or even thousands to ready your car for a road trip.


Assemble an Emergency Kit

Once you have your car in good shape, prepare some safety items. Just because you have serviced your vehicles, it doesn’t mean you can’t still encounter troubles. In case of an emergency or incident on the road, you need to have certain items on hand. Assemble and have the following items with you:

·             First aid kit. This can come in handy in a variety of ways and different scenarios. A good first aid kid has bandages and gauze pads of all sizes, tweezers, scissors, tape, antiseptic wipes, ointment, pain medication, and ice packs.

·             Extra water. If you become stranded for an extended period, water will be essential for your well-being. Have a case in the back to keep everyone in the vehicle hydrated until help can arrive. This emergency water should be in addition to anything you are bringing to drink for ordinary use.

·             Flashlights with extra batteries. These will be important to have if you break down after dark.

·             Jumper cables. If your battery dies, jumper cables can help start your car and get it back on the road. You could also come to someone else’s rescue.

·             Emergency flares. This part of your emergency kit will help other people see you if you have broken down in low-visibility conditions.

·             Blankets. The prospect of having to hunker down and sleep in your car overnight is scary. It can be a more comfortable, less harrowing experience if you and your family members aren’t shivering from the cold. Even in the summer, many places along the open road can be chilly at night.

·             Spare supplies. Flat tires are common causes of halted road trips. You won’t be able to do much if you don’t have a spare tire, tire jack, and lug wrench.

Have Some Backup Ideas

Even the most meticulous planner can’t account for everything that could happen during a road trip. Unforeseen road conditions, bad weather, illness, and a host of other issues could interfere with your plan. You could even arrive at a destination that is closed or not exactly what you expected to be. Have additional plans in your itinerary just in case something falls through.

If possible, it is also wise to build an extra day into your road trip — a day where you don’t plan anything. You can reserve this day for spontaneous activities or relaxation. On your trip, you can even discover an off-the-beaten-path place you’d like to visit. Having that extra time will accommodate this.

Pack Snacks for the Ride

It doesn’t have to be a long car ride for you to get hungry and need a snack or two. Packing in-between meal snacks is a must for the driver and passengers of all ages. Be cautious not to limit your selections to sugary junk food, though limited amounts are OK. On the other hand, focus on healthy options. These may include fruit, nuts, beef jerky, cheese, and crackers. Consider preparing individual snack bags for each person in the car. This can reduce messes and make it easier to pass items in the car. Planning ahead for your snack-buying can save you money as well.

Prepare Your Home for Your Absence

When you take off on a road trip, you’ll also want to take care of what you’re leaving behind. For safety and security, do the following with your home and property before your outing begins:

·             Lock all doors and windows. Double-check to ensure you have done this, even though it may seem like an obvious thing on your checklist. Also, don’t forget to lock the garage.

·             Set timers on your lights. If you have light timers, set them to come on at specific times while you are gone. If you don’t have timers, leave a few lights on in the home. This gives the appearance that someone is home, thus safeguarding your house against break-ins.

·             Don’t tell the world that you’re leaving. Social media is a popular place for people to broadcast to family and friends that they’re going on a road trip. Unfortunately, when you do this, you also inform the wrong people that you’re not home. This gives intruders the perfect chance to get into your house.

·             Arrange for lawn care. To reduce the risk of people knowing you’re not around, have a trusted neighbor, friend, or family member tend to your yard needs. This includes mowing the lawn, trimming the trees, and watering the plants.

·             Take care of the trash. The same person who cares for the yard in your absence can take out the garbage and bring the cans in from the curb.

·             Adjust the thermostat accordingly. There’s no need to run your air conditioner during your summer road trip. You save money on your utility bill by lowering the thermostat while you are away.

Pass the Time in the Car With Games

Part of the fun of a road trip is driving and seeing interesting places, and being together as a family. Still, there will probably be stretches where boredom and restlessness set in. Combating this doesn’t have to be difficult. Traditional in-the-car games such as I Spy or the alphabet game are favorites. With the latter, you look for each letter of the alphabet in order on road signs and billboards.

You can also bring games with you, such as Mad Libs, crossword puzzles, trivia, or sudoku. Audiobooks or podcasts can also help travel time go faster. Listening to music is always a popular in-the-car activity. CDs are becoming a thing of the past, but if you have access to streaming media, you can plug in your smartphone and listen to playlists you have created. Build a playlist of your favorite songs, letting everyone on the trip pick his or her playlist. You can also get creative and make a themed playlist, such as road-trip music.

Get Plenty of Rest

Finally, don’t underestimate the need to rest on your road trip. This starts with the night before you depart. If you’re driving at any point the next day, make sure you get enough sleep and feel well-rested. Never drive if you are feeling drowsy. If you start nodding off at the wheel or if you’re fighting the need to sleep, trade driving responsibilities with someone else. You can also pull off the road and take a nap. Even a 15- to 30-minute rest can help you feel refreshed and rejuvenated.

Don’t pack your road-tripping days so tightly that you aren’t getting enough sleep. If you need to leave early in the morning for the next leg of the trip, retire to bed at a good time the previous night.

Thank you for reading!

Summer road trips can be the highlight of the season. This occasion is a great way to make memories, establish traditions, and spend quality time with those you love most. By keeping these tips and guidelines in mind, you can have the best experience possible and avoid many of the problems that befall people on vacations. Start making preparations today and make your summer road trip something you and your family will never forget.

Don’t forget to check out more tips and travel guides in our blog here.

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