Planning a road trip is obviously not just about driving, it’s also about adventure!
Before heading out, carefully consider where you’re going. You’ll want to make a list of experiences you want to participate in along your route. Once you pick the direction, pick your activities – you can check out cultural, music, entertainment, and food festivals that you may hit along the way or simply look up the dates you will be in the area. Find one-of-a-kind festivals like the Potato Days Festival in Minnesota or Sturgis Bike Rally in South Dakota. And, don’t forget to look into smaller, local venues where you might find home-town musicians you might enjoy. Who knows, you could stumble upon a quirky improve routine, a slam poetry competition, or an open mic night that lights up your day!
Perhaps the most important road trip investment is your vehicle. Carefully consider the terrain you will be traversing and choose wisely. If you stay on paved or well-travelled roads, this shouldn’t be an issue; however, if you plan to camp or explore National or State Parks, make sure you choose a vehicle with 4-wheel drive.
Before heading out it is essential to have your vehicle inspected. You can easily search for well-reviewed and trusted mechanics online through Yelp or other sites, based on the make and model of your car. When you take your car in, let the mechanics know what your road trip plans are and inform them if you have any additional concerns. They are the experts and will know what to look for in your specific vehicle.
Renting a car is another option. Remember that rental companies generally require customers be at least 25 years old in the United States. Treat rental car shopping as if you were looking to purchase your own car—make a list of features you need for the terrain you will encounter, research safety ratings, and consider the fact that you will be spending loads of time in the car! You want to be sure that you’ll be comfortable sitting in it for long periods of time.
And, you can make additional preparations yourself—stock up on emergency supplies such as a flashlight, first aid kit, tool box, blankets, water, and snacks. You’ll also want to consider entertainment in your road trip essentials, so don’t forget to stock up on podcasts, tunes, and games.
If you’re one of those outdoor-types, check out the America the Beautiful Pass, offered through the National Parks. This pass covers all the fees associated with permits, and, if you go camping more than once or twice a year, is a great deal. Camping can be a fun, cheap way to spend your nights, and many National and State Parks are open year-round.
Call ahead to make sure you have a spot or see if you need to make a reservation. You don’t want to show up and discover that all the good camps were taken! If you decide to go this route, you’ll just want to make sure that you’ve checked temperatures for the area and brought proper gear. You need to be ready for anything out in the wilderness and getting stuck out in the cold can not only be a bummer, but dangerous.
Similarly, make sure you check if there are any fire restrictions in the area. Burn bans can really take the enjoyment out of the whole camping experience. Bring a hatchet, s’mores, fixin’s, binoculars and wildlife guides!
Traveling gives you plentiful opportunities to reflect, learn, and grow. Even if you’re not big into journaling, you might want to bring one just in case. You may also want to bring cameras (disposables and waterproofs are super fun), sketchbooks, and art supplies. This way, you’ll be able to capture your memories from your own perspective, and in a more personal, intimate way. Respect yourself and your travel buddies, and don’t stray too far out of your comfort zone. It’s important to challenge yourself, but don’t sacrifice your safety. Always have a plan B in case something comes up and be prepared to be flexible.
Most importantly, enjoy the journey—there and back again.
Lexi Carr is a blogger based out of Arizona. When she’s not driving safely, she is travelling with her friends and family across the country visiting every state and writing about it.