Road trips should be unforgettable. They’re a chance to let loose and see parts of the world you could have only dreamed of experiencing. They’re unique from traditional vacations. If you don’t like somewhere, you can just pack up and leave onto the next adventure.
However, like anything in life, without proper planning, your epic road trip can fall apart and leave you feeling empty and a bit regretful when you do finally get home and drop your bags.
Yes, free spirits out there, even road trips need a healthy amount of preparation. From deciding what you want to see to figuring out how you’re going to get some shut-eye when you get there, here is why your road trip is so reliant on the planning you do before you head out.
Get Off To a Great Start
How you start your road trip sets the tone for the rest of the journey. If you have a first day plagued with issues, it can be difficult to rescue the trip from in-fighting and lost time. Planning is as much about perfecting the first day like any other.
A clear and efficient plan for the first day helps every step of it. It can make sure you load up the car, truck, or van more efficiently, rather than just letting everyone throw their bags in where they like. Instead, get everyone together the night before to load the vehicle so you can set off first thing. It might sound like nit-picking, but it will streamline the journey and save you some time you can spend getting a big breakfast down yourselves.
Doing your research and planning also makes sure you don’t face any vehicle issues early on, and if you do, you’re prepared to deal with them. If you’re renting your vehicle, get it looked over by a second set of eyes before you start the trip. There’s no better investment of time or money before a road trip than maintenance, and no harm in planning for the worst-case scenario.
It may sound ridiculous, but just because you’re traveling doesn’t mean you can’t save money. Saving money is all about preparation, so if you take the time to plan out your road trip in a bit more detail, you will naturally save money.
Budgeting for your road trip isn’t about planning what you’re doing down to the second. Quite the opposite, it’s about giving yourself more money down the line to play with and take chances on things you could never even expect to stumble across.
Budgeting tightly for each day but leaving yourself a pool of funds to dip into later will help you stay sensible and mean you always have heavier pockets than expected. If you don’t budget, you’re always going to end up spending more than you intended to.
Budgeting apps and tools can help first-time road trippers plan their journeys better. If you’re traveling Europe, apps such as TheFork help you find local restaurants and book long in advance, so you don’t lose time and money traipsing across the city for somewhere to grab a bite. Road trips are all about the driving, and sites like iCompario provide fuel cards for a range of vehicles that give you little discounts at stations.
Take the Long Way Round
Sometimes the best part of a road trip is when you get lost or let your sense of adventure guide you, wherever that is. While it seems counterproductive, planning actually gives you the chance to do that.
If you’re the kind of traveler who likes to wing it and act on impulse, you’re ironically enough, the kind of traveler who needs to plan better. You can’t just go off wherever you fancy if you don’t have the money for extra fuel or the right maps and equipment to get you home. Don’t micromanage you or your fellow passenger’s ability to enjoy the trip. Make a private plan, so they feel free to experiment.
Have No Regrets
Ever come home from a road trip unable to think about anything but the stuff you missed out on? You should have checked out that old monument or spent an extra night in that amazing city. Better preparation can save you post-road trip blues.
Sure, to some extent, you’re always going to feel down after a road trip. It’s part of the adventure. But there’s no reason those regrets should overshadow what should be such a great trip. If you put more time into planning your road trip, you’ll be able to properly map out what you want to see and how much time you’ll have there.
Include a couple of days off in your plan. This gives you the flexibility to stay in a city, town, or even the wilderness a couple of days longer than the schedule demands. It’s the difference between a great road trip and a truly special one.
If you’ve got a big road trip coming up, take a chance on a bit more preparation. The benefits will massively outweigh the time you spend doing it, and you’ll become everyone’s favorite road trip planner.
Stevie Nicks is Digital Editor at Just Another Magazine – a website that covers the topics you care about with articles about lifestyle, travel, fashion, trends and relationships on our site – each written in our unique style.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.