There’s something special about the excitement, freedom, and sense of adventure that comes with a road trip
. You know it could be long and drawn out, with the possibility of getting stuck in traffic, but with the right people, none of that seems to matter.
Successfully completing a road trip requires careful planning, and a preparedness for any scenarios. Luckily, we’ve put together this guide to planning the idyllic road trip you read about in coming-of-age novels. So before you throw your dog-eared copy of On the Road
into your bag and head off for Route 66, the Amalfi Coast, or Cabot Trail, make sure you tick off everything you need to do before
you leave, so you spend less time worrying where everything is, and more time enjoying wherever you go.
Pick the right time of year to head off
There’s little point in going on a road trip when the weather will make it difficult. If you’re heading somewhere that notoriously suffers from extreme snowfall, then maybe wait until after winter to drive there. You definitely don’t want to be stranded in a strange area because you drove right into a snow storm. Similarly, going on a road trip means you’ll be spending hours in a car or a van, and the middle of summer may simply be far too hot to spend so much time on the road. Check the weather and average temperatures of the areas you’ll be driving through, and plan your trip accordingly.
Make sure you have the right insurance
Perhaps the most important thing you should do before you go is sort out your insurance. Make sure everything is up to date if you’re taking your own car, and carefully go over your policy. It may be worth discussing it with your insurance provider, letting them know that you’re planning to go on a road trip. If there is any additional cover available, they may be able to offer it to you on a short-term basis. However, if you’re hiring out a minivan or car, it’s best to look into temporary car insurance, which usually lasts a month. On the chance that your road trip will last less than that, you could look into a pay-as-you-go policy. Providers like Cuvva offer temporary car insurance
via an app, with policies ranging from one hour, right up to 28 days, perfect for a road trip which may end up being shorter or longer than originally planned.
If your road trip will be taking you abroad, then you’ll need to have the right medical travel insurance. Hopefully you won’t need it, but it’s always best to have it just in case of any nasty accidents. Traditional travel insurance covers you for a set number of days, but much like the car insurance, your plans could change last minute. Thankfully, Revolut now offers a pay-per-day travel insurance, which starts at just under £1 per day, and covers for trips up to 40 days, allowing you to only pay for what you need.
Carefully plan your route and stops on a paper map
You never know when technology will fail you. The last thing you want is to be left lost, with a map on your phone that requires phone signal you can’t get. While you can use digital maps, it’s best to have a physical paper map—with your route highlighted—in case of any technical problems. However, you should use map-based apps to help plan your route. Roadtrippers, for instance, makes planning a route even easier by highlighting things like rest stops, hotels, and even estimating fuel costs.
However you plan it, it’s important to keep your plans relatively loose on a road trip, as anything could delay you. Whether you wind up getting lost, going off-route because a signpost caught your eye, or because of road closures and extreme traffic, anything could happen. When planning your trip, make sure to account for any “free time” which can provide leeway for the times when you desperately need it.
Make sure your ride is in top condition
If you’re taking your own car, make sure you complete all maintenance checks, and get your car serviced at least a few weeks before the start of your trip. This ensures your vehicle is running in its best condition, and reduces the chances of it breaking down in the middle of a motorway, which is the last thing you want on a driving trip. If you’re renting a vehicle, the rental company should be on top of maintenance checks for you.
Regardless of what vehicle you’re driving, you should have some basic understanding of how to fix minor car issues, such as changing a flat tyre, replacing headlight bulbs, or changing your air filter. Keep a small toolbox in the car in case you do need to make any quick repairs while on the road, which will be especially handy if you’re miles away from the nearest garage, and you find you can’t fix the problem yourself. As long as you can patch your car up just enough to get you to the nearest garage (in case of any major issues) you’ll be fine.
It’s also a good idea to take a spare set of car keys—you never know what could happen.
Pack food in a cooler box
You’ll spend most of your trip cooped up in your car, so it’s a good idea to have food to eat in your car, instead of relying on drive-thru’s and service stops. Pack things like fruit, sandwiches, crackers, crisps, protein bars—essentially anything you can eat cold, that doesn’t necessarily need
a plate. Having your food in a cool box also means it will stay fresher for longer. Of course, when you do eventually get to service stations or supermarkets, stock up your cool box with more food to keep you going during the longer continuous stretches on the road.
Don’t forget to pack more than enough water to keep everyone hydrated, as well as energy drinks to keep you going. It’s also a good idea to routinely tidy up the car, getting rid of any food wrappers, empty bottles, and the like. This keeps everything organised, and minimises the risks of you losing anything.
Take portable chargers and check your data allowance
Having at least one (decent) portable charger with you will ensure that phones will have sufficient battery life until you reach a stop where you can plug into the wall. This helps with listening to music, podcasts, and just general entertainment while on the road, as well as keeping in contact with everyone back home. But you should keep on top of your data allowance at the same time. Download any music and podcasts when you still have WiFi to avoid using up valuable data on streaming, to avoid being faced with an extortionate charge on your phone bill.
Stick to your budget and look for offers
Drive-thru’s, meal deals, and coffee stops are just a few of the small but frequent transactions that will quickly add up over the course of your holiday. Make sure you keep on top of your spending, and have an emergency fund that you absolutely do not
spend, unless you have to (like if you need to buy a new battery for the car). You should also try and keep your fuel money separate, so you know exactly how much money you have to play around with. Consider tracking your expenses with an app, or simply keeping a written log of what you’ve spent and your budget.
When it comes to spending money, look for offers and special deals to help stretch your money further. This could be anything from paying for attractions you want to see (group bookings tend to work out slightly cheaper) to buying food or drinks.
A road trip can be gruelling and take its toll, but with the right planning you’ll have the trip of a lifetime.