There’s nothing quite like hitting the open road for an adventure. It’s not just a way of getting from A to B, it’s a chance to see scenery and culture you otherwise wouldn’t. But there’s a lot to remember before you start your engine. Check out our top tips for planning the road trip of your life…
Work out your general route
Although you might want to leave some of it up to spontaneity, having a start and end point is key. This will help you work out roughly where you want to go on the way. Consider how much driving you want to be doing each leg of the journey. If daily destinations are too far off the route, will that affect your tiredness, time, or money? Circle your absolute must-see sites, and then go from there.
What are the places you just can’t miss out on? Make a list of your top 5-10. The worst thing on a road trip is having too many destinations and not enough time to enjoy them. And you don’t want to be spending too many hours driving around to them all either. It’s a good idea to have a balance. Then, if you find yourself with extra time, or you spot somewhere you have an urge to visit, great!
Set a timeframe
How long are you going for? This will help you work out how many places you can stop off at and which route to take. Say you’ve got two weeks — you could stay longer at some places on a shorter route, or go further and see more in quick stops. The only thing to factor in is making sure you have enough time to enjoy them. Flying visits can be fun for a snapshot, but you don’t want to leave feeling rushed. Instead, plan in enough time to really appreciate the area.
A key tip: look for experiences on the way to save time. For example, on an Italian road trip, pop into Florence and skip the queues on a guided tour with a local expert. That way you get to appreciate the architecture without any hanging about.
Know your audience
Who are you going with? Friends? Family? Plan stop-offs you’ll all enjoy. Say you’re in Barcelona. If your mom loves modernism, the Sagrada Familia will have her in heaven. But if sailing is more up your buddy Brad’s street, hop on board for an hour and a half.
It’s good to be flexible, but build in some definite stability too. Not only do you want to book some accommodation en route, it’s a good idea to book day passes to places as well. That way it doesn’t matter what time you get there. Touring the UK? See all of London from the top of the Shard or why not get a 3 month combo ticket for main attractions? Then you can relax on the road as you won’t miss out.
Check your car
Avoid a breakdown by making sure your car is fit for purpose. Check your tires, oil, water — that sort of thing. Or get it serviced before you go. Take details of your breakdown cover and insurance papers with you — and make sure you have them in place for your trip. Although a longer stop somewhere spontaneous can be fun, you want it to be for the right reasons.
Pack your passports, drivers’ licences — all the paperwork for any bookings. Check your identification is valid for the duration of the trip. Keep it all in a secure wallet in a safe place in the car so you can find it easily when you need it.
Music to my ears
Make a playlist for the journey. Maybe you want chillout summer dance tracks for cruising the French Riviera (where you could ditch your car for a Ferrari if you like). Or what about the wilds of the Scottish Highlands? You need either some classic rock or indie anthems. Just leave some time to cool off if you’ve been to the Scotch Whisky Experience on the way…
Pack some snacks
Hungry for adventure? Don’t forget to fuel up your body as well as the gas. Pack snacks, bottles of water, and fruit to keep you hydrated on the way. Or why not book a foodie experience at one of your destinations? Take a tour of Chinatown in San Francisco and sample regional specialties. Or grab some gumbo in the French Quarter of New Orleans. This way you get to feed your appetite for culture as well.
Above all, the way to plan the best road trip ever is to make it full of exciting possibilities. Cover the logistics, sure, but don’t be afraid to steer out of your comfort zone and immerse yourself in adventure.