Say you’re planning a road trip to a destination that is a 20-hour drive from home. What is your strategy to get there and get back? Do you
- Take shifts with another driver and drive 20 hours straight?
- Drive as far as you can the first day and stop in the evening to catch some sleep before the final push?
- Drive 10 hours the first day and 10 hours the second day with a nice evening in-between?
- Split the drive up over 3 days and explore new places along the way?
For a long time, we followed one of the first couple strategies… we were 100% focused on the destination and didn’t spend any time in between. But recently we started making road trips as much about the journey as the destination, and are having some of the best trips ever! Keep reading for tips to make the most of your road trip journeys...
Packing, unpacking, and re-packing can get really annoying, so annoying that you may avoid multiple stops so you don’t have to do it! Here are some tips to minimize the unpacking and re-packing time during your trips.
- Put all of your shoes in a crate in the car so they are easily accessible and not stuck in the bottom of suitcases.
- Pack a small overnight bag with clothes for the first couple days of the trip. Dig into your suitcase to pick outfits to replenish your overnight bag.
- Put dirty clothes in a trash bag and forget about them… there’s no reason to pack them neatly or get them mixed up with your clean clothes.
- Share as many toiletries as possible and keep them in one place.
Allocating Trip Time
Outside of the situations where you only have a certain number of days and almost all of them are allocated to the destination because of minimum stays and/or other activities at the destination, allocate less time to the destination and more time to the journey. Here are some time allocation tips.
- Say you’re driving to Florida from Michigan, plan to spend 4 nights in Florida instead of 7. If you’re worried that you won’t get enough beach time, rest assured that there are awesome beaches on the coast to enjoy along the way… stay tuned for a guide we’re developing with all the details you need to beach hop on your way!
- Be ready to move on from the destination if it’s not as great as you thought. There are so many awesome places to visit… keep your mind open to changing plans if you could have a better experience doing something else!
Don’t plan more than you have to
We used to plan everything and we often ended up disappointed. Now we plan as little as possible before our trips so we have flexibility to stay in places that we’re really interested in, and to take each day as it comes. Here are some planning tips.
- Be ready to change course. If you get to a place that you thought you’d stay and it doesn’t look interesting, drive another hour or two and find an area you want to explore.
- There are times around holidays, destinations that are super popular, and areas where you absolutely know you want to stay. In these cases, book lodging ahead of time.
- If there’s a must-do activity that has to be arranged well in advance, plan it. However, try to plan it in the middle of the trip so you aren’t racing to get there.
- Keep your mind open to staying in a spot longer if it’s really awesome. This may mean that you have a longer drive another day, but the experience is worth it!
Changing your mindset about where you stay and go and why
If you’ve ever driven to the east coast, chances are that you’ve driven through Breezewood, PA. If not, picture a road with every motel and fast food chain known to man. If you’re looking for a room for the night and some food, Breezewood has it. Nothing against Breezewood or places like Breezewood, but what do you gain by staying there? Could you spend the same amount of money somewhere else and have a great travel experience?
Think of your entire trip like an investment. What’s the return? Each day has a huge amount of potential. Will you spend it or invest in it? With a change in mindset and some minimal preparation you’ll have the freedom to explore in all kinds of new ways. Here are some preparation tips.
- Bring a “road-trip kit” in one crate that includes things you might need along the way. Our road trip kit includes a cutting board and knife, paper towels, laundry detergent, Ziploc bags, a wine and a drink glass (not breakable), snacks, toiletries that we share, sunscreen, and bug spray. This way you don’t feel that you have to get to your destination to enjoy yourself.
- Pack a cooler with enough food to have an impromptu picnic, so you can enjoy the scenery and great places along the way… also much healthier than eating tons of fast food.
- Keep some towels in the car so you’re always ready to go to the beach, can clean up if you go on an impromptu hike, or dry off if you’re caught in the rain.
- Get an idea of your route before starting your journey. What places interest you? What types of experiences are available along the way?
Tools to gather travel information along the way
There are so many tools available to gather information to make the most out of your journey! Use your drive time to talk about the types of experiences the group wants to have that day, then have the non-driver research options. Here are some of our favorite tools to gather information.
- Google maps is AWESOME! We look for the major route we’re on and then look within about 30 miles each way of the route to see what’s in the area.
- Trip Advisor is still a great tool to gain an understanding of the options in an area. However, sometimes Trip Advisor doesn’t tell the full story. If a place looks really interesting but there isn’t much on Trip Advisor, follow your instincts and check it out for yourself!
- Yelp is great for restaurant choices, but also offers a sense of an area… are all of the restaurants fancy, casual, greasy spoon, bars, or a mix? How does that align to what you’re looking for?
- Check out brochures and travel guides that you see at travel plazas. We especially like magazines types of brochures about specific areas because they often have maps and consolidate all of the little flyers you see in one place.
- The National Park Service and state park services offer TONS of information online about outdoor activities.
Wrapping it up
There are so many awesome places to experience near and far. The next time you face a long drive consider looking at it as a huge opportunity instead of a grueling race to get to the destination!
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