For those of us who love getting out and exploring, road trips are the key to just that. Whether you’re itching for a cross-country getaway or a quick drive up the coast, we’ve got 10 tips for creating an unforgettable adventure this summer.
1) Find Your Own Way
While there are good reasons tourists all flock to the same destination, there are several ways to avoid overcrowded sightseeing.
- If you have National Parks on your road trip bucket list, try to visit them in the early morning or early evening.
- Check to see if there are any state parks or forests around that offer a similar landscape but with fewer crowds
- Travel during the week or in the shoulder season
Apps like Roadtrippers can be a great resource for finding some more off-the-beaten-path stops that are sometimes even more spectacular than the known stops.
2) See What’s Along the Way
Have you ever gone on a road trip that had no destination? Planning a trip all around the journey can be a fun twist.
Say you want to take a drive up the Oregon coast or along the famous Route 66. Decide how long you want to be away for, and then start mapping out stops along the route, both there and back. That app, Roadtrippers, we mentioned can be a resource for finding quirky, unusual stops along the way. You can add in layers of interest, such as:
- camping spots
- historical landmarks
The app is a helpful way to find that waterfall that you’d otherwise never see, an out-of-the-way museum, a Civil War battlefield, or a mountain vista.
Sure, fast food is convenient and usually right off of the highway, but it’s the same thing you’ll find everywhere else. Instead seek out local favorites. Food trucks, cafes, farmer’s markets, and historic diners are often just a few turns away. Seek out regional specialties, like a lobster roll in New England or crabcakes in Maryland. Before your trip, look for appealing restaurants that are possibilities—fans of the show may want to hit a spot from Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, for example—or use online reviews to help find hidden gems.
4) Bring Audiobooks and Podcasts
We all have a favorite playlist, or CD but an audiobook or multi-episode podcast is an excellent way to make those miles fly by. Check out the offerings from your local library, which often subscribe to apps like Libby that let you download audiobooks for free.
There are a lot of options to choose from, so here are some helpful tips on how to narrow things down:
- select a podcast or audiobook that takes place in the same area you’ll be traveling to
- pick a story that aligns with your activity
- find a series that offers fun facts or interesting learnings for everyone in the car
- get into a mystery series
5) Check Your Car
This tip sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s one a lot of us often forget to do before hitting the road.
Giving your car a full maintenance check before hitting the open road helps ensure a safe and smooth ride. Checking your oil, tires, and fluids are the essentials.
After you’ve done your check and things are looking good, make sure you load the car up with some road trip essentials
- paper map
- spare key
- tool kit/repair kit
- first-aid kit
- spare tire
- extra water
Yes, we’re all accustomed to using our phones for everything these days, and GPS will likely be a major part of your experience. But you can’t always rely on a cell signal to be there when you need it. Be prepared with a physical map — especially if you’re traveling anywhere far from the Interstate — so that you always have a way of knowing where you are and where you need to go.
7) Look for Special Events
Impromptu stops are always a blast, but there are some perks to having some plans already outlined.
Having an idea of happenings and events going on where you’ll be visiting is a great way to fill your time and get a more authentic experience.
We have done some really cool things on trips that have included attending local farmer’s markets, strawberry festivals, pumpkin patches, outdoor concerts, rodeos, chili cookoffs, and so much more.
Take part in a local 5K race or a pub crawl. Maybe there is a Saturday night art walk or a guided tour of some historic sites. These events for locals help you explore the area and do something away from other tourists.
8) Embrace the Unexpected
Some of the best parts of any road trip are unplanned. That first-come, first-served campground that’s almost always empty could end up being booked the weekend you arrive — but that could lead to an unexpected find. Plan for the possibility that you will need to change the order of activities, or not hit everything you wanted to do on this trip.
Keep an open mind, and you’re sure to find other unanticipated ways to have a good time. You’re on vacation after all—enjoy whatever happens.
9) Make Time to Relax
You want to cram as much fun as you can on the trip, but it’s important to leave some time to relax as well. Realize that you’re going to run into traffic. And while driving for 12 hours the first day may be possible, you’re not going to want to make a habit of it. Plan a road trip in a realistic way to balance lots of activities without feeling like you’re forever running behind. Hitting all the national parks in Utah is a big ask for one trip. Instead, focus on a few specific must-dos and above all else—enjoy the ride.
Written by Matcha for Gregory Mountain Products.