Planning a Road Trip

Planning a Road Trip

Embarking upon a road trip can initially be a daunting thought, particularly with the number of considerations you need to take into account. With a little prior planning though, you can ensure that most aspects can be prepared for, allowing you to have an enjoyable, relaxing and fun trip.

Road trips are great because they allow you to take a car, and explore many different parts on your route. They enable you to see places you would not have otherwise known about or seen, giving you a broader experience, and one which you will remember.

Below, we detail some points to keep in mind, when planning your road trip.

Plan your route and stops

Well before you set off on your road trip, it is important to plan out a route you want to take, and enable it so you include as many desired stops as possible. By planning this before you leave, you can have a route in mind, so that you do not waste time driving aimlessly.

A good idea is to open up Google Maps and take a look at some of the destinations you can reach on any given route. Print off a map of the area, and if you plot out on it with a pen a vaguely circular route, you can look at this and see points of interest close to where you have plotted a route. This method provides you with a good basis on which to build a good road-trip plan.

Doing this enables you to deviate somewhat too when you are actually on the trip. When driving along you will undoubtedly see signs pointing to previously unheard of destinations, or see things along the route which you want to stop off and explore. Having a loose route in place allows you to diverge a little, see the things you want to, and then return to the pre-planned route.

Sat Nav

A fully charged, up-to-date and working Sat Nav is an important part. Whilst maps are great (and definitely have one in the car, as a backup) the use of a Sat Nav greatly enhanced the experience of driving in unknown territory, and avoids any arguments over good or not-so-good map reading skills.

Ensure the device is fully updated online, prior to leaving for your trip, to minimise any unexpected roads or roundabouts. Phone Sat Navs/apps are all well-and-good, however a standalone probably suits your needs better, as it will free up the phone, in case it is needed, and prevent unnecessary drain on its battery.

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Budget

Determine your budget, before you leave, and overestimate - to avoid any nasty surprises! A road-trip is often appealing because of the perceived low-cost when compared to flying to a destination. However, do not underestimate just how much driving long distances can cost you, and ensure you plan for any hidden costs.

So, the obvious cost is fuel. You will be able to work this one out fairly well if you are driving your own car, however, if hiring a car (more on this here) you may be unfamiliar with the vehicles fuel consumption, so account for this in your budget. Toll roads, bridge tolls, and other charges relating to the driving need also be considered, as these can quickly add up, particularly depending on the country you are in. A little research prior to travelling can help minimise any shocks here.

Planning a Road Trip
Prepare your vehicle

Something you definitely should not overlook is the preparation of your vehicle. After all, this will be what gets you around, to see all you want to on your trip. Ensure all vehicle fluids are topped up to their maximum levels. Check your tyres, to make sure they are all in good, road legal condition. If any need replacing, don’t wait, get them done before you leave as it will save so much potential trouble later. Bring a kit to enable you to change a tyre on the road, if needed, and obviously, a spare tyre will help in this situation.

Breakdown cover can be applied to any existing policy, to cover the countries you will be visiting. This may cost a little more, but is worth the peace of mind should it be required, and you end up broken down somewhere remote and unknown.

Travel insurance is another factor which needs to be considered. You need to ensure that where you are travelling to, that you are covered in the event of anything unexpected occurring. We cover travel insurance in more detail here.

Packing your vehicle

When you pack your vehicle, with everything you want to take, a little bit of method will work well. Instead of just throwing everything in and hoping it fits, take a little time and carefully place items in the vehicle, in a way which minimises wasted space. Keep anything you may want whilst on the road easily to hand, so pack these things near the top or in an accessible place.

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In-car entertainment

Make sure you have some in-car entertainment ready to go before you leave, as the last thing you want is to be driving for hours on end with nothing to keep you occupied. Get some music loaded onto your phone, car CD player, or SD card. Local radio can be good, to get you in the right mindset, particularly if the main language is not that of your own, however equally having your own choice of music can win out here. Audiobooks can also be a good call, as they can break up the music a little, check out some of the titles on offer through Audible Audiobooks for this.

Accommodation

Linked to costs and your budget, accommodation is a big consideration. Cheapest you will find is likely taking a look, pre-travel, at campsites located along the route, and aim for these, maybe staying for a day-or-two at each, to act as a base for you to go on and explore the local area. This again helps to guide you on a route and gives you the option of some flexibility (i.e. if you come across a not-so-idyllic campsite, you can quickly move on; similarly you may find an excellent site, and decide to stay extra days). You can book a lot of campsites before you leave, and most list their associates costs on websites.

Alternatively, hotels may prove a more comfortable experience. Again, look prior to travel and use locations on your route, to guide where you stay. Costs can be pre-determined for your stay.

Planning a Road Trip
Fuel

As above, this will be likely your biggest expense, however, there are a few things you can do to help with this side. Before you leave for your trip, fill up the vehicle with fuel. You will likely know where to locate a fuel-station if you do this, and save any worry about finding something immediately upon arrival of your first stop.

Consider how much luggage you are taking on your trip. By minimising this as much as possible, you can save a little on the fuel cost, due to the less weight being transported around. Obviously, bring what you have to, but do you really need everything on your list, or is there some things you can leave behind.

Another aspect to consider is how you drive. Clearly, the faster and more erratically you drive, the more fuel you will be using. Keep an eye on speed limits throughout your route, and abide by them, to ensure you are not using more fuel than is necessary.

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Food

What you will eat and drink on your trip is a big factor to consider. Food options are mainly to bring your own (and shop locally as you progress through the trip) and/or make your way to some local restaurants. Bringing and buying your own is the most cost-effective method. Bring along a decent cooler box, as you can store items in here, with some able to plug-in to your vehicle, to maximise their effectiveness whilst you are driving. Local shops are often good value if you can stop by at some on the route, and you can bring a gas stove to cook some reasonable meals yourself if camping.

Restaurants are clearly going to cost you more, but will give you an experience of a more local level, and enable you to avoid any cleaning and washing up associated with your eating!

Planning a Road Trip
Useful Links

There are a number of websites which can help plan the above, check out some of the below for some further help and advice.

Planning Your Route
Preparing Your Vehicle
Travel Insurance
Hotels
Car Hire

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Thomas Goddard

Thomas Goddard

Thomas is Expert with Points' travel writer, covering a variety of travel locations with handy guides on the must-see places on any trip.

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