There’s a particular moment when the sun sits in a clear sky, your jackets are safely stowed in the closet, and you’re standing outside where you’ll hear it — the open road calls to you. Summer is here, and it’s time for a road trip. Road trips are so versatile, and it’s never been easier to create the perfect one for you and your family. With the apps available and some excellent advice, you’ll be inspired and prepared to take a beautiful summer getaway. Grab snacks (I like snap sugar peas because of their nice crunch, and they’re super easy), gas up the car, and answer the open road’s call.
The right road trip for you
Embarking on a road trip is not just about reaching your destination; it’s about the journey itself. The joy of a road trip is the freedom it offers – the freedom to explore hidden gems, pause at scenic spots, and enjoy unexpected encounters. It’s these serendipitous moments that make road trips a cherished summer tradition for many. With the apps available and some excellent advice, you’ll be inspired and prepared to take a beautiful summer getaway. Grab snacks (I like snap sugar peas because of their nice crunch, and they’re super easy), gas up the car, and answer the open road’s call.
If you tell a room full of people that they’re all going on an ideal road trip, they could very well come up with a different image of what that entails. Here are the different types of road trips, with advice on what is best for your needs.
- The Solo: The best part of taking a solo trip is the freedom. Do you feel like stopping for lunch? Go for it. Want to pull over and just take in the view? You have all the time in the world. You can take the long route, blast the same song for seven hours while you sing along, and control the AC to perfection. While traveling, smile and say hello to people. You might make some cool new friends.
- The National Park: If you haven’t looked for national parks near you, you may be surprised at how many there are. There’s an entire government branch dedicated to their preservation and beauty. Maybe you simply want to drive through and take in the hill stations or mountains. If you want to camp, be sure to know the costs ahead of time. Don’t worry, the National Park Service is ready for your questions on their website. It’s a great way to get back to the outdoors.
- The Family & the RV: One of the best ways to make this road trip is to find ways to involve everyone. Not just in the destination but the journey as well. Look up some cool family-friendly destinations to check out, and ensure everyone has some input. While you can’t guarantee to keep kids entertained on the road, you can certainly try. Consider some (silent) toys, games that use magnets to hold the pieces, or even some audiobooks they’ll love.
- The Pet Friendly: If you have a dog, let’s be real. You’re taking your furry family everywhere. Consider a doggy seat belt for safety. Don’t forget a portable food and water dish and perhaps a foldable travel crate. Stock up on some new chew toys, and you’re good to go.
- The Friends Forever: This one requires communication. You and your bestie should plan the trip together, so you are both getting something out of it. If you’re openly communicating, respecting each other’s boundaries, and actively listening, not only will you have an unforgettable vacation, you’ll connect on a deeper level naturally.
- The Couples: The advice above also counts here. Communicate well to understand each other’s needs. Beyond that, ensure you both have music and snacks you enjoy. Each couple’s dynamic is different, but be sure there are stops along the way where you can both find some space and spend quality time in stress-free settings.
- The Thematic: Picking a theme is a great way to plan a road trip. It helps add parameters, which can be helpful when planning routes. Some great ideas could be waterparks, famous film locations, or vineyards.
Planning your road trip route
The first thing any good trip planner needs to know is how long you have. A week-long road trip will differ from a three-day weekend trip. There are some great trip planning apps to assist you in this.
- Google Maps updates you on traffic and shows nearby hotels and everything else.
- Waze is quite similar and will also accomplish this for you.
- Roadtrippers cost $29.99 / year, but it takes this a lot further, and your friends can also help plan the trip. There is a free version, so you can check out the basics before opening your wallet.
When you plan your road trip, you will want to find a balance between what you want to see and where you will stay. There are lots of apps that help you plan this.
- HotelTonight offers deals on hotel rooms available that same day, in case you need it.
- Airbnb has a wide array of places to stay, and you can search based on location, which is very useful.
- The Dyrt is an app for tent, RV, and cabin sites. You can see what your fellow campers say about these locations.
- Freecampsites.net will show you free campsites.
- Recreation.gov is the ultimate site for booking camping within national parks.
Need an app for attractions to check out? What about restrooms?
- Roadside America will tell you every “world’s largest so and so” along the route of your road trip destinations.
- iExit Interstate Exit Guide will let you know where all the hidden gas stops, restrooms, and restaurants are hiding just off the interstates.
Budgeting your adventure
Budgeting is like a roadmap for your money rather than your car. I recommend doing some research on the things you want to see. You can find out most costs in advance. You know how much a tank of gas costs in your car, so you can make an educated guess on daily gas costs. If you’ve booked a stay in advance, that’s already done. If not, have a goal for what you prefer to spend and see if you can stick to it. Some things, such as food, drinks, and snacks, are harder to predict. A budget will help you choose where you can and cannot eat. Be sure to keep some extra room in there for parking and tolls. Those will really sneak up on you if you’re not careful.
There is no shortage of helpful budgeting apps that you can use to assist you.
- Tripcoin can be used offline, so you can keep track of things anywhere you go. It even gives you a summary of what you spent.
- Trip Expense Manager is great for groups and will keep track of who paid what and when.
- TravelSpend will keep you on track and doesn’t need to be online to work.
- Tricount helps you split the bill among multiple people.
We’ve gone over some great booking apps, especially for camping, if you want to save money. Free camping also means free parking. If booking anywhere else, be sure you know whether parking is included. Because many campers enjoy viewing movies while away from home, purchasing a projector designed specifically for camping would be a fantastic addition to any camping gear.
What about cheap gas? You’ll want the GasBuddy app, which searches all the nearby prices, and lets you know which is most affordable. Another great way to save some cash is to make your own lunches. If you’ve prepped the ingredients beforehand, it’s not too hard to put them all together.
One last thing. Have an emergency fund. You just never know when things will go haywire, and you need to ensure you have money in the bank if something goes wrong. And while you’re preparing for unforeseen events, don’t forget to add a mechanical wrist watch to you list. This kind of watch can be a stylish and reliable companion during your adventures, providing accurate timekeeping without relying on batteries
Travel safety begins well before your trip. Before we get in the car, how is your car insurance? Do you have collision, liability, and comprehensive coverage? Does your insurance cover you for where you’re going? Be sure to check over that policy. You absolutely need proper insurance before you get on that road.
Since we’re talking about insurance, you should really get travel insurance as well. According to VisaGuide.World, good travel insurance can reimburse non-recoverable expenses, such as tickets or accommodation costs. You’re insured if your car has an emergency — you should insure yourself in case you have one as well. Travel insurance can assist you with this.
Don’t forget to top up all your fluids and check your tires and brakes. You’re relying on your car, so don’t neglect basic car safety. Go through our vehicle preparation checklist I outline below.
You can consider renting a car. Renting a car can be expensive, and you must book it in advance. However, you can also rent a larger car, if you need it. If you don’t own an SUV but need that storage room, renting is a great solution. The vehicles are well maintained, so there’s peace of mind as well. You can rent RVs. Check out Outdoorsy for a great place to track down sweet RV rentals. It’s Airbnb, but for RVs.
Preparing your house for your absence
This is advice I wish I had much sooner in life. Before you leave, list everything you need to do at home. Finish the laundry, do the dishes, sweep and mop the floors. Clean out your fridge. You want your house to be immaculate when you come back and ensure no pests are tempted to enter. If you’re gone for a while, maybe ask someone to pick up your mail, tend the pets, and water the plants. If you use delivery services, be sure to stop them during the period you’re away.
Some may suggest you leave a light on when you vacation, so it appears that someone’s home. You can do one better. Consider a home security system, so you have complete peace of mind that your home is protected. It always helps to have someone watch your back.
Roadtrip from home
Perhaps you really want to get away, but there’s too much life going on in your life, or the budget isn’t there this year. All is not lost. VR tourism has been growing vastly, even in the last five years. Since 2017, tourism products have increased from 300 to 5000. Tourism experiences went from 1,000 different experiences to over 70,000. This industry is booming. It avoids big crowds, and you can see places in the world that may have never been on your list.
You don’t necessarily need a VR headset to do this, either. VR tourism is created with two different types of cameras: stereoscopic and monoscopic. While both are generally put together in the same fashion, the stereoscopic cameras allow editors to ensure if someone in a VR headset turns their head, they would see whatever was in that direction. While VR tourism for your laptop can’t exactly do that, it can do a lot. Both cameras take a complete, 360-degree image of the area traveled.
The most immersive way to experience VR is through a special headset, and there’s a wide variety to choose from. However, you can experience it from home as well. Much like watching an awesome movie, the better setup you can create, the more pleasing. If on your laptop, consider plugging in your best headphones and shutting off the world around you. Consider hooking up your computer to a big-screen TV, one with a sound system attached, and enjoy the world. Heck, you can even go and enjoy space.
Vehicle preparation checklist
Now that you’re itching to get going, it’s time to take a breath. Don’t overpack your bags. It simply makes them cumbersome and a chore whenever you need to open them up. Some travelers suggest simply bringing a smaller bag to know what you prioritize. Avoid what-if questions when packing. We’re going to recommend some essential safety gear, but beyond that, do you really need it? Really? Truly? Tell yourself no. If that rings true, you don’t need it. Okay, so what about the weather? Well, it might get cold, so bring a sweater. It might rain, so bring a rain jacket you can roll into a tiny little ball. Bring extra socks. The best advice for over-packers is to pack your bag multiple times over a week or two. This way, you’re coming back with a new mind each time to analyze your decisions.
When packing the car, consider some hanging carabiners behind the front seats. Doing this will keep things organized and creates a space where there wasn’t one before. Consider investing in a car-top cargo carrier, but pack that with items you’ll infrequently need, as you won’t want to climb in and out of it continually.
Here are some essentials and accessories you’re going to need.
- Driver’s license
- Car phone holder
- Spare wheel & a car jack
- A small daypack
- Reusable water bottle
- Napkins & a garbage bag
- Food storage containers
- Bug repellant
- Hand sanitizer
- Small first aid kit
- Toilet Paper
- A warm coat
- Rain jacket
- Power bank
- Portable speaker
- Deck of cards
- Jumper cables
I highly recommend you service your vehicle before you leave. Don’t neglect car maintenance. Check your car battery can hold its charge. Ensure the lights, belts, and hoses are all working. Top off your fluids, and replace your filters. Check your brakes, and inspect your tires. Don’t forget to check that your AC is running. Get a clear understanding of the driving laws on the places you will be road tripping on. You’re going to want that too.
With that, you’ve planned your road trip. You’ve booked accommodation, appropriately budgeted, and got some sweet apps to assist you. You’ve packed your bags, and your car is good to go. Nothing left to do but get out on that open road.