If you love to travel, trying out a cross-country road trip should definitely be on your bucket list. There is something authentic and adventurous about exploring cities on your wheels. You get to smell the air, feel the breeze, and take your time to soak in the scenery.
Of course, air travel is faster and much more convenient. It is often less tiring and involves far fewer hassles. But waiting at airports with unexpected delays and cancelations is hardly fun. There is no predicting weather troubles, strikes, or staff shortages—common factors creating chaos in air travel, especially in recent times. Even IT failures can lead to thousands of flight cancelations, as seen early this year with the Federal Aviation Administration and Lufthansa. Air tickets are also becoming expensive, with prices rising on average by 42% in 2022.
Besides, traveling through cities is much more interesting than traveling over them. And a cross-country road trip could be the perfect way to unwind and spend time with your travel companions. But it requires some preplanning. In this article, we discuss everything you need to know to prepare for an exciting journey on the road.
How to Prepare for a Road Trip Across the Country
Long-distance travel demands ample preparation, especially when you intend to drive. Here are our top tips to get you ready.
1. Plan your route
This is the essential first step to any road trip. Start mapping out your route by considering the destinations you want to cover. Get your travel buddies involved in preparing a list of places you can explore together. Make sure there is something for everyone. Bathroom breaks, gas stations, and occasional stops to stretch your legs are also important to include.
Now, you likely wouldn’t need to worry about finding places to eat. Chances are there will be plenty of diners, restaurants, and cafés near travel attractions and in passing towns. But identifying a few options ahead could save you time.
Planning for a good night’s sleep at the end of each day is also crucial. Driving long hours is tiring, no matter how fun the journey may be. This is when most road accidents happen. So, to ensure everyone’s safety, you need to get a rest. Besides, your car will appreciate an occasional break too.
A word of caution: don’t get carried away with too much planning. A few unscheduled stops could make it extra fun. Besides, cramming your itinerary with too many things could make your road trip unnecessarily stressful. Remember, the goal is to have fun.
2. Get to know your route
Knowing your route is just as critical as planning it. After locking in the stopovers and mapping out the course, do some research to understand what you should expect in your journey ahead.
For example, how is the weather along the way? Are the roads in good shape? Will there be roadblocks or any pre-scheduled events that could affect your drive? Are there any special holidays or events that may overlap with your itinerary in any of the towns you plan to visit? Will there be special rules, laws, and customs you should be aware of? A few hours of research will get you up-to-date on all these so you can plan a smooth trip across different states.
Today, road-trip planning apps, like Roadtrippers and Waze, have become increasingly popular among travelers for mapping out routes. But there is one critical factor most first-time road travelers forget to consider: what happens if there is no internet connectivity? Although rare, this is a very real possibility. Some apps, like Google Travel, will work offline. But it would hardly make a difference if you have device trouble, such as a malfunction or a dead battery. This is why an old-fashioned paper map is an essential companion for any road trip, especially if it involves long-distance travel.
3. Ensure your car is road-ready
The last thing you want on your cross-country road trip is car trouble. To confirm your car is road-ready:
- Get it inspected by an experienced mechanic. Inform them about your planned journey and the distance your car must endure.
- Check your tires, oil, brakes, lights, air filters, coolant, and everything in between.
- Ask for their advice on repairs and replacements to plan for a safe drive.
In addition, keep a fix-a-flat, jump jack, and socket set in the car to tackle any unexpected events.
4. Pack the essentials
Here is what we recommend you pack for the drive:
Food and drinks
Your friends and family will appreciate some snacks to nibble on. Also, pack plenty of water. Dehydration could make you tired and sap energy.
Clothes and blankets
Take weather-appropriate clothes to last your trip, together with a few extras in case of an emergency.
Having a first aid kit is also important to avoid going in search of a drugstore for basic mishaps.
Consider downloading a few travel-music playlists. You can also pack a DVD player and some puzzles, magazines, and games.
Phones in good working order and backup batteries are essential. But ensure they are all charged.
In addition, knowing whom to call in an emergency is crucial to avoid extra stress. So, prepare a list of contacts that may come in handy during your time away from home.
Nowadays, there are online resources to help you with this. Leadar is an excellent tool for finding local mechanics if you run into car trouble. iExit will find the nearest gas station along the interstate in case you run out of fuel.
To Wrap Up
Adequate preparation is crucial when you are planning a cross-country road trip with friends and family. Prepare an itinerary, map out your route, and spend time researching it. Get your car checked, have it cleaned, and list what you may need to avoid overloading it at the last minute. With sufficient planning, you could make the best out of your road trip, so you and your companions can enjoy the drive.