Although I can say I’ve only really gotten the hang of travelling in the last few years, I’m certainly no stranger to road trips.
When I was nineteen, I headed off to Sunderland to study at university, a long five or six hour drive away. Although I didn’t drive at the time, I soon became used to catching the train home or long coach journeys with a decent book and perfectly curated playlists to keep me company. Five years ago, I grabbed some friends and headed off on my first mini road trip – following our favourite band around the UK. This was my first experience of planning a road trip and taught me loads. In April last year, I joined a TrekAmerica tour around Mexico which although I didn’t plan, was my first experience of a group tour/a road trip in another country. Then, finally, last summer, my ex-boyfriend and I did a road trip around Romania – and this included me learning how to drive on the opposite side of the road!
These were some of my favourite all-time trips and I feel like choosing to road trip/travel around each place gave me the opportunity to really get to know each country a lot better.
I also have a big road trip to plan for next year too, so I thought it might be time I do a blog post about my favourite tips for planning a road trip!
TAKE PLENTY OF TIME TO CHOOSE A VEHICLE
This is especially important if you’ll be roadtrippin’ around a different country where different rules apply. It’s tempting to go all out and book, say a classic convertible when travelling around the US but in reality, do you actually have any experience driving that kind of car? It’s really important to factor in these types of things because driving in a country other than your own is automatically going to make things a little more difficult. If it’s a long road trip, you might want to choose a car a bit more spacious. For example, here in the UK I drive a little Ford KA and have only been driving for three years now. In Romania, I had to learn to drive on the opposite side of the road in a giant minivan thing and let me tell you, drivers are crazy in Romania – especially in Bucharest! I was lucky enough to have three or four days to practice beforehand so depending on where you’re going and what you’ll be driving, it’s very important to put some time aside to practice beforehand. Take the time to research into hiring from a reputable source and, of course, ensure that if more than one of you can drive, all drivers are put on the insurance so driving time is shared out equally.
A road trip can sometimes seem like a once in a lifetime trip so it’s very easy to get carried away with planning. Before you do anything, research and set a budget to stick to – this is easily done if you choose cheaper accommodation and stock up on food. Depending on how long the trip is, be realistic about time too – during our last trip, we thought one night in each place would be plenty of time but we didn’t take into account driving times at all. So some places we only saw very briefly in the evening – and with so much driving every single day, I ended up exhausted. Try to choose just a few essential places to stay at for more than one night and don’t be scared about being picky about where to go. Some places you’ll unfortunately just have to miss out (until next time anyway!) so make a list of must visit places and plan around these. Choose your travel partner wisely too – but no matter how well you pick, there will likely be one or two squabbles along the way. So it’s also important to pencil in some time out from each other too.
…BUT DON’T PLAN EVERYTHING
For longer trips especially, allow for some leeway. Pack a tent and allow yourself the opportunity to camp some nights or leave it closer to the time to book for some accommodation (and speaking of which, do mix it up with accommodation – it’s totally fun to book cheap and cheerful but this can also allow for one or two nicer hotel rooms which you’ll no doubt appreciate after a week of slumming it!) – you might try somewhere out of your comfort zone or get a better deal this way. Poke around and explore – in some cities, make a list of places you really want to go. For others? Allow yourself to just relax..you might find some interesting roadside attractions on the drive there or might rock up to find fun events going on. If you’re a bit of a control freak, it might be worth picking a friend who is a little more laid back than you so you can balance each other out. If they can encourage a night or two off the radar without freaking out, you could end up with some amazing memories!
GET APP SAVVY
There are tons of different apps to help you on your way – although it’s important to obviously plan in advance, gone are the days where you have to print of all your maps and directions in advance (although this could be a fun way to keep things old school!). I have had so much fun using Roadtrippers to plan my next big trip, as this includes tons of travel inspiration, offers realistic driving times and brings up a variety of quirky roadside attractions based on your journey. It also comes as an app too. I also love Waze – for journey updates – and Geosure – which helps you stay safe and find the safest locations during any trip. Oh, I’d also recommend checking out the Wish app in advance for some nifty little travel products like this little pouch for all your electricals (ideal when getting on and off of flights) or these cool car storage pockets.
AND LIMIT TECHNOLOGY USE
Plan ahead with your technology use – it’ll likely be worth getting a new sim for where you’re visiting and downloading maps and such to use offline whilst you’re on the road. Take photos, but try and limit using social media. Driving on the open road is a great excuse to connect back with nature and travel. Document your journey -do it old school with a notebook and polaroid camera! But if you really can’t give up your phone, there are plenty of apps that let you check in and add photos to an online scrapbook – just keep off Facebook and Twitter whilst you do so.
The thing about planning a road trip is that the planning of the trip is half the fun! Curating the best playlists and choosing the perfect snacks are surefire ways to get prepped for an amazing trip – so I tend to save these until last – or at least until I’ve got all the boring stuff out of the way like car insurance, buying flights etc. These are just some tips to help plan that perfect road trip – and everyone should take a road trip at least once in their life!
What are your road trip tips? Let me know!