There is nothing more fun than an old-fashioned road trip. I love taking to the open road and exploring our country, and of course, international road trips are incredible too. When I think of driving vacations though, for some reason I think of the trips my parents took my brother, sister, and me on when I was a little girl. We drove to the Smokey Mountains for a weekend getaway and to Charleston, South Carolina to visit my Aunt and Uncle and cousins. As I got older, I really enjoyed the road trips driving out west as a teenager from Indiana to New Mexico and have wonderful memories stopping to camp in Red Rock Canyon, Oklahoma with my sister's friends.
Nowadays, since I live on the west coast, I really enjoy a road trip on the famous
Pacific Coast Highway
driving up North to San Francisco and beyond to California's Wine Country regions of Napa, Sonoma, or the Russian River Valley. I also like driving South to San Diego or Temecula (a lesser known region for California wines). Some of my favorite road trips have been to Arizona as it has so many great places to visit like the Grand Canyon, Sedona, Tucson and recently I went on a road trip to Scottsdale (one of my favorite places). That's where I started writing this article -- in the lobby of JW Marriott Desert Ridge where I was attending a travel workshop (see the above photo). By the way, I've been to the JW Marriott several times and you have to love the adorable bunny rabbits that come out to graze every afternoon in the Marriott's beautiful gardens.
Now, I’ve been a "road tripper" for some time and although I love air travel, I love the road trip because that’s how you can really experience the country including driving through the land of enchantment, New Mexico. So it's time to get your favorite tunes and munchies ready and plan your open road trip adventure with these ten easy road trip travel tips.
1. Plan your trip.
You need to start your road trip planning by determining where you’re going to go. I've put together some vacation destination resource guides for planning trips to a U.S. Destination or an International Destination with important travel tips before you go. You might also want to pick up a good guide book, like Lonely Planet's USA Book: A Journey Through America.
This book is packed with info about great landmarks, attractions, hotels and local restaurants. The authors of these guide books are not allowed to accept free accommodation or meals in exchange for favorable write-ups, so their recommendations are honest and objective.
Road trip planning doesn’t have to take a long a time, but you do need to know the route you’re going to drive and points of interest along the way that you’re going to want to stop and explore. Half the fun of a road trip is seeing the sites along the way.
I like to MapQuest my trip and have that as my main plan of attack for my road trip. GPS is very popular these days and I recommend them since I recently got one and love it, but you can’t always rely on them when you hit construction zones or accidents on your journey. That’s why it’s essential that you have a real map with you for the areas you’ll be traveling to and to plan alternate routes if necessary.
Here's a new tip my friend, Liz, just clued me in on. Before you hit the road, check out the road conditions, especially if you think you may run into some nasty or dangerous weather. You may need to postpone your road trip or look into an alternate route. If you don't check before you go, you get stuck in a bad situation.
2. Make your hotel reservations.
Make your hotel reservations BEFORE you go. Part of the fun when traveling on the road is stopping wherever your heart desires, but there’s nothing worse than a “no room at the inn” experience on a road trip. You may not realize that there is a “Renaissance Fair,” “Strawberry Festival” or convention in town while you’re visiting and there are no rooms or cheap hotels to be had.
When you're doing you're road trip planning and you don’t book your reservations in advance, not only are you running the risk of having to sleep in your car but also you can’t manage your road trip budget effectively as you may end up paying more for your hotel.
Also, if you’re traveling with your family or a group of friends, consider staying at an all-suite hotel or even renting a time share as alternative to cheap hotels. They're usually a better value and a great option for families taking a road trip. 90 percent of people who own a timeshare don’t utilize it on a regular basis.
Many great offers can be found at some of the bigger hotel chains that offer timeshares and many of them even have a washer and dryer. For my road trip to Scottsdale, I booked a fantastic one-bedroom suite with a kitchenette at a Sheraton Time Share property directly through the hotel for just $100/night including tax at the Sheraton Desert Oasis Villas.
Country Inns & Suites, Staybridge Suites, Embassy Suites Hotels, and Cottonwood Suites are fantastic all suite hotels and Holiday Inn Club Vacations also has villas available.
Now, if you like camping on your road trip, I've recently discovered Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park™ Camp-Resorts at campjellystone.com. They're packed with family fun and are an economical getaway in the great outdoors. You'll find a range of accommodation choices - from rustic to downright luxurious - to help you plan a vacation the whole family will love. Reservations are recommended at campgrounds, too, especially ones as popular as Jellystone Parks.
3. Give your car a full tune up.
Give your car a full tune up before you go or consider renting a car. Making sure your automobile is in tip top working order is essential for road trip planning. One week before you go on your road trip, take your car in for a tune up and ask your mechanic to ensure the car fluids are topped, air pressure in your tires is at its best for highway driving, and any other necessary concerns regarding your vehicle are addressed. Should you need to get something fixed, it is best to do it at a place you can trust before your road trip. Plus, it can be more expensive when it is a have-to situation. Also, make sure you pack a roadside safety kit just in case of an emergency. For me that kit includes my AAA membership card (Premier Membership). If you have a car that is no longer under warranty or has automatic roadside assistance, then a AAA membership is a necessity as it will save you a fortune in the unfortunate event you have a break down and have to have your car towed.
If you’re concerned that your current vehicle is not “road trip worthy,” then you may want to consider renting a vehicle for your road trip. I did this for my trip to Arizona as I found a great deal on a rental car through Expedia.com and had the peace of mind for my road trip.
4. Pack your own food and plan a picnic.
I used to be addicted to stopping at fast food joints on a road trip. There was something that felt fun about that on a trip but I’ve since learned that I prefer to pack my own food for my journey. It doesn’t just keep me eating healthier, but it also saves money, too, especially if you’re traveling with your family. Also, if you plan ahead, you may find that there is a great stop for a scenic picnic in your travels and packing a picnic is so much better than flying through the Drive-thru. If you do make a stop, either for a picnic or to explore a cool sight along the way, check out my Sun Safety Tips. I wrote them for cruisers, but they apply to road-trippers, too.
One thing I like about road trips is that I can pack a little more luggage than when I fly and have some creature comforts I can't bring on a plane, like a full size pillow. If you need luggage, you can get $50 off your purchase of $400 and Free Shipping at Luggage Pros! Use coupon code "LP400" at checkout.
5. Bring great music or Audible Books with you.
Music is truly the soundtrack of our lives and every road trip needs a soundtrack. You might want to start with the top five best travel songs ever and choose some great tunes new and classic pop rock. I think of my trip to Seattle every time I hear a Phil Collins song from “No Jacket Required” because that was the primary music I was listening to on that trip. I think of the Bahamas Harbor Island and the amazing walks on the Pink Sands Beach every time I hear Wilson Phillips music. It’s sort of like having a theme song for every vacation but hearing the music even today will evoke fun memories of wonderful trips.