Tips for Planning a Road Trip

A young woman wearing headphones in the back of a car.

With the summer now in full swing, a lot of us are already planning a road trip to get out there and enjoy the good weather. It’s been a strange year or so, and many of us are itching to get away from our homes and see new things.

When I was younger, I used to just hop in the car and go, but the older I get, the more I realize how much it pays to plan ahead. So, in this article, I’ll give you some of my favorite tips for making your big summer road trip a success.

Getting everyone scheduled is the top priority

In my opinion, who goes on a trip is the most important factor in how much fun you’ll have. A vacation provides a chance to spend quality time with the people you care about. The unfortunate thing, though, is that people also tend to be busy.

If you are going with family, you might have to plan around kids’ summer camps, social commitments, possible summer classes, conflicting travel plans, weddings, and much more. If you are also going with friends, things might get even trickier. It can be frustrating to get even a small group of adults to get anything on the calendar.

I recommend formalizing your scheduling. I’ve learned the hard way that scheduling with a series of texts and emails gets very chaotic very quickly. It’s just too easy for people to forget, book over the trip, miss changes to plan, and so on. I like to send my friends a calendar invite and get everyone to accept it and put it on the calendar. If plans change, a friend needs to propose a new time, so that everyone can see the changes happening in real time. It might seem oddly formal, but it’s one of the best ways to get everyone on the same page despite busy lives.

Have a plan for staying connected

Getting lost is no fun. Driving for hours without being able to stream music or podcasts is not fun. Being stuck in middle of nowhere without the ability to call for help in an emergency is the least fun of all. That’s why it’s very important that you have a plan for how you will stay connected during your trip.

Bringing your phone is not enough. At minimum, I would recommend having a car charger to charge your phone when it runs low on battery.  If you plan on leaving the car to go on day trips, I’d also recommend having a portable battery. I bring one with me when I go on hikes, so I know that I can charge my phone if I need to while I’m away from the car.

Consider setting up in-car Wi-Fi

If you want to make staying connected especially easy for your passengers, you might also want to consider setting up in-car Wi-Fi. In-car Wi-Fi uses a cellular network to broadcast Wi-Fi service to people in or near the car. It’s really nice, because everyone can just connect to the network, much like they would if they were at home. It’s great for things like streaming music.

If you’re interested in learning more about in-car Wi-Fi, you might want to check out this article.

Consider downloading map data ahead of time

There are still some places where you might not be able to get service for short periods of time. I’ve found that just in case, it’s smart to download your maps information from your navigation app ahead of time. That way you’ll still have access to navigation if you briefly lose service. It’s not hard to do, and it’s better to have the maps and not need them than to need them and not have them.

Prepare for the worst

There’s a reason the saying “hope for the best and prepare for the worse” is so popular. For a road trip, that means packing a few items that might help if things go wrong. A few items that come to mind include rain ponchos, jumper cables, a first aid kit, and the tools needed to change a tire, such as a jack, a spare tire, and a lug wrench. Additionally, you’ll want to think carefully about your specific trip and what items might be needed if things go wrong where you are going.

Pack some “real” food

On a long road trip you’re going to have to eat along the way. Regardless of where you are headed, there’s a good chance you’ll spend a decent amount of time out in the country. Your food options might be limited in these areas, and even if they aren’t, going to restaurants the whole trip can be expensive.

I’ve found that I enjoy the trip a lot more if I put a cooler in the trunk and bring some food of my own.

Make sure your car is ready

If you are potentially going to put hundreds or even thousands of new miles on your car, it’s worth making sure your vehicle is up for the journey. This doesn’t mean you need to spend a bunch of money at the mechanic, but it’s worth making sure you have the basics, like a recent oil change, enough wiper fluid, and AC that is in good condition.

Good luck planning your road trip, and drive safely

Hopefully this post gave you a few tips and encouraged you to do a little preparation ahead of time. It might feel like extra work, but planning your road trip can make things that much more fun. Now, please remember to drive safely, and have a great trip!

This article was written by Matt Johnsen, a TechBuzz contributor. The statements in this article are his own and don’t necessarily represent the positions, strategies, or opinions of AT&T.

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