Check out these awesome road trip tips and tricks for planning an epic family vacation on a budget. Learn ways to help plan for long car rides with kids, from packing healthy snack foods to fun ideas for activities to keep young children entertained. Find cool things to do along the way with these road trip hacks, whether you are planning a cross country road trip or a couples weekend away. #roadtrip #travel #traveltips
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Road Trip Tips for an Epic Adventure

Check out these awesome road trip tips and tricks for planning an epic family vacation on a budget. Learn ways to help plan for long car rides with kids, from packing healthy snack foods to fun ideas for activities to keep young children entertained. Find cool things to do along the way with these road trip hacks, whether you are planning a cross country road trip or a couples weekend away. #roadtrip #travel #traveltips

With some forward-thinking and intention, you can plan an epic adventure on the road.  Whether you are taking a trip with kids or looking for road trip hacks to save you time and money, we’ve got you covered!  Check out our travel advice to find tips for packing road trip essentials, ideas for how to travel on a budget, and hacks to help you manage all things road trip.  Learn how to get prepared for an amazing road trip adventure without losing your mind!

Clean your car {before & during}

Adding mess to your already cluttered car environment is a surefire recipe for claustrophobia- and disaster! Clutter causes stress and can leave you feeling overwhelmed.  Cleaning your car before you set out-and regularly during your drive- helps reduce aggravation by keeping your surroundings more peaceful. A clean environment makes everyone feel more relaxed.

Be aware of seasonal hazards

Certain areas of the country are prone to seasonal hazards- hurricane season down south, wildfire season in the west, or blizzard conditions in the northeast can all impact travel.  While it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a no go, it’s good to be aware of the potential troubles or dangers.

Preload your phone with entertainment

Somewhere between the excitement of heading out and the excitement of getting there lies all the time in between.  And while you can plan your trip to hit attractions or highlights along the way, there will definitely be some time in between that could drag.  

To reduce the lulls in between adventures, preload your device with entertainment.  

  • Podcasts are a great way to learn on the go.  Scope out some you’re interested in and download them in advance of your trip for network-free listening.
  • Create an epic road trip playlist to jam when you’re in the middle of nowhere.
  • If you have a DVD player, bring some movies for the kiddos.
  • If you don’t have built-in screens, preload a device with downloads from Netflix for data-free streaming.

Check out these awesome road trip tips and tricks for planning an epic family vacation on a budget. Learn ways to help plan for long car rides with kids, from packing healthy snack foods to fun ideas for activities to keep young children entertained. Find cool things to do along the way with these road trip hacks, whether you are planning a cross country road trip or a couples weekend away. #roadtrip #travel #traveltips

Prep technology support

Chargers

Be sure to bring your device chargers!  Dead devices tell no tales. Also, consider bringing an auxiliary cord so that you can connect your device to your vehicle speakers for all to hear.

Trip Advisor

Trip Advisor is my favorite app for all things travel.  The easy to use interface makes it a cinch to search for road trip hidden gems and destination must-sees.  Check out nearby restaurant reviews and book accommodations directly from the app as you drive along (be sure to check out our post on how to score great accommodations on a budget!)

TripIt

TripIt organizes all your travel itineraries and documents so you have everything in one place.  Keep yourself organized with this all-in-one app and create a master itinerary for your epic road trip adventure! 

Free WiFi Finder

Need access to wifi but aren’t familiar with the area you’re traveling in?  Be sure to download the Free Wifi Finder app.  This app will help you find free wifi networks across America (and in over 50 countries worldwide).

Check out these awesome road trip tips and tricks for planning an epic family vacation on a budget. Learn ways to help plan for long car rides with kids, from packing healthy snack foods to fun ideas for activities to keep young children entertained. Find cool things to do along the way with these road trip hacks, whether you are planning a cross country road trip or a couples weekend away. #roadtrip #travel #traveltips

Consider joining a roadside rescue service

You’re bound to encounter some surprises on your adventures, so be prepared with some roadside assistance (like AAA).  Before you buy, call your car insurance company to find out what roadside services they offer. Many companies offer these programs, but options and areas of service vary.  Know what coverage you have before you go so that you are prepared for what might lie ahead.

Have important documents

Speaking of insurance, be sure to have your documents together in case you experience a series of unfortunate events while on your road trip.  Check to ensure your license, insurance, and registration are all up-to-date.

Keep chilled

Save money by packing a cooler or an electric cool box with road trip food and drink options.  Lunchmeat, string cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt, or prepackaged salads make great roadside meal options and can save you lots of cash over fast food and restaurant stops.  Find a nice rest stop and enjoy a picnic while you stretch your legs.

Pack a road trip survival kit

Keep necessities nearby and in one place by creating a road trip survival kit.  Use a drawstring bag to keep your essentials organized and easily accessible.

    • Sanitary wet wipes
    • First aid kit
    • Tissues
    • Plastic bags (I love the convenience of diaper bag baggies!)
    • Snacks
    • Chapstick, lotion
    • Deodorant, perfume, mints

Bring a map

I know in the days of GPS, bringing a paper map sounds like a huge step back in time.  However, there are still places in this great country where service is spotty and you float around like a blue dot in a sea of GPS gray.  Find your way out of the technological dead zone like a real adventurer by tracing your route on a map.

If you have a AAA membership, they will provide paper maps (and tour books) to you at no cost.  They’ll even highlight your route for you if you’d like (this reminds me of the glory days of my youth…anyone else???)  Stop by a local branch before you set out on your road trip to get squared away.

If you decided to brave the wild unknowns without a paper map and decide later to heed my advice, you can likely pick up a map at any gas station or convenience store on the road.

When you return home, use your map as the backdrop in a shadow box showcasing highlights of your adventure!

If paper maps aren’t your jam, at least remember to download the maps you’ll need from Google maps or maps.me so that you have access to your digital maps when you get off the beaten path.  If you have an external GPS, be sure to update your maps prior to setting off on your road trip.

Check out these awesome road trip tips and tricks for planning an epic family vacation on a budget. Learn ways to help plan for long car rides with kids, from packing healthy snack foods to fun ideas for activities to keep young children entertained. Find cool things to do along the way with these road trip hacks, whether you are planning a cross country road trip or a couples weekend away. #roadtrip #travel #traveltips

Pack activities to help kids stretch their legs

Bring supplies to help kids get active during restroom breaks and meal stops.  Pack some jump ropes, frisbees, balls, or bubbles to get them playing and moving.

Pack like a minimalist- one bag rule

Nothing can dampen the excitement of a road trip quicker than being crammed between a bunch of stuff in the car.  Claustrophobia, anyone? To keep spaces from becoming overwhelming, stick to a one bag rule for each passenger. Check out our tips and tricks for one bag travel if you need help figuring out how to pack like a minimalist for your road trip.

Pack an essentials kit for your tiny travelers

Have each child pack their own small bag for travel essentials and road trip activities.  This will help keep your car organized because kids will have a place for all of their items.  Plus, by storing it in a bag, you’ll ensure they don’t pack the contents of their entire room into the backseat.

Bring a travel-size pillow and blanket along for each kiddo so that they can pass out in comfort.

EJ has this toddler backpack that we scored on sale from eBags.  It is the perfect size for a toddler!  He brings it to church every week so that he has toys and activities to entertain himself quietly.  He often asks to take it along on car trips so he can have things to play with while we run around.

Check out these awesome road trip tips and tricks for planning an epic family vacation on a budget. Learn ways to help plan for long car rides with kids, from packing healthy snack foods to fun ideas for activities to keep young children entertained. Find cool things to do along the way with these road trip hacks, whether you are planning a cross country road trip or a couples weekend away. #roadtrip #travel #traveltips

Prepare for unpleasantries 

Pre-open gallon zip lock bags so they’re readily available.  Little kids have no ability to judge upcoming stomach movements.  Pack dry snacks, like ginger snaps, trail mix, or crackers, and fruit to help settle upset tummies.  Also, have brain games that don’t require looking down for passengers that are prone to sickness.  Try a scavenger hunt or play the license plate game.

Road Trip Tips for Timing & Travel

Have a loose plan. Forget about making great time.

Part of what makes an epic road trip is what you see and do along the way.  Allow for extra time to stop at the nearby attractions and see the “world’s largest whatever” that’s nearby.  You won’t remember how fast you arrived at your destination, but you will remember the memories you made along the way. So check out that quirky tourist attraction or visit that historical site.  

Don’t overschedule your time

Booking every possible event and stop into your trip will exhaust everyone and make you feel like you need a vacation from your vacation (not to mention what this constant busyness will do to your toddler’s attitude!).  

Research and find the attractions you’re most interested in and plan other activities around that.  If you hit your must-do’s, you’ll still have an amazing time and won’t feel like you missed out. If your kids are older, have them research your vacation route and destination.  Let each person pick an activity or event they’d like to do.

Check out these awesome road trip tips and tricks for planning an epic family vacation on a budget. Learn ways to help plan for long car rides with kids, from packing healthy snack foods to fun ideas for activities to keep young children entertained. Find cool things to do along the way with these road trip hacks, whether you are planning a cross country road trip or a couples weekend away. #roadtrip #travel #traveltips

Roadtrippers

If you’re looking for a great tool for planning your stops, be sure to check out Roadtrippers.  Roadtrippers is a travel website that allows you to put in your road trip starting point and ending destination and then shows you points of interest along the way.  You can select the things that sound cool to you and Roadtrippers will adjust your mapped route accordingly. It also gives you the number of hours the drive will take, the miles you’ll drive, and your estimated fuel costs.  You can add 7 waypoints to a trip with their free trip planning options.

Have a roughed out itinerary

Always have a few ideas of what you could do on your road trip floating around in your mind.  You don’t want to spend half the day just figuring out what you will do that day!

Keep your options open and don’t create a minute-by-minute, stop by stop schedule.  Having a structured schedule is a surefire way to create stress and frustration because things never go perfectly to plan when you combine road trips + family.  

Be an Emerson- Take the roads less traveled

For the more adventurous, check out routes that use backroads and county roads off the main highways.  Less traveled routes offer spur of the moment adventures and provide way more visual interest!

Stop every few hours

Just like you need a mental break when working on projects, a few minutes apart to breathe can be just the reset you need on a road trip.  AAA recommends stopping every two hours or 100 miles on family road trips, but if the babes are sleeping, mama didn’t raise no fool!

Road trip tips for entertainment

Pack options other than screens

While screens are fine for short term distraction, don’t rely on movies and games to get you through the entire trip.  Too much screen time stimulates the brain and causes agitation.  To break up the time between screen activities, pack coloring books, travel games, or books.  We use this super cool erasable drawing pad for road trips. 

For family fun, challenge the group to some classic road trip games:

  • I spy
  • the license plate game
  • 20 questions
  • scavenger hunt

Keeping young minds sharp will help pass the time, but don’t feel like you have to schedule every second of the trip for your kids.  It’s okay for them to have to entertain themselves. I mean, you do really want to deprive them of the experience of road trip classic statements like, “Are we there yet?!?” and “I’m bored!”

Distract the backseat minions

While screens shouldn’t be your only means of entertainment, they certainly have their place.  Turn on a show and get some much needed quiet time to connect with your pilot or co-pilot.

Check out these awesome road trip tips and tricks for planning an epic family vacation on a budget. Learn ways to help plan for long car rides with kids, from packing healthy snack foods to fun ideas for activities to keep young children entertained. Find cool things to do along the way with these road trip hacks, whether you are planning a cross country road trip or a couples weekend away. #roadtrip #travel #traveltips

Road trip tips for food & beverages

Time liquid intake

Kids having access to beverages carte blanche is a recipe for disaster!  It’s a guarantee they’ll chug at different rates and have to pee 5 minutes after the last stop or long before you want to stop again.  

To avoid the “I have to pee!” problems, have kids drink about 45 minutes to an hour before you plan to stop. If they’re thirsty in between, give them high water content fruits & vegetables like grapes, strawberries, cantaloupe, cucumber slices, celery, or peppers.  

Bring jugs of water to refill reusable water bottles at stops.  This will keep your car from piling up with plastic bottles and will help reduce waste.

Snack Smart- road trip healthy snacks

Packing road trip foods is a great way to travel on a budget.  There are lots of healthy snacks that also are travel-friendly.  Pack a cooler and keep some of these options on hand:

  • Homemade trail mix
  • Peanut butter & jelly, cheese sandwiches
  • Hard cheeses, string cheese
  • Baked chips
  • Hard-boiled eggs (can double as egg salad for sandwiches when you add mayo)
  • Sliced fruits and veggies

Also, pack condiment packets that won’t require refrigeration or utensils.  Finally, be sure to avoid sticky, crumbly, or high sugar snacks.  These will make a mess all over your kids and your vehicle!

Miscellaneous road trip tips:

Carry some cash (small bills and change)

Some places still use the paperbacks for things like parking, gas, or facility use.  Plus, don’t underestimate the value of bribing your kids with a vending machine purchase at the next rest stop.   

Fueling up

Gas Buddy is a great website for all things fuel.  Use their gas predictor to get an estimate of your expected road trip fuel costs.

Don’t push your luck when sit comes to the amount of gas in the tank.  There’s nothing worse than expecting a gas station to be up ahead and finding no stops for 50 to 100 miles or more. Anticipate this by checking out Gas Buddy for a nearby stop or use your phone’s map to search nearby locations.

What’s the #1 road trip tip?  Be flexible!

Things will go wrong.  Your kids will likely meltdown at some point.  You & your spouse will inevitably fight over directions.  There’s a high probability that someone will create allllll the smells.  Just remember to breathe (unless we’re talking about the smells) and remind yourself that this too shall pass.  Sometimes it’s the things that go awry on a trip that make for the best memories.

So create your plans, chart your path, buckle up, and remember- a road trip is as much about the journey as it is the destination.  

Check out these awesome road trip tips and tricks for planning an epic family vacation on a budget. Learn ways to help plan for long car rides with kids, from packing healthy snack foods to fun ideas for activities to keep young children entertained. Find cool things to do along the way with these road trip hacks, whether you are planning a cross country road trip or a couples weekend away. #roadtrip #travel #traveltips