5 Things to Know Before Heading Out on a Summer Road Trip

Oh summer road trips, a time to sit back and relax as the beautiful scenery flashes by from your window. At least for Summer 2020, it seems everyone is heading out on a road trip in one form or another (driving RVs, towing RVs, a suped-up van, a geared up motorcycle or just a plain old car).

With so many people hitting the highway this year (and hopefully at least a couple of backroads), we thought it would be fun to share few helpful tips with you - after doing our own fair share of road tripping across the States as well as internationally (want to know some of our favorite routes?).

Open tarmac road through golden hills in Iceland.
Time to hit the open road. PC Nuno Antunes on Unsplash.

So, without further ado, here are 5 things you should know before hitting the open road.

Download As Many Podcasts, Books, Soundtracks and Meditation Music As Possible

You will spend a lot of time in the car while road tripping (duh), so it definitely helps to have some good background noise - especially when driving through those “not” so pretty areas (sorry Kansas that means you).

We are suckers for a good podcast as we like to be entertained and learn something at the same time. But honestly, we both just tend to get bored with music after the first hour or so. Podcasts, at least for us, fill that silence that eventually hits us all around hour 2 or 3.

A few of our favorites are: The Dollop (funny, historical and a tad, okay maybe a lot, raunchy), Stuff You Should Know (for random facts that you can bring up at the next family gathering) and Lore (for slightly creepy, but mostly weird, historical stories or “folklore”). While we personally love our history podcasts, there are toooooons more to choose from.

Phone playing Spotify with hand.
Podcasts are key. PC Morning Brew on Unsplash.

And if podcasts aren’t your jam and you instead want something a bit longer (or with a bit more depth) then audiobooks are the thing to get. We use Audible most of the time and have listened to dozens of books during not only road trips, but also international travel (and sometimes even to fall asleep to at night).

Finally, if you don’t like to learn something (no judgment) then some kickass soundtracks or some nice calming meditation music (especially if you are traveling with kids) can help the miles fly by and make even the most boring stretch not half bad.

Don’t Worry About Your Diet While Driving

There is this odd thing that happens when you start driving for hours on end. For some reason you think it is completely respectable to load up on junk food. Again no judgment, we are guilty of it too. The only other times this seems to be okay is when heading to the movie theatre (remember when we could do that), or spending the day at a sports game (also that).

Our junk food of choice is often gummy bears, peach rings, tortilla chips, and an Arnold Palmer to wash it all down. Though I (Madalyne) will admit that I once went on a 13-hour road trip living off cheerios and almond milk alone. Good times.

So forget about your diet and splurge on that junk food you’ve been eyeing for a couple weeks. When on the open road, no one cares that your breath smells like Peppermint Paddy’s or beef jerky.

Be Prepared to Drive In Inclement Weather, and At Night

We have said it time and again, we will NEVER drive at night. But for some reason when push comes to shove we still keep going for an hour or two well past blue hour. Driving in bad weather, and in the dark, sucks. It keeps you from seeing the beautiful scenery (which is one of the biggest perks of road-tripping) and makes driving a lot more stressful (goodbye blissful fun).

So just know that Mother Nature is fickle and eventually you will just have to take a deep breath and white knuckle through it. But know yhat sooner or later the weather will clear, the sun will come out and you will be able to appreciate the amazing nature as it zooms by once again. Heck, you might even appreciate it a bit more (silver linings).

Don’t Be Too Stubborn To Stop

This is key for enjoying your road trip. While you can see a lot of beautiful, stunning landscapes from your car window, there is nothing like actually getting out and experiencing them firsthand. This is what sets road-tripping apart from flying - the ability to stop when you want, where you want and take it all in.

And this doesn’t just mean at the most “famous” roadside attractions or lookout points. Pull over at any amazing vista, or simply take a walk down that cool dirt road you just passed. In the end, just stepping out of your vehicle every once in a while and experiencing the land fully, will make the road trip that much more special.

Person walking on ridge at sunset.
Get out for a walk every once in a while. PC Jad Limcaco on Unsplash.

Allow Your Plans to Change

This might be the best tip we can give you when planning a road trip - do not let your set itinerary be the end all. It is okay if you don’t get to see every single thing on your to-do list, especially if one of those “things” ends up being super dope. Don’t stick to your schedule so much that you stop enjoying what is right in front of your face.

The small things, the random stops, are often what you remember most after a trip. For us, we love pulling over and just taking a quick walkabout, snapping a couple photos and then just staring out at a place (seriously, really take it all in). Many of those random stops have been the key things we remember years later.

A great personal example is when we did a 6-day road trip through Northern Thailand and had a very open schedule with almost no plans for where we would stay each night. And in the end, everything turned out okay (we never had to sleep on the side of the road) and got to experience so many random places that if we had had a strict schedule we never would have pulled over for (so many pit-stops for waterfalls...).

A road trip isn’t supposed to stick to a set schedule - if you want that, take a flight. Be okay with the random delays (elk jams in Rocky Mountain National Park are a great one) and don’t stress about not seeing everything.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, the key to having a truly awesome road trip experience is letting go of your strict guidelines and letting the road take you wherever it wants. The freedom the open road gives you is one of the reasons so many people embark on them regularly. So while you are planning the most amazing road trip route possible - don’t be afraid to leave a couple of spots open for some random magic to hit you along the way.

Road cuts through redwood forest in California.
The open road is calling. PC Elizabeth Explores on Unsplash.

Want to know how we plan awesome road trips? Then check out these apps to help get you off-the-beaten-track.

And make sure to look at our Routes page, where you will find info on two of our all-time favorite road trip areas: Northern California (hello Redwoods) and the stunning American Southwest.