The smoothest, most successful road trips are those that are planned well but leave plenty of room for adventure. These five tips and tricks can help you plan your upcoming cross-country trek the right way to minimize your stress, maximize fun, and make the most out of your next road trip in your new Ford Explorer.
1. Take a Pre-Planned Route
Trying to plan your own route for a long road trip can be stressful and overwhelming. Plus, charting out a route to take through an unfamiliar area might lead you along unattractive roads that require long detours to reach any interesting destinations. Choosing a pre-planned route can take stress out of your road trip and make it more exciting and adventurous.
There are several classic American road trips that have already been mapped out and tested by expert travelers. These routes are pre-planned for their scenery, proximity to interesting destinations, and convenience for traveling long distances across state lines. Some of the most popular classic American road trip routes take you along the Pacific coastline; across the southern Pacific coast; along Route 66 from California through Illinois; across the northern border of the United States; or from the U.S.-Canadian border in Montana all the way down to the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona. You can choose any one of these routes depending on how many miles you want to travel, how much time you plan to spend on the road, and which parts of the country you most want to visit.
If there’s a purpose to your road trip beyond exploring—like moving to a different state— or you have a specific destination or set of destinations in mind already, sticking to a pre-planned route might not be practical for you. Even so, you should still check out some pre-planned classic road trip routes to see if you can find one that takes you where you want or need to go.
2. Get Comfortable
Comfort is key on a long road trip. Spending hours on end in the car every day escalates any claustrophobia or discomfort you feel.
Wear comfortable shoes that are easy to drive in, and opt for loose clothing that doesn’t itch or pinch your skin when you’re sitting down. Also, try to pack as light as possible. Less stuff in your car means more room for passengers to stretch out without feeling cramped.
3. Get Your Affairs in Order
Make sure to get all of your practical driving-related affairs in order before you embark on your road trip. Dealing with expired insurance or faulty brakes is always a hassle, but it can really put a wrench in your plans when you’re in the middle of a road trip.
It is crucial to start any road trip with a clean driving record. Pay any outstanding toll violations or parking tickets before you hit the road. If you plan to take toll roads on your trip, make sure you know where they are located so you don’t accidentally skip any payments along your route. Also, make sure that your driver’s license and your car’s insurance and registration are up to date and not in danger of expiring during your trip. Confirm that your car’s registration and proof of insurance are in your glove compartment, so you’ll know exactly where they are and have easy access to them if needed.
Also, take your car to a dealership or repair shop a week or two before you leave for your road trip. Get your brakes, tires, and fluid levels checked to ensure that your car is running smoothly. As a precaution, start or confirm your membership with a roadside service like AAA before you leave in case you run across any unexpected car trouble on the road.
4. Be Creative with Kids’ Activities
It can be very challenging to keep kids entertained and comfortable on a long road trip. Kids get bored easily, and it’s hard to entertain them and cater to their needs when you’re driving and you’re all stuck in a car for hours on end.
To keep your kids entertained while you’re on the road, you have to get creative and be prepared. Download movies or TV shows that they can watch onto an iPad or other mobile device before you hit the road. Or try classic verbal games—like “20 Questions” and “the ABC Game”—that everyone in the car can play, even the driver.
When you’re traveling with kids, pack a separate bag for items like snacks, diapers, toys, Band-Aids, etc. so you can find their essentials quickly and easily at any time. You should also take frequent breaks to walk around and stretch your legs. These breaks will help keep everyone—not just the kids—feel more relaxed and less antsy on the road.
5. Make Food Plans
Trying out new restaurants and food in different parts of the state or country can be a fun and adventurous part of your road trip. However, food can also be a big stressor during a road trip; being hungry while driving 100+ miles per day is never fun.
Keep easy, filling snacks with you at all times; beef jerky, dried fruit, and granola bars are all good options. Even if you plan to eat out for most meals, these snacks will come in handy if you come across a long stretch of road in a middle-of-nowhere area and aren’t able to make a stop for a while.
When you do eat out, don’t choose restaurants blindly. Before you leave for your trip, research the top-rated restaurants, diners, cafés, and roadside food stops along your route to make sure you don’t miss any renowned hole-in-the-wall spots you wouldn’t have noticed yourself.