Travel Tips

Hacks For Perfect Road Trip Planning

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Young woman alone car traveler with map

Image: Soloviova Liudmyla/Shutterstock

It’s time for holiday road trip planning. Yes, summer gets top billing for family road trips, but millions of Americans and their families will be hitting the highways between now and the New Year this holiday season, and they can save a lot of time and headaches by doing just a bit of planning before heading out. No matter where you’re going or what you’re doing, this road trip planning guide will help you shave time off your travel and eliminate a few headaches along the way.

Road Trip Planning Hack #1: Plan your schedule around major metropolitan areas

Chances are you’re going to be driving through some larger metropolitan areas on your road trip. For road trip planning, we recommend listing all the major traffic times for the largest cities on your route, and then timing your departure to ensure that you’re not going to be dealing with rush hour. This is also true for major events that might be happening along the way, such as major sporting events, concerts or political rallies.

You can also schedule stop for lunch and dinner to help avoid these hang ups too.

Road Trip Planning Hack #2: Know where the rest stops are along the way

Bathroom breaks can’t be avoided, especially if you have kids. While many travelers just accept that they’ll be dealing with entering and exiting the interstates and highways to stop at gas stations so they can deal with nature’s call, a lot of time can be trimmed off your trip by taking advantage of the rest stops along the way. You won’t have to deal with local traffic, traffic lights, construction or any of the myriad delays that are waiting to slow you down. Getting in and out of a rest stop is much easier than exiting the interstate.

Roadnow.com has the best online database for rest stops on every major U.S. interstate, located right here. You can also download apps for your Apple and Android devices.

Road Trip Planning Hack #3: Be prepared to change your route

Even if you know where you’re going, it’s not a bad idea to keep a smartphone open with a mapping app running. Whether you’re using Waze (Android and iTunes), Google Maps(Android and iTunes), GPS or an old fashioned map, be prepared to alter your route if traffic patterns change. Most mapping apps will redirect you if they can save you time, so keeping them running is a smart idea.

Road Trip Planning Hack #4: Keep medications handy

By medications we don’t mean your prescriptions. Here we’re talking about cough drops, cold meds, stuff for indigestion and general pain relievers. Headaches and stomachaches, sore throats, and more all happen on road trips. Whether you have kids or not, chances are one of these issues will pop up sometime on your drive. That’s why we recommend keeping whatever you might need handy. Having to stop to pick up some aspirin every time someone gets a headache can really slow you down.

Here’s what we recommend having handy in your car:

  • Aspirin
  • Ibuprofen
  • Imodium
  • Cough drops
  • Sinus medication
  • Benadryl (for non-drivers)

Road Trip Planning Hack #5: Have realistic expectations

Getting frustrated while driving can actually cost you time. You’re more likely to get pulled over, more likely to experience an accident and you’re more likely to cause turmoil in the car when you’re frustrated, leading you to pull over to sort out whatever disagreement is happening. If you’re 16 hours from your destination without delays, it’s not realistic to expect that drive to actually take 16 hours. Delays happen, whether it’s construction, slowing for accidents or stopping for more restroom breaks than you anticipate. Know the limits of your situation. Traveling with animals or kids is automatically going to make travel slower, so temper your expectations and set realistic goals for how far and how fast you can go.

Preston Hemmerich is the Content Manager for 301 Digital Media, overseeing MensTrait.com, OutwardOn.com, DailyBeautyHack.com and more. He enjoys writing about food, politics, travel and sad attempts at humor. Follow him on Twitter — @pkhemmerich

Preston fancies himself somewhat intelligent and a very poor joke teller. He enjoys writing about food, pets, politics and the occasional bit of social commentary. He has four dogs, a cat, and a pretty awesome husband.