Road trips are a great way to get out and visit places you have never been. Even in the winter, although the driving may be a little more hazardous, the idea is the same. Even if you hit the road on a whim, make sure that you prepare yourself, at least a little bit. We like to fly by the seat of our pants on trips, but there are usually a few things that need attention before we go.
Food – Start with the essentials. Having a variety of snacks and meals for your car can save money and time. It’s worth including a few healthy options in case you don’t stop anywhere else for a day or two. One of our favorite things to on road trips is to look at which cities we will be passing through and see if there are any local food specialties. Say you are traveling through Kansas City, you may want to look for a good BBQ joint. Or if you’re driving through Phoenix, look for the favorite local taco restaurant. We try and hit up at least a few restaurants or food stands and often, some of the tastiest spots are the most reasonably priced.
Route – As we mentioned, we like flying by the seat of our pants but that doesn’t mean we don’t look at a map to know a general route of where we are going. Routes can change or take a detour, but it is good to know approximately how long it will take to get to your final destination for the day. You want an idea of how long you might be driving or what might be on your route that you want to stop and enjoy. You don’t ever want to find out later you passed up a short hike to some hot springs with an amazing view.
Double Check Your Checklist – Are you going to be camping? Hammocking? Snowshoeing? Whatever you are planning on doing make sure you make a checklist and check it twice. You don’t want to have to make an impromptu stop at an outdoor store to buy a tent or get to a trail head and remember you forgot to pack your hiking boots and all you have are sandals. Even just a quick hand-written checklist goes a long way.
Car Prep – This one often gets overlooked when I talk with people about road trips. You don’t have to do a lot, but I always like to check to see if my car’s oil needs changing and, especially on winter road trips, make sure the tires are up to snuff. The quickest way to ruin a road trip is to have your car breakdown or end up in a ditch at some point. Do a quick once over, it doesn’t take much time and can save you a lot of headaches.
Prep Your Home/Apt. – People tend to forget about this one. You aren’t worrying about what your apartment or house looks like when you leave, you just want to hit the road. But remember, you don’t want to come home to a house that smells because you left food on the counter or something is rotting in your refrigerator. If you do a quick walk through it might also help to save on your electricity bill to make sure all of the lights are off and you turn down your heat or air conditioning. This doesn’t have to be a long drawn out affair, but it is an important step to make sure you don’t have to worry if you left the stove on 12 hours into your road trip.
We are not the biggest planners and certainly not the most organized, but these basic steps help us worry less and enjoy the experience of the road trip even more.