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While there are tons of new and exciting holiday experiences popping up every day, from glamping, to walking safaris, and hot air balloon races, sometimes you just can’t beat an old fashioned road trip.

But, a road trip isn’t as simple as just jumping in the car and driving; they do require some prior planning.

If you’re considering taking your first roadtrip, but not sure where to start, use the following step by step guide – everything you need to organize before setting out on the road!

A Step by Step Guide to Planning a Road Trip (for Beginners)

Step 1: Plan Your Trip

Map travel planning RF

Popular culture may have something to do with the perception of road trips being all about spontaneously heading out with your best friends, a clapped out old VW or RV and not much else, but successful trips actually require quite a bit of planning and research.

While planning requires knowing your starting point, your end point, and mapping out your route inbetween, make sure you plan out some extra time for detours. After all, the journey itself is the real destination!

Giving yourself some breathing space will mean you can see more of the sights on the road while still allowing room for those special, spontaneous moments. If you’re wanting to enjoy a nice, relaxed pace, aim to drive between 4 – 6 hours max per day.

Starting off by setting a limit on how much driving you want to do per day is a great way to plan your route, and using Google maps you’ll be able to easily find your stopping points and stayovers. This will also then dictate how long your trip will need to be.

Step 2: Plan Your Budget

Money Savings RF

Once you have a basic plan for your trip, it’s time to figure out the nitty gritty. It’s time to plan your budget.

One of the best things about going on a road trip is the company, whether that’s your partner, friends or family, and since everybody will be sharing the journey everybody will be sharing the costs.

How much budget you have will affect things like the distance and length of the trip, what activities you’ll be able to do, the type of accommodation you’ll be able to stay at, and what you can afford to spend on food and drink during your trip.

Plus there’s vehicle expenses if you’re using your own car, or the separate cost of car hire…all these things do add up, so calculate in advance just how much you’ll be able to spend on each.

If you’re traveling as a group, it’s important to make sure everyone is on the same page about money – about how much you plan to spend, the quality of accommodation, etc. And it’s important to have an extra slush fund for emergencies that might occur.

For instance, if you find yourself stuck in the middle of no-where and have to call for a tow! Make sure you’ve budgeted for emergencies – if nothing goes wrong, you’ll come home with more cash than you thought!

Step 3: Make Your Car Road Trip Ready

Next up, it’s time to get your car road trip ready.

Take your car in for an inspection at least 7 days before you plan to head out on the road. You may drive your car every day and be used to its quirks, but taking a long trip is a different story.

You’ll need to make sure things like brakes and lights are in full working order, and that your car will be able to withstand the demands of the journey. Make sure the oil has been changed, be aware of your tyres, and check that the air con / heating works.

Even if you’re renting a car, it’s still important to travel with plenty of emergency supplies. Include things like a first aid kit, flashlight, jump leads, a tool set for changing a tire, a battery phone charger, water and blankets to ensure you’ve got all the bases covered.

Before heading out, we also recommend washing your car, and making sure the tank is full before you leave. If you’re heading through remote areas where petrol is not accessible, plan out your gas stops, and don’t leave them to chance.

Don’t forget to take a road map, even if you have a smartphone with thousands of apps. If your phone or GPS goes dead, that map can save you. And make sure you don’t drive off without having organized travel insurance. We use WorldNomads Travel Insurance.

Image credit: State Farm / CC BY 2.0 / Flickr

Step 4: Food for the Road

Hot dog RF food

Now that you’ve got your trip budgeted and planned out and your car is prepped, it’s time to get going and hit the road! Food for the road is the next thing you’ll need to take care of, but this is best done just before you leave, or even during your first day driving.

When it comes to food and drink, you want to make sure that you have enough lightweight, healthy and non-perishable snacks as well as clean drinking water to cover the full length of the trip.

Also read: Packing Food for Road Trips – Easy Ideas to Save Money!

Carrying 20+ litres of water can add quite an extra load in the car, so if you’re not able to bring the full amount you need from the get go, make sure you plan out some stops at supermarkets or gas stations along the way to stock up.

Don’t be afraid of packing fresh fruits, dairy products and meat in a cooler; just make sure you eat them up before their use-by dates.

Step 5: Entertainment on the Road

Traveling with your dog in the car RF

Obviously, the scenery and the roadside attractions are your primary form of entertainment on the road; and this probably the main reason you’ve chosen to road trip. But, most roadtrips include lulls of monotony, where you’re between landscapes, and need extra entertaining.

All road trips need an iconic playlist, and creating a collaborative playlist on Spotify or another streaming site can help to while away the hours during the inevitable boring first day of setting off.

If you’ve got tired or grumpy folk in the car, setting them the task of adding everybody’s favourite tunes to a playlist can occupy their minds and even cheer them up. Just remember to download the playlist when you next reach a WiFi zone.

Step 6: Staying Healthy & Alert

Working out isn’t always the first thing that comes to mind when road tripping, but it’s really important to move about and get your heart rate up as much as possible if you’re spending many hours in the seat of a car.

It’s not always possible to lug around weights and other exercise equipment, but with a bit of creative thinking there are plenty of ways to stay in tip top shape on the road.

Bedrolls can double up as exercise mats, resistance bands are extremely easy to carry around and can add an extra challenge to bodyweight routines, and there are even yoga routines you can do sitting-down. As such, there’s no excuse to let your physical health slide.

Staying alert, awake, and healthy on the road is crucial to road safety, so take regular breaks, make sure you don’t stay stagnant for too long, and if you’re traveling with others, make sure you make regular driver swaps.

Above all – enjoy your road trip!

Megan is an Australian Journalist and award-winning travel writer who has been blogging since 2007. Her husband Mike is the American naturalist and wildlife photographer behind Waking Up Wild; an online magazine dedicated to opening your eyes to the wonders of the wild & natural world.

Having visited 50+ countries across all seven continents, Megan’s travels focus on cultural immersion, authentic discovery and incredible journeys. She has a strong passion for ecotourism, and aims to promote responsible travel experiences.


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