Everything You Need To Prepare For A Long Car Journey Or Road Trip

roadtrips   Everything You Need To Prepare For A Long Car Journey Or Road TripI love road trips. Just saying or writing this word sends shivers of excitement down my spine. If you think I’m crazy, it’s probably because you grew up in a country where road trips are taken for granted, and the number of places you can drive to and go to are endless. To me, road trips are fun and exciting, no matter why I have to take them, but regardless of how you feel about road trips, it’s always good to prepare before you embark on one.

So how do you prepare for such a long drive? We each have our own way to ensure we’re ready, whether it’s a packing list, a box of games, some favorite foods, or a good road trip play list. Need to plan a long drive for the first time? Looking for ways to make your drive cheaper, more interesting, or safer?

Below you’ll find a collection of tools that can help you make any road trip a good one. But remember, tools aren’t enough, and as cheesy as it sounds, you definitely need to go into your trip with good spirits. Once you have that, collect your favorite tools from this list, and enjoy!

Should You Drive?

When planning a road trip, the first question you might ask yourself is “should I drive or fly?“. If you want to take a road trip for fun, the question might not be relevant, but if you actually need to get from point A to point B, you can’t always assume driving is the cheapest option. A website called TravelMath can help you find the best way to travel by factoring in cost, distance and time, and calculating the value of time vs. cost for each option.

fly or drive   Everything You Need To Prepare For A Long Car Journey Or Road Trip

TravelMath gives each option a score, and lets you know if you’re better off driving or flying. You can also use this calculator to find information such as driving/flying distance, cost of driving from point A to point B, and other useful information. TravelMath supports destinations all over the world.

Plan a Road Trip Route

Now that you’re set on driving to your destination, it’s time to plan your route. In the past, I’ve already told you about several tools for planning fun road trips, which include planners for the US, Australia, Canada, and more.

There are several aspects to planning a road trip, and in the end it all comes down to personal preferences and priorities. Is saving money your first priority? Perhaps travelling in fair weather is most important to you? Do you want to see lots of attractions on the way? Or maybe you just care about getting there quickly?

If you care about the cost of the trip, you’re going to want to find the cheapest fuel stops possible. A website called FuelMyRoute can help you do just that. FuelMyRoute takes your start and end points, and the type of fuel you use, and find the best spots to re-fuel on your route.

fuelmyroute1   Everything You Need To Prepare For A Long Car Journey Or Road Trip

You can decide how far out of your way you want to go for cheap fuel, set preferred brands, and more. Aside from the map you can see above, FuelMyRoute provides detailed driving directions, and tells you exactly how much money you can save by stopping at the cheapest stations. Unfortunately, this website works only in the US.

If finding interesting attractions sits at the top of your list, don’t skip websites like [NO LONGER WORKS] OnTheWay (worldwide) and RoadTrippers (US only) which can help you find the best spots to stop.

But what fun will stopping and sightseeing be if it rains the entire way? You can’t control the weather, but you can be prepared for it with Weather Underground’s roadtrip planner.

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This planning tool lets you see the weather all along your route, which can include one starting point and several destinations. The weather is displayed based on dates and times you provide. While you can get routes for places all over the world, I only got weather information for routes in the US.

Don’t Get Hungry

To me, food is the most important part of any road trip. You don’t necessarily have to plan ahead for this – just stopping at a random out-of-the-way diner can be an experience by itself – but sometimes there are places along your route you just don’t want to miss. There are several ways to find these, and two of them are Roadfood and TVFoodMaps.

roadtrip food   Everything You Need To Prepare For A Long Car Journey Or Road Trip

If you’re a Food Network addict, TVFoodMaps can help you find places that appeared in various programs and that happen to be on your way. Just enter your starting point and destination, and get a list of places you can visit, complete with the name of the program they appeared on, a full address, and a link to the official website.

Roadfood, on the other hand, can help you find interesting places to eat sorted by US state or by category. Many of the places mentioned include must-eat dishes, ratings, reviews and more. If you sign up for a Roadfood Insider account, you can also access GPS support, offline information, Roadfood maps and Google Earth integration.

Stay Safe

As with anything else you do, it’s important to stay safe during your roadtrip. Long drives can get boring, but that doesn’t mean you should be speeding or texting while driving. There are many ways to avoid messing around with your phone while driving, and still remain in communication with the world. So before you embark on your journey, check out these Android apps for safe driving or these iPhone tips and apps that will keep you safe on the road.

stay safe   Everything You Need To Prepare For A Long Car Journey Or Road Trip

If you promise to drive safely, you might also want to install Trapster, which will help you avoid police traps and tickets. That doesn’t mean you can speed, though!

Need A Hotel?

hotel toinight   Everything You Need To Prepare For A Long Car Journey Or Road Trip

There are hundreds of ways to find and book hotels, and we each have our own preferred way. However, if for some reason you get stuck and have no place to sleep, Hotel Tonight is a great app to have, and can save you from an otherwise sticky situation. The app, available for both iOS and Android, can help you find a hotel for tonight, for quite a reasonable price. It doesn’t work everywhere in the world, but can help you in major cities in the US, Canada, Mexico and Europe.

Have Fun!

What do you need for a fun roadtrip? Music and games! Music is not so hard to come by nowadays, and with services such as Spotify, Pandora, 8Tracks, Songza, etc., you can listen to music easily all through your drive. If you’re more into actual radio, you can check out the NPR roadtrip page which will help you find stations along your way.

npr roadtrip   Everything You Need To Prepare For A Long Car Journey Or Road Trip

When it comes to games, the best ones are those you can play together, without any additional devices, boards or parts. While you must know at least one such game, there’s a nice list of suggestions on RoadTripWise. You can also find some nice inspiration on Pinterest boards such as this Travel ideas and items one, this Family Road Trip Games one, and many others you can find if you search for “road trips”.

If you’re set on playing games on your mobile device, you can find loads of excellent games on our best iPhone games page or best Android games page.

Bottom Line

Are you ready for your trip? If you find the idea of taking this long drive annoying, remember that road trips are a fantastic opportunity to put your attention on the outside world and forget your troubles for a while. After taking everything into account, the most important thing is to look up, enjoy the view, and experience your trip for what it is.

Do you know any other tools for planning a road trip? Do share them in the comments. Bon voyage!

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41 Comments -

Eric Theriault

If you are looking for the Scenic Route, checkout myscenicdrives.com , which provides scenic routes throughout the United States and provides a complete Road Trip Planner which divides your trip into manageable days, provides printable directions, exports to your GPS, manages your budget, calculates your costs, finds your hotels, campgrounds, and EV Charging Stations, and a whole lot more! Check it out at: http://www.myscenicdrives.com/

Yaara Lancet

Thanks!

Anonymous

Wow! I had no idea these site were out there. What a way to plan and keep expenses to a minimum. I love Make Use Of and the information I’ve gotten here!

Ron Lister

also check out “Fleetsafer mobile” blocks texts and emails and sends back an automated message “I’m driving” so you dont get in a wreck trying to test and drive.

also “Gasbuddy” another gas prices and gas station features app

“trucker tools” an app like groupon that has coupons for around 5000 truck stops across the U.S.

Since truckers are always on the road they always have good apps for roadtrips. do a quick online search and see what helpful apps you can come up with and sharethem with us.

Thanks Yaara for a great article, I love roadtrips too.

Yaara Lancet

Whew, thank Ron! Awesome suggestions.

David Ream

Time on the road can pass quickly and enjoyably when my wife and I listen to a good book. We check out audiobook CDs from the Public Library or download to my iPhone recorded audiobooks from a subscription site, such as http://www.audible.com/. Our latest auto roundtrip from the Washington, D.C. to Denver, Colorado (3,300 miles/5310 km) was very pleasant as we listened to 4 of the “Harry Potter” books! We use the WiFi at McDonalds and motels to download additional books as we travel.

Yaara Lancet

Wow, that sounds like loads of fun. Thanks!

Fritz Goebel

I’ve used RoadTripAmerica.com for years to plan highway trips.

Chris Bell

What? No speed trap or red light camera apps?

Krysia Baker

She mentions Trapster. The link goes to a review for IOS, but it’s available for Android too.

Chris Bell

Sorry, I missed that but I’ve used trapster before. Nice.

Lauren Monsey Nagel

Awesome stuff! I am going to tennessee on a trip soon and this will be helpful!

Paul G. Williams

I am going on a road trip this summer,this will help. Thanks

Helena from Spain

I’m looking (searching in english?) for a web who gives the weather but not the forecast… the contrarious: in the past… What was the weather during the first week of january for example.
I hope you understand my question because my english is not very good.
Thank you for your help. Helena

Yaara Lancet

Thanks Jeanette. :)

Yaara Lancet

It does! That’s awesome.

Jamie Clelland

EMERGANCY HOTEL ADVICE
The hotel tonight app is very pretty but prices and choice are rather steep they are good for an exclusive bargain but they only offer deals in some major cities. if you are in a jam somewhere more rural I recommend the Expedia, kayak.com or booking.com apps. but more importantly once you have an idea of what hotels have rooms that are available call the hotel directly and ask for the best possible price do not mention an specific app only that you are browsing one if the initial price they give you over the phone Is higher than what you are looking at. i have had up to 10% shaved off the best comparison site or had extra board applied to the room just by asking for a better deal.

Yaara Lancet

Very true, Hotel Tonight works only in some major cities, as I mentioned in the post. When I had to find a place in more rural locations, I just drove around and looked…

dragonmouth

“if you are in a jam somewhere more rural I recommend the Expedia, kayak.com or booking.com ”

I beg to differ. In the US Expedia, Orbitz, Hotwire only list lodging in cities. While they MAY list bargains for major hotel chains (Hilton, Ritz, etc.) they do not provide any listings for second tier hotels (Quality Inn, Econolodge, Motel 6, etc.). The second tier hotels are more numerous, in many more rural locations, closer to major travel routes and offer prices that are at least 50% lower than the in-city hotels.

Instead of using Expedia, Hotwire, etc. I use the hotel/motel chain’s own sites such as motel6.com, redroof.com or choicehotels.com. When booking online at any of these motel sites one gets an automatic Internet Rate which is 10% off their best retail price. They also offer Senior or AARP member rates which are even lower, as well as Military or Government Employee rates.

Granted that second tier hotels generally do not offer fully equipped fitness centers, concierge, gourmet restaurants and/or on-premises shopping. However, one (over)pays for those amenities.

Yaara Lancet

Thanks again. :) I always stay in these kinds of motels when I travel, they’re usually great value for the price. I never booked one online though, I usually just find them as I go.

Lynne Gibb

A really helpful article. Ill remember it if and when I ever come to USA or a country that has plenty of mobile access everywhere ;) Only problem is here in Australia, if you are driving into the outback all contact with mobile phones GPS systems whatever cuts out. 10 minutes out of Alice Springs and you are on your own so I would be concentrating on things like spare tyres, extra fuel, oodles of water, well-stocked first aid kit, two-way radio and other survival gear. You have to go back to the tried and true travel games for children our parents used with us eg spotto, I Spy, memory games, songs, and pencil and paper-type maths games. The only things electronic would be small battery-operated games for children. In the more populated areas, you are able to use all your electronic gear but if you want to adventure anywhere else forget it :)

Yaara Lancet

That sounds like lots of fun. :) I’ve never been to Australia, but is sounds very different from the US or even Canada in the respect. There are actually some real game suggestions (not electronic ones) in the article, so those could be useful.

Alan Craig

Very timely article with some great tips, since we are planning a road trip this year, thanks! :) We used to take road trips all the time as a child, and they are some of my fondest memories. I only hope we have the time and money to give our daughter some of the same wonderful memories. :)

George Foster

Long car journey? What if I have a short car – or a pickup truck? Okay I’ll be good. (ÂŻ`·._.·ns¢ävË·._.·´¯)

Lisa Santika Onggrid

Nce try :D

Rubis Song

I love that!

Helena from Spain

THANK YOU. This is what I wanted.

dragonmouth

While FuelMyCar, Gasbuddy, GasPriceWatch and other fuel pricing sites are give one a general idea, they are almost useless for actual prices. When using these sites, one needs to pay close attention to when the information for a particular gas station was last updated. I have found that many prices are a month or more out of date which is not surprising since the updates are provided by volunteers when and if they have the time.

Trapster et al data on speed traps and police activity is also not current, since by the time they are reported, there is a very good chance that the police have moved their area of operation.

Yaara Lancet

Thanks dragonmouth. I actually have no way of verifying this since I don’t live in the US. Nevertheless, maybe it’s safe to assume that a gas station that was cheap two weeks ago is still relatively cheap to others. Not always true, but can still be helpful.

dragonmouth

Yes, cheap gas stations tend to keep their prices lower than the big brand names (Mobil, Shell, etc.).

One thing to remember, at least in the US, is that one need not be brand loyal. Very often the gasoline for all brands comes from the same distributor. At the depot one can see tanker trucks for Exxon, Mobil, Shell, Texaco being filled from the same holding tank. So, in many cases, the customer pays extra for a brand name without getting anything extra in return. Unless one buys their gas at some dodgy-looking, fly by night gas station, there is no difference between gas stations other than price.

Cheryl Kissell

Thanks for a really eye-opening article. I came just to bookmark it for future reference. I live in florida, so Every drive is a Road Trip! Unfortunately, I’m also single so I take those drives alone.

And shame on YOU, Yaara Lancet, as a fellow choco-holic…you missed talking about that in the “Don’t Get Hungry” section! Homemade fudge is an absolute MUST on any roadtrip as it tides you over…between meals or stops.

Yaara Lancet

Ha! You’re right. I should have linked to my previous article about apps for the travelling sweet tooth.

Homemade fudge is something I look for everywhere while travelling in North America. I can drive my husband crazy with it! :)

Stephanie Staker

Great article, Yaara! Another app for the iPhone is Yelp. Android might have it too. You can find it on internet as well. I found out about it from my step-son when he and hubby were looking for a good restaurant. But it isn’t just restaurants that are rated. I don’t know all the types of businesses you’ll find there. The nice thing about it is reading the reviews by just regular people like us! I was kind of surprised I didn’t see you mention it but you may not know about it – so check it out!

Yaara Lancet

Yelp is excellent, and I’ve used it lots while travelling in cities (it’s indeed available for Android). We used to sit and just read funny reviews and find places we want to check out.

In my experience, Yelp is only good in big cities, though, so I’m not sure how effective it would be on a road trip. On the other hand, I’ve only tried it in Canada, it might be more effective in the US. Thanks!

dragonmouth

To find Points of Interest or interesting places check out these sites:
http://www.roadsideamerica.com – your online guide to offbeat tourist attractions in the US

atlasobscura.com – Atlas Obscura is the definitive guide to the world’s wondrous and curious places.

Anonymous

Love the Roadfood and Fuelmyroute sites! Thanks for sharing these.

Suleiman

@Yaraa thanks a lot for the tips. I am driving across Canada this summer and your tips just came right on time :)

Mike Pickus

To answer the age old question of “When will we get there?”, I wrote a free Road Trip application for the iPhone and iPad. http://mpickus.blogspot.com/2012/05/road-trip.html

One of things that I like about it is that it shows that if you drive a little slower than the surrounding traffic, you won’t sacrifice a lot of time. You should also have a more relaxing and safer trip by not tailgating and switching lanes very often.

It requires the free FileMaker Go 12 app in iTunes.

Yaara Lancet

Cool, thanks Mike!