I 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 playlist. 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
What do you need for a fun road trip? 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 road trip page which will help you find stations along your way.
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.
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!