It’s your very first road trip! This is an exciting time for you and everyone who’s traveling with you. To ensure your first road trip is full of excitement, you need to be prepared. We’ve created a road trip guide to help you navigate your first road trip with minimal error.

Choosing Your Destination

Where do you want to go? It will be difficult to plan a road trip without a destination! Before you start researching extravagant vacation locations, you need to know what type of traveler you are. Since this is your first road trip, don’t stray too far away from home.

It may be hard to determine what type of traveler you are because this is your first road trip, so here are a few questions you need to ask yourself.

  • Do you want to explore big cities?
  • Do you enjoy staying in cozy towns?
  • Are you longing to go on a tour of natural sites?

Understanding your traveling preferences will help you choose a vacation spot. You can use travel blogs or specific platforms, such as Pinterest, as inspiration for travel ideas. If you have relatives or friends who enjoy traveling, ask them for ideas on locations to visit.

Plan the Route

The saying “practice makes perfect” is true. Although everything may not go according to plan, it’s important to have at least two routes planned in case of a detour. Using a navigation app, such as Waze, Apple or Google Maps is a good place to start. You can use these apps to plan your route to and from your destination, and you’ll have real-time updates in case of road work, detours, and other situations.

The good thing about road trips is you can stop along your route and check out different sites and attractions. When you’re on a road trip, you don’t have to rush to and from your destination. Take your time and enjoy the ride and the scenery.

Prioritize Sleep

As excited as you may be, you need to sleep! Get a good night’s rest the night before your trip, and make sure you eat breakfast. You need to make sure you’re at your best when you’re traveling, which means you need to stay focused and aware of your surroundings. Hitting the road with little to no sleep puts you at high risk of being involved in an accident.

Limit the Time You Drive

Don’t rush to reach your destination. Road trips are about enjoying the ride to your destination, and enjoying yourself when you reach your destination. You shouldn’t drive more than 7 hours each day. Driving can quickly become monotonous, and you need time to relax, reboot, and refresh. Your mind also needs time to recover from being on high alert from watching other drivers and constantly checking your surroundings.

Check Road Conditions Ahead of Time

A lot of navigation apps will give you real-time traffic and weather updates. However, it’s a good idea to check the weather for the days you’ll be traveling, so you know what to expect. You should also check current road conditions. If you’ll be traveling through multiple states, road conditions can vary, so you need to be prepared.

Include Rest Stops On Your Trip

If you’re traveling more than 5 or 6 hours on the road, find rest stop locations along your route. Restops are a great place to stretch your legs, use the bathroom, sometimes get food, and take a break from driving. Scheduling regular breaks during your trips is essential for helping you stay alert while driving.

Plan for the Unexpected

Planning for the unexpected may sound weird, but we promise it’s a “thing”. You may run into traffic along the way to your destination, so give yourself extra time to reach your location. If the GPS states it will take 6 hours to reach your desired destination, plan to arrive in 7 or 8 hours, so you have enough time to reach your destination and get situated. By giving yourself extra time, things such as traffic, detours, and other delays won’t affect your time too much.

Keep a Paper Map Handy

Paper maps may seem like a thing of the past, but they’re still relevant. With GPS technology, many people believe paper maps aren’t needed. However, if you’re traveling through a location where your cell phone reception isn’t great, you can use a paper map to help guide you through your route until your service is restored. Paper maps, such as the Rand McNally Road Atlas will suffice.

Download Your Route From Your GPS

Alternatively, if you despise carrying a paper map, you can download your route from your GPS platform to help you continue navigating through your route if your cell phone loses service. Make sure you download your route before you begin your trip.

Share Your Route and Itinerary

Let your relatives and friends know where you’re going, what time you expect to arrive at your destination, and when you will be back. In case of an emergency, your family knows where you are and can get to you quickly.

Create a Road Trip Budget

It’s easy to lose track of how much you’re spending, especially when you’re traveling. Before you head out on your adventure, create a road trip budget. When you’re creating your budget, account for fuel, food, activities, and any accommodations you may need. Don’t forget to factor in parking fees, if any.

Once again, this is a great time to prepare for mishaps, such as car repairs. Things happen, and when they do, it’s best to be prepared. Set aside money for vehicle repairs, especially tires. Add at least 10% to your traveling budget for other incidentals. Once you add everything up, you have your total trip budget.

There are apps you can use, such as Gas Buddy, to help you estimate fuel costs. You can also estimate fuel costs by calculating your trip mileage and dividing it by your vehicle’s average gas mileage to determine how many gallons of gas you’ll need to complete your trip. Next, you’ll multiply the gallons of gas you need by the average price per gallon of gas.

Book Your Accommodations in Advance

This is a preparation trip we can’t stress enough. If you need accommodations, such as lodging on the way to your destination, make sure everything is booked and ready to go before you venture on your trip. Not having the necessary accommodations is nothing short of stressful and frustrating.

Make sure you have confirmation for your hotel stay and anything else you need while on your trip or traveling to your trip to minimize inconvenience. You should also note the cancelation policy of any accommodations you may have in case you have to reschedule your trip or change the plans for any reason.

Research Activities in Advance

Planning is an essential part of road trips, and this includes researching activities in advance. If you plan on taking tours or enjoying an activity that attracts a lot of people, make sure you have everything you need, such as tickets and proper gear.

Some activities, especially outdoor activities, require you to wear tennis shoes and other items depending on the time of year. If you plan on going on hikes, make sure you don’t require a permit. You’ll need to add up the costs of these activities so you can include them in your road trip budget.

Perform Vehicle Maintenance Before Your Trip

A vehicle is an asset whether you’re going on a road trip or not, so you need to ensure your vehicle will last many years. Your vehicle will experience wear and tear as long as you’re driving it, so you need to ensure the car’s maintenance is up-to-date.

You must make sure that your car is in proper functioning order before you take a road trip. By having a thorough vehicle check performed, you can minimize the chances of unexpected repairs arising on your trip. Be sure to have your tires checked and have a spare in case you get a flat tire. The spare tire also needs to be in good condition and filled with air.

You will also need to check the following to ensure your car can make the trip:

  • Engine oil
  • Brake fluid
  • Coolant
  • Windshield washer fluid
  • Power steering fluid

If your bakes are making strange noises, have a mechanic inspect them to ensure there are no underlying issues. You shouldn’t have any “check vehicle”  or “check engine” lights illuminated on your vehicle’s dashboard. If so, mention this issue to the mechanic to have everything repaired and ready to go when you take your trip.

Ensure your vehicle’s headlights and taillights are working properly. You will also want to make sure your turn signals and interior lights are functioning as they should. Don’t forget to fill the gas tank!

Create an Emergency Kit for Your Road Trip

Having an emergency kit is a must-have for your road trip, and traveling in general. You should have the following in your emergency road trip kit:

  • Standard first-aid items: antibiotic creams, pain relievers, bandages, antiseptics, and similar items
  • Tools: tire repair kit, jumper cables, spare tire, multi-tool, tire pressure gauge, and similar items.
  • Extra food and water: in case you are stranded, you’ll need food and water while you wait for help to arrive.
  • Blankets: keep a few blankets in your vehicle to keep you warm in case you get stranded in cold weather.
  • Flashlights and batteries: you’ll need at least 2 flashlights and spare batteries to help you in case you have an emergency at night.

Invest in Roadside Assistance Services

It’s an extra expense, but a service that can be beneficial in different situations. If you find yourself stuck on the side of the road due to a vehicle malfunction, you run out of gas, have a flat tire, or any other vehicle issue, a roadside assistance service can come and rescue you.

You can add roadside assistance to your auto insurance policy or you can become a member of a roadside assistance company such as AAA.

Keeping Yourself Entertained on the Road

If you’re the driver, your responsibility is your safety and the safety of your passengers on the road. However, you’ll want to be entertained as well. While watching TV and other things that you’re you to take your eyes off of the road are not recommended, you can, however, create an awesome playlist to keep you entertained while you’re traveling.

Download a music streaming platform, such as Spotify, Apple Music, or a similar app that allows you to download tons of songs from your favorite artists. Create a playlist that will get you to and from your destination to make the trip more enjoyable. You should create your playlist before you plan to travel, so you don’t have to worry about changing songs or finding songs you want to listen to.

You can also listen to an audiobook. There’s nothing better than a good story. Podcasts are also popular while traveling. You can always ask your friends and relatives for suggestions. Car games never get old! If you’re traveling with others, play road games on the way to your destination. It doesn’t hurt to spark a conversation and catch up on what’s new in their world.

Prepare Your Home for Your Absence

Whether you’ll be gone for a few days or a few weeks, you need to prepare your home for your absence. If you have a neighbor you trust, leave a key with them, so they can check on your home and ensure everything remains how you left it. If not, you can leave your house key with a relative, so they can check on your home.

You’ll need someone to pick up your mail while you’re away. It may not seem like much, but mail overflowing in your mailbox is a sign that no one is home, and it’s an invitation for your burglars to target your home, especially if there are packages left unattended for a while. You can put in a request with your local post office to hold your mail while you’re away. Make sure the person checking on your home and collecting the mail has a way to reach you.

Make sure your home is secure, which means ensuring the windows and doors are locked. If you have an alarm system, inform the alarm company that you will be away to add an extra layer of security to your home.

Ensure all appliances are turned off. You will also want to remove food from the refrigerator that will spoil by the time you return. Take all the trash out before you leave to prevent foul odors and bugs from being an issue when you come home. If you have pets, make sure they are cared for if they aren’t tagging along on the trip. Don’t forget to adjust your HVAC system while you’re away to save money and energy.

Make a List and Check It Twice

Before you leave double-check everything in your home to ensure you’re not missing something or forgetting to do something. No one wants to have the “I’m forgetting something” feeling for the duration of their trip.


Bring on the snacks! Who doesn’t enjoy a good snack? Packing your food instead of buying food while traveling is a great way to save money. Pack sandwiches, fruit, chips, beverages, and other items you enjoy, so you have something to keep you going while you drive or enjoy the passenger side.

If you’re taking perishables along for the ride, pack a cooler filled with ice or ice packs to keep your beverages cold. Don’t forget to pack water. Staying hydrated is essential for your overall health, especially if you’re traveling during the summer.

You’re ready for your first road trip! Remember to have fun and enjoy yourself. Stay alert and be safe during your travels. Happy road-tripping!