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Road Trips. Whether they are a fond childhood memory or a new found adventure, a great road trip takes some careful planning and an attitude for fun. The perfect road trip can be a memory for years to come but failing to plan ahead can have dire consequences. (Image: Rebecca Mongrain/Seattle Refined)

A Beginner’s Guide to Road Tripping

Road Trips. Whether they are a fond childhood memory or a new found adventure, a great road trip takes some careful planning and an attitude for fun. The perfect road trip can be a memory for years to come but failing to plan ahead can have dire consequences.

Seattle Refined presents our guide to road trips along with the challenges and opportunities that come with them.

Pick Your Travel Buddy Wisely

Traveling with family and friends can be a lot of fun but it can also be full of friction - so select your travel partners with care. Before heading out on your adventure, make sure your expectations are laid out, plain and simple. Do you like long days of driving with few stops, a la National Lampoon’s Family Vacation? Would you rather keep the driving to a minimum while exploring lots of unplanned locations? Do you like a loose plan or would you prefer a rigid schedule? Make sure everyone on the road trip has the same expectations to ensure a successful time.

Plan Your Route

Start planning your route by selecting a destination. Where are you planning on driving to? Will you have many stops along the way or are you headed to just one special location? Also - what is your timeframe for the trip? Do you have a flexible schedule or do you need to be in a particular location on a specific day?

Once you have your destination in mind, spend some time with Google maps or a physical map checking out various ways to get to your final destination. Headed to Yellowstone? Look at the non-highway routes to see if there are any interesting sights. Headed to California? Sure you could zip down I-5 but Highway 101 is pretty spectacular even if it does take longer.

Map Our Your Schedule

Now that you have your travel buddies and a route, start mapping out your schedule. Do you want to limit driving to less than four hours a day? Do you want to drive to a certain location and then drive for nine hours the next day to get somewhere else?

Do some research to find out if there are interesting stops along the way. If you are headed to the Grand Canyon through California, there is a small town called, Coleville which is home to Walker Burger, one of the most amazing burger places out there. Find locations like Walker Burger for truly memorable experiences. Check out the site and app Roadtrippers for great tips, stops and weird stuff!

Be conservative on the amount of miles you can safely drive in a day. Road trips can quickly get exhausting if you are trying to keep up the same mileage as a long-haul trucker. Try to enjoy the drive and scenery while also covering some solid ground.

Book hotels and anything that requires a reservation in advance. While it might sound like fun to just stop anywhere and crash for the night, that can lead to some not so fun times, filled with unnecessary anxiety about where you are going to sleep and how much it is going to cost you.

Make a Budget

Money might be no object but making a budget will still help your have an amazing time. Make a quick spreadsheet with your stops, lodging, miles to be driving along with estimated gas costs and food expenses. Consider packing some of your own food to cut down on costs. Also car snacks will keep you from going hungry if you get lost miles away from the nearest roadside diner. We even have tips for eating healthy on the road.

Bring along a Physical Map

Google Maps is amazing. Apple maps less so. But a physical map is vital for a road trip. Cellular coverage can sometimes be spotty and there is nothing worse than being lost in a strange place with no cell service. Snag a simple map of the states you are planning to visit before leaving home and tuck it in your glove box. If you are camping, look for a map which shows campgrounds as some of them aren’t on GPS.

Prep Your Ride

Some people like to pimp their rides but we advice prepping your ride before a road trip. Swing by your mechanic and have them give your car the once over. Have your oil changed and all the fluids filled up. Slap on some new windshield wiper blades. You’ll thank yourself for them when wiping bug guts off your windshield after 600 miles down the road. Check your tires and make sure they are in good shape. You’ll save yourself a world of hurt if you make sure your ride is ready for the long haul. Before putting the pedal to the medal, fill your gas tank to the top and grab a car snack or two.

Consider joining a roadside assistance plan like AAA in case of emergency. Check your insurance to see if they pay for tows. Pack necessities like an extra quart of oil, tire changing tools and anything else you might need to keep your car in tip top shape.

Pack Wisely

Pack only what you need to avoid overloading your car with unnecessary weight. Consider packing your food in a plastic tote to avoid squished bread but be aware the blazing summer sun can also use the plastic container to bake apples to a squishy mess. If traveling with kids, put some of their toys with them in their seats and pack the rest in the back so you can rotate through activities to keep young minds from boredom. Back some laundry detergent and do laundry on the road so you don’t need to bring along your entire wardrobe. Pack an extra towel or two along with a roll of TP and a first aid kit. You’ll appreciate all of these items in an emergency.

Bring along Entertainment

Do you love podcasts? Do you have the words to Grease memorized? Are audible books your jam? Download your favorite podcasts along with a few new ones. Load up your music player with the Grease soundtrack and all your other favorite tunes. Consider getting a subscription to a music service so you can download playlists for the road. Stock up on audible books through the Libby app.