There’s nothing quite as freeing as hitting the open road with a well stocked car, a map (or Google Maps), and knowing you’re headed towards a destination of your choosing! Heck, you’re basically a modern day cowboy. Although the best road trips have lots of room for spontaneity, there are a few things worth planning to ensure that your next road trip is legendary.

Follow this checklist for a smooth and memorable road trip:

1. Determine points A and B

First things first, know where you’re leaving from and where you want to end up. Sure driving with no destination in mind sounds fun, but in a world where time is a factor you’ll want to make sure you are taking enough time off work and saving up enough gas money to arrive at your destination and most importantly, back.

2. Decide if you’ll have travel companions or travel solo

Is this a group trip, a duo trip, or one of those solo, soul searching trips? If you’re traveling with friends you’ll want to make sure you are choosing companions with compatible travel styles. You know those friends who want to know every detail of the trip while little do they know you’re figuring it out as you go? Yeah — probably going to want to pass on inviting them this round.

3. Map out your route stops

Once you have a destination in mind, pick out a couple of towns along the way that you want to explore.

4. Service your car

If you do anything, at all on this list, do this. Get your car to the shop for an oil change and once-over inspection. Car trouble might be memorable, but breaking down on the side of the road in the middle of Kansas probably isn’t the kind of memory you were hoping to make.

5. Make a budget

When planning your trip you’ll want to look at your finances and budget money for food, gas, lodging, and unexpected expenses. Not exactly the most fun part of the planning process, but you’ll be happy you did it when you have to return to reality.

6. Get a gas card

Lots of gas stations offer rewards cards. With all of the extra fuel points you’ll be earning, you’ll be able to cash in those rewards points for extra snacks and sometimes even discounts on gas! Everyone wins.


7. Stock up on snacks

Nothing passes time better than mindless eating.


8. Make sure you have cash for tolls

When making the budget for your trip, be sure you are setting cash and change aside for toll roads. A mailbox stuffed with toll fines from the Illinois Department of Transportation is probably not the “welcome home” you’ll want to come back to. (Not like it’s ever happened to us.)  

9. Leave your plans loose

Like we said earlier, the best road trips leave room for spontaneity. Don’t set your expectations in stone and then be disappointed if you don’t check something off your list. Embrace the unexpected!

10. Pack a safety supply kit

Remember that first aid kit your mom always packed for family vacations? It’s time to carry on the tradition. Fingers crossed you won’t need it.

11. Pack light

Get better gas mileage and save room for souvenirs by packing light. Push yourself to pack only the essentials and enjoy the freedom that comes with leaving “stuff” behind.  

12. Ask locals where to eat

Whether you’re stopped at a gas station or a grocery store, chances are one of the workers or customers has a great restaurant recommendation that isn’t a chain and can’t be found on Google (surprisingly enough). This is definitely a great way to find good eats!

13. Bring a spare key

Save yourself the agony of getting locked out of your car and pack a spare key.

14. Make a play list

Compile a list of your favorite road trip songs into the ultimate playlist. You’ll listen to this playlist on repeat, and anytime you want to reminisce on your trip all you’ll have to do is listen to one of these songs and you’ll be transported back in no time.


15. Bring sunglasses

There’s no better road trip accessory than a pair of trusty sunglasses that will block those annoying UV rays. We’ve got you covered for finding the best sunglasses for driving!