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4 Tips for Planning the Perfect Road Trip

Read this author's 4 tips for how to plan a road trip that will be unforgettable! Pictured: the sight of a coast out of the front windshield of a car.

Road trips combine laughter, peace, sleep deprivation, seeing others at their best and worst — all to make indelible memories with friends. There’s nothing like a good road trip to clear the head and see new sights!

No matter your reason for road-tripping, getting outside of your comfort zone and encountering new people and places expands the heart. While there’s a sense of romantic abandon in picking up at a moment’s notice and hitting the open road, it might pay to apply a little forethought.

Here are my essential planning points to pull off a trip for the books:

  1. Do you have your exit buddy?
  2. Road trips bring out the best and worst in people, so your trip is the perfect opportunity to master the art of patience. That being said, your choice in travel companion is important. It is not so much who you choose, but rather how you communicate that will set the tone for your trip. So, set a precedent for your journey: discuss the things you want to see or do, communicate about when you need space or downtime, and discuss the things that may leave you feeling #triggered. If you happen to have Catholic companions, there’s nothing better than starting your journey with a prayer for safe travels.

  3. The playlist of the century
  4. For years now, I’ve organized road trips for cars full of teens bound for service work. Along the way, I’ve acquired a great soundtrack secret, and I am honored to share it with you, dear reader.

    In the week leading up to the trip, create a shareable Spotify playlist, and ask everyone to add their best road trip beats. This way, you get everyone’s best music, and everyone will have a song they know. Road trips are also a great opportunity to listen to audiobooks, learn a new language, or just enjoy the silence with the windows down and good company by your side.

  5. Hangry-worthy snacks
  6. At this point, I am sure we all understand the hangries — when you are so hungry, you let your worst side show. To be fair, when your companion gets the hangries, it’s the perfect opportunity to practice unconditional love, and often makes for the best bonding memories — but it’s best if everyone is a well-fed happy camper. My snacks of choice are trail mix, fruit, beef jerky, granola bars, and chocolate (always chocolate). These are all substantial options to tame even the hangriest impulses.

  7. Calculated spontaneity
  8. If travel has taught me anything, it is to expect the unexpected. Road trips push us to ditch the anxiety and go with the flow! You may meet people along the way who invite you to dinner; you may get a flat tire in the middle of Kansas; your camping/sleeping arrangements may fall through, leaving you with no choice but to sleep in your car in a Walmart parking lot. Whatever it may be, look at trip mishaps with a positive attitude. Expect things to go wrong, and you will learn how to tackle difficult situations with joy instead of stress.

Keep these four road trip tips in mind before going west (or east or south or north), and don’t forget to bring extra patience. Remember that road trips are a great opportunity to make lasting memories with stories that will nourish and deepen friendships for years to come. Happy travels, happy camper!

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