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How to plan a road trip

With summer just around the corner, most of us are planning vacations to get away. If you’re planning a road trip, relaxation doesn’t have to go out the window. With some advance preparation, your time in the car can be relaxing too.

Woman on summer road trip

Depending on how you envision your trip, planning ahead can be key. If you’re the type who likes to fly by the seat of your pants, you might choose to just get in the car and drive. But if you want a more structured itinerary and reservations, think about these tips before you turn the key in the ignition.

Book early

Popular areas fill up months in advance, so as soon as you firm up your plans, make those hotel reservations. With so many travel sites online, you can shop around and find the best deal.

  • Kayak allows you to compare hotels on several popular travel booking sites at once.
  • Priceline lets you “name your own price” for a hotel room. You choose the hotel star-level and make your bid, although you won’t know the exact hotel until after you make your purchase.

Can’t decide where to go? Check out these 20 must-see US destinations >>

mapMap it out

Once you’ve got a destination in mind, do your research. Map out each day’s drive to see how far you’ll get and where you want to stop along the way. There are likely many points of interest on your route and you can find attractions and sights by plugging your starting and ending points into the Road Trip America Map Wizard. Local attractions will populate on a map and you can click on each point for detailed information.

Check out these road trip games to keep the kids occupied between stops >>

Be prepared

One good thing about traveling by car is that you don’t have luggage restrictions. Although you don’t need to literally bring the kitchen sink, it is a good idea to be prepared for unforeseen weather, emergencies or a change in plans. Even if you’re expecting sunshine the whole trip, pack a jacket and a poncho. A first aid kit could be really useful if you get hurt out in the middle of nowhere. Keep extra water and snacks in the trunk in case you get stranded. While you shouldn’t spend the trip worrying that something will happen, at least you’ll be ready if it does.

Print out this road trip checklist so you don’t forget a thing >>

Car maintenance

Before hitting the road, not only do you need a full tank of gas, but you also need to ensure that your car is in good working order. A few basic maintenance items will give you peace of mind for the drive. Check and change the oil and other fluids, inflate the tires and replace windshield wipers, as needed.

Read more car maintenance tips >>

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