Tips for Road Trips: A Planning Guide

The thought of a road trip is just draining for most, even if it does have the reward of a wonderful travel destination at the end of the long journey.  But like many things to do with travel, let alone life itself, planning is the key.

There are12 simple tips for road trips in this planning guide that will hopefully find your vacation starts from the moment you get in the car, not the moment you get out.

In this Post on Long Road Trip Essentials You Will Learn:

A long road to drive to the mountains

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Plan Your Itinerary

A lady pointing to a road map planning trip

Plan your journey
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1.      Plan How to Get from A to B

Start with Google Maps – it’s my go-to when I start planning a road trip.  Enter your destination first and then your departure point (make sure you are on car mode).  Look at all the different options that Google suggests you drive.  You don’t have to go with the way Google suggests, just point to the road you would prefer and Google will adjust.

This gives you a great starting point with learning how long the drive will take and which towns you will pass through.

2.      Plan Stops

Now it’s time to possibly do a bit more trip research.  Look into what each of these towns offers like food, attractions and parks.  Some of them may make a great pit stop for lunch, tea break or just to stretch your legs.

3.      Create a Daily Driving Schedule

Choose a schedule that works for you here’s one suggestion

  • Head off as soon as you wake.
  • Stop for breakfast and stretch your legs (encourage kids to play).
  • 2nd leg and stop for morning tea and more walking and play.
  • 3rd leg and stop for lunch and (you guessed it) more walking and play.
  • 4th leg and plan to arrive at your destination in the late afternoon.


Top Trip Tip
Instead of using Google Maps try a road trip planning app – there are lots on the market and some even show you what activities and attraction are available at your stops.



Packing the Car

Trying to pack the boot of your car with all luggage is like trying to crack the Rubik Cube.  It never all fits into place.  So whilst culling and packing less is part of the answer, you will also need to determine what is essential versus what is a luxury and what can be bought on arrival.

4WD packed for a vacation road trip

Packed for the drive
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4.      In the Boot

When packing the car, you will need to place into the boot your general luggage with clothing, toiletries etc.  You can check out this Trip Packing List to help you decide what to include.

If you are heading off to on self-catering trip whether that is in a cabin, caravan or tent you will also have your food.  You don’t necessarily need enough for the entire time away.  For example, additional supplies of milk and bread can be bought at your destination.  In saying that, you will have an Eski/Cooler box and a container of dry goods to squeeze into the boot as well.  Not sure what to pack or want to plan your meals check out the Self Catering Packing List.

You may also want to take bikes and scooters.  Consider getting speciality bike racks for the back of your car.

If you are camping then all your camping equipment will need to pack on the roof rack or in a trailer.

5.      Within Hands Reach

With your main luggage packed you now need to consider what you will want within hands reach during the long drive.

Each person should have a bottle of water in their cup holder and snacks (apples, dried fruit, crackers, muesli bars) nearby.

Entertainment is the final step.  Have your CD’s or phone connected to the music player before you take off.

If you’ve got kids, place a bag of activities on the middle seat or use a car seat organiser*.  These are my three must-have essentials for kids.


Top Trip Tip
When choosing snacks, choose items that are not only healthy but that everybody likes.  The whole point of the snacks is to reduce stopping times (and to stay alert).



Prepare the Car

With your itinerary set and luggage packed it is time to prepare your car for a long drive.  First up – take a pit stop at the local fuel station before you leave town.

6.      What to Do to the Car Before the Road Trip

  • Fill the car with fuel
  • Check the tyre pressure
  • Check the oil
  • Check the water
  • Check the wiper fluid
  • Ensure all lights are working
  • Clean the windows


Top Trip Tip
For added security get the car serviced prior to very long road trips.



Road Trip Safety Tips

It is so important to stay alert and keep your eyes on the road.  This is why you need to take the time to plan your trip.  Keep yourself and others on the road by being well rested, fed and hydrated.

lady driving with phone safely mounted on dashbaord

Staying safe with a mobile phone mount.
Image Credit: Pexels

7.      Safety Tips

  • Seatbelts on
  • Age-appropriate child car restraint (don’t forget to hire one with your hire car) installed
  • Animals restrained
  • Mobile phone mount for
    • Phone calls
    • Reading GPS Maps
  • Have snacks and water close at hand
  • Pre-prepare entertainment eg music and games


Top Trip Tip
Turn head lights on for your entire journey to help others see you coming on the road.



Road Trips for Families

Back on the safety thing – kids can be a huge distraction when you are driving.  It’s important to be able to easily address all those cries of: “I’m bored,” “I’m hungry,” “I’m thirsty” and of course “Are we there yet?”

An activity bag next to kids carseat prepared for long road trip

Packing the car for the kids

8.      Within Your Child’s Reach

  • Snacks (dried fruit, crackers, muesli bars, chopped fresh fruit)
  • Water
  • Activity pack
    • Colouring
    • Books
    • iPad/Tablet with movies and/or TV shows
    • Small toys
    • Maybe consider a lap table
  • Favourite music for all ages and everyone gets a turn
  • Trash bags
  • Wipes (to clean hands after snacks)
  • Blankets
  • Pillows
  • Jumpers/sweater

9.      Long Road Trips with Toddlers and Babies

Driving with toddlers or babies can be arduous at best.  So again it is all about preparation but also about being flexible.

  • If you are hiring a car don’t forget the car seats.  You could either:
  • Get sun shades for passenger windows
  • When planning your itinerary try to travel during nap time
  • Schedule in decent breaks for toddlers and young children.
    • Find a park/beach for scheduled stops
  • Have a nappy/diaper bag handy so you don’t have to dig through your main luggage. Pack:
    • Water, milk, formula and snacks.
    • Nappies, wipes and change mat.
    • Small toys, favourite snuggle friend and books.


Top Trip Tip
To motivate kids to behave between town offer rewards.  For example ice cream or play in the park.



Make the Long Drive Fun

10. Road Trip Games

Whether it’s a road trip with kids or one with adults and friends road trip games can help the time zoom by.  Try these fun ideas for long road trips – let me know in the comments if you have any further suggestions I can add to the list.

  • Eye spy
  • Number plates
  • How long to next town
  • 20 questions
  • Who am I?
  • Granny went to market and bought…..
  • Motorway snap (choose colour and model of car)


Top Trip Tip
Remember you know your children best – follow their lead.



What About the Pets

dog hanging out car window during country road trip

Dog loving the road journey
Image Credit: Pexels

11. Taking Pets in the Car

When taking man’s best friend or any other furry friend don’t forget to prepare for them as well.

  • Food
  • Bowl
  • Bottle of water
  • Harness and Leash
  • Rug or towel for the car seat

Motion Sickness

12.  What if Someone Gets Car Sick

If anyone suffers from being car sick:

  • Stop frequently
  • Open windows
  • Encourage them to look outside
  • Get them to sip water
  • And eat dry biscuits or crackers
  • Have spare clothes and towels handy
  • You can also try motion sickness tablets or wristbands

Top Trip Tip
Ziplock bags are both watertight and lock in the smell if you can’t pull over right away.


Long road trips can be fun and not as awful as you expect.  Yes, there may be hiccups along the way, but also some unexpected delightful surprises.  Remember keep a sense of humour and remain flexible you never know what you might discover along the way.

Tell me in the comments what you have discovered on a long drive in the car?

By the way, if you would like copies of any of the packing lists mentioned you can grab free copies of them here:

Click to Collect: Welcome Gift Packing Lists

Long road trip along the coast

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Tip for long drive in the car along this winding coastal road

Long ditance road trip planning tips to these mountains

Sally-Ann
Hi, I'm a Perth born and bred travel tips blogger/writer with 20+ years experience in airlines, hospitality and tourism. I love sharing my travel lessons learned to help you plan for your travel dream with my travel tips for trips. Please follow along to receive all my travel planning tips, packing lists and destination inspirations.

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