12 Tips to Plan a Road Trip: A Complete 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.

I always take the time to plan a road trip which includes mapping out my itinerary, planning stops, organising to pack the car, preparing some snacks and road trip games, and ensuring I have the pets covered and I am prepared for any unforeseen situations.

In this Road Trip PLanning Guide You Will Learn:

Long road trip along the coast
Do you know someone who would find this useful?
Please share this with them.
Photo by Peter Fazekas from Pexels

This post by Tips 4 Trips contains affiliate links*.  This means I may receive a small commission if you click on these links. Learn more at the bottom of this post.

Plan Your Road Trip Itinerary

A lady pointing to a road map planning trip
Plan your journey
Image Credit: Pexels

1.      Plan How to Get from A to B

I always begin to plan a road trip with Google Maps.  The great thing is Google Maps works in any country and will continue to guide you after you have lost internet coverage.

Whilst you are still at your departure point and with internet access begin by enter your destination and then your departure point (make sure you are in 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. Just a side note: sometimes a popup from Google appears asking if you would like to see scenic sites along the way, make sure you click “no” as Google will have you diverting all over the place.

The other good thing about Google maps is that it also gives you expected timeframes for the journey.

2.      Plan a Road Trip with Stops

Now it’s time to possibly do a bit more trip research.  Whilst you are looking at Google Maps expand the map to discover possible towns for pitstops.

Look into what each of these towns offers like food, attractions and parks.  Some of them may make a great pit stop for lunch, a 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 attractions are available at your stops

Packing the Car

Trying to pack the boot of your car with all your 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
Image Credit: Pexels

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 on a 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 hand 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 CDs 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 back 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)

Ensure you have everything you need with the…

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 headlights on for your entire journey to help others see you coming on the road.

Find more…

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 towns offer rewards.  For example ice cream or playing 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 the next town
  • 20 questions
  • Who am I?
  • Granny went to the market and bought…..
  • Motorway snap (choose colour and model of car)

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

Discover more…

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 a 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 be some unexpected delightful surprises.  Remember to keep a sense of humour and remain flexible you never know what you might discover along the way.

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

⇓  PIN THIS  ⇓


  • Pinterest Image Credits:
  • As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases
  • Additional Affiliate links* with Hire for Baby
    • This means I may receive a small commission if you make a purchase using this link, however it does not cost you any extra to purchase through these links.
    • For more information please visit my Disclaimer Page and Privacy Policy.

Similar Posts