Jesse Weber | 05.26.2017

You have your bucket list destinations. You have your time off work. You have your car. Now what? Taking off on a road trip is an exciting idea, but actually executing it is hard. It doesn't have to be overwhelming, however, so don't let the constraints of time, budget, or motivation keep you from embarking on a dream trip, even if it's just a weekend getaway.

Here are some tips from the road for making your trip a success. Also included below are our "ultimate" road trip suggestions. You don't have to take on one of these full itineraries, but check out the destinations below to get inspiration for your own ultimate adventure and how to make it happen.

1. Planning

There is a certain thrill in throwing caution to the wind and setting off on a spontaneous adventure. If this is your style and you're sticking to it, more power to you. For most of us, however, careful planning will make life a lot easier. You will save a lot of time, money, and headache by mapping your route ahead of time, and having ideas about how to buy and prepare food, where to sleep, what activities to do, etc. Of course, there are always variables and anything can happen, so you are likely to get your fair dose of spontaneity in changing plans, anyhow.

2. Packing

This is often the hardest part of any road trip. If you forget to bring something important, or encounter unexpected circumstances that you didn't prepare for, it can be hard to get new stuff while on the road. Spending time in step one (planning) is the best way to make step two go more smoothly, but you must accept the fact that you can never be fully prepared, so leave a little money in your budget for emergency purchases.

3. Sleeping

Though many of us don't like to admit it, this is the most important part of any road trip (second maybe to planning, because that makes sleeping easier). You can't have a fun or safe time on the road if you don't sleep. Where and when to sleep is a matter of personal preference. Motels are easy to find, but budget options often are not. If you are interested in traveling frugally, camping is the way to go. When planning your route, find out where you can camp along the way, and of course pack your camping gear. Though not all campgrounds have running water or showers, many do, so you can wash up at least a few times a week.

Free camping is also an option and is actually easier to find than you might think, especially in the West. By default, camping on public land in national forests or Bureau of Land Management land is free and open to anyone, though the rules can vary by specific location. Explore BLM.gov and the particularly helpful Forest Service website during your planning phase to find camp spots and other interesting destinations along your route.

Note: This free camping on public land is known as dispersed camping. It requires a certain amount of self reliance because there are no services and no one to clean up after you. It is very important to minimize your impact by only using spots where others have clearly camped before, avoid trampling soil or cutting trees, and pack out all of your waste. Leave no Trace!

4. Staying Awake

This is the next most important thing after sleeping. No matter how hard you try to get good sleep, road trips are always exhausting. Do not drive if you are sleepy! Pull over and get some rest. Any small amount of fatigue can be dangerous on the road, however, because it makes you less alert. There are a few tricks to avoid zoning out when you drive. Try listening to books on tape or songs you can sing to keep your mind engaged. Chewing gum or sunflower seeds helps as well. And of course, traveling with a friend you can talk to is always good, as long as you aren't distracted from the road. The absolute most important part of any road trip is staying safe.

Now, with these tips in hand, start thinking about your next road trip and get ready to get behind the wheel! Check out some of our favorite road trip itineraries for inspiration:

Also check out our West's Best Road Trips and keep scrolling for more road trip ideas in your area - buckle up, drive safe and have fun!

 

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