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Ideas for Planning Your Summer Road Trip

Key Takeaways

  • Preparation will help make your summer road trip relaxing and fun, from where you’re going to what you can spend.
  • Know what you can afford and stick to your budget so you don’t come back with “vacation remorse."

When warmer weather hits, there’s something that calls us to the open road; windows down, wind in our hair, sun on our face. Did you know that each year between Memorial Day and Labor Day, a total of 657 million long-distance summer trips are made, according to the United States Department of Transportation? That’s a lot of gas and bathroom stops!

The road trip has long been a classic way to spend time with family or friends while exploring new places. Whether it’s the sense of freedom or the thrill of adventure that drives us, there are always plenty of options to consider.

We’ve gathered some ideas to inspire you as you begin to plan your open-road adventure:

Idea #1: Give your vacation a theme

If you’re starting your plan from a blank slate, then think about what you love to do and places you’d like to see. For instance, some people want to collect National Park passport stamps, while others want to visit the sites where their favorite movies were filmed.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Baseball stadiums and sports museums
  • National parks and natural wonders
  • Movie locations and pop culture destinations
  • Amusement parks and attractions
  • Literary landmarks and art galleries
  • Famous foodie stops or winery tours
  • Art, music, and food festivals

If you’re planning a family vacation, include the kids in the decision-making process. Consider it a fun way for them to learn geography and feel like they’re involved.

No matter where you go, remember to enjoy the ride. Create a playlist that’s tied to your road trip theme, or listen to our Spotify playlist filled with classic road trip favorites.

Idea #2: Map out your route

Whether you’re visiting family, friends, or heading to a national park, start mapping your route now. That way you can begin researching the areas you’ll be passing through; we recommend searching for rest stops, local points of interest, and places to grab a bite.

Next, go analog and buy a folding road map. Mount it on a corkboard and use push pins and string to physically map out your route. It’s a great way to visualize the adventure you’re about to undertake. In fact, a study published in the Applied Research in Quality of Life journal found that just planning or anticipating a trip can make you feel happier.

And, if you’re traveling solo, don’t forget to share your itinerary with family or friends so they know where you are and when you should be there.

Idea #3: Plan for trip expenses

There’s nothing that kills the vacation fun faster than being surprised by the cost of your road trip while you’re on it. To prevent that, create a budget. Establishing a spending guide will allow you to focus on having fun and making memories instead of counting pennies. Once you have a realistic sense of what you’re able to afford, consider setting up a vacation fund to make it a reality.

Your vehicle can quickly become another expense when road tripping. Do you need to take care of any oil changes or other maintenance needs before your trip? Make sure you have a reliable, road-ready car before you leave to avoid any unfortunate (and costly) surprises on your trip.

If you’re traveling with others, decide ahead of time who is paying for what. For example, will one person be paying for gas, another reserving hotel rooms, and another buying tickets for attractions? Or will you each be paying your own way? If one person is covering all the costs, consider using a payment service like Zelle® to pay them back (all you need is a U.S. bank account). It can be a great way to split the bill without using cash.

And speaking of cash, you might want to take out money to cover tips and pay for things where credit cards aren’t accepted. It’s good to know where you can find ATMs on your route just in case you need more cash. And don’t forget to keep your bank info safe while traveling, too.

Idea #4: Strategize your packing

When you drive, you don’t have to worry about extra baggage fees like you do when flying. However, that doesn’t mean space in your vehicle isn’t valuable. A heavier car, after all, will use more gas and cost you more money.

Create a packing list to see what you’ll need to bring with you — besides clothing. Start by figuring out all the essentials and make sure they’ll fit in the car comfortably with the riders. Then, assess your non-essentials: Do you really need to bring fishing gear or will they have rentals where you’re staying? Will there be pool towels available or do you need to bring your own? Planning ahead will help answer these questions before you even pop open the trunk and debate over how many shoes you can actually fit in the car without leaving other essentials behind.

Tip: Leave space for a cooler and snacks. Rather than paying for expensive snacks at every rest stop, pack a variety of your own that everyone will enjoy. Fill a cooler with cold beverages, and consider bringing gallons of water that you can pour into reusable water bottles.

What to remember

Have fun! There are as many ways to plan a summer road trip as there are reasons to take one. Enjoy the unique adventure either by yourself, or with friends or family. The best part about any vacation is the priceless memories you’ll create.

More information

Need help planning your next road trip? Opening a separate savings account for vacations like these can make it easier to set aside money for your next trip. Click here to learn more about saving options, or call 1-877-360-2472.

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