Airplanes are fast, trains are relaxing, but for traveling on your time and no one else’s, there’s nothing like the romance of the open road. Whether you’re blazing down the interstate highways from city to city or going off the beaten paths to explore small towns and natural scenery, the great American road trip is the perfect way to make lifelong memories on the journey as well as at the destination.
Of course, such an undertaking isn’t one that you can plan on the spur of the moment, especially if it’s your first time out. Preparing for your first road trip requires more than just limbering up for a long drive; there’s a lot of planning, packing, and preparations to do at home.
Give Yourself Extra Time
While flooring the gas pedal is irresistible on the highway, you don’t want to overschedule yourself and end up rushing the journey. Plan out a schedule that allows ample time to stretch out, rest, stay overnight, and most of all, obey the speed limits when you can. One experience that would be certain to mar your first road trip is for a state trooper to pounce on your out-of-state plates and hit you with a heavy citation.
Make Arrangements for Your Dogs
Road trips are a blast, but your pets can’t always come along for the ride. If you have dogs that require more than occasional check-ins and you can’t secure a house sitter who can commit to caring for them, you’ll have to find a facility that can board your dogs during your trip. But boarding requires more investigation than just looking for the closest option available—you’ll need to give any boarder a thorough vetting before you sign off on sending your dogs there. Before you go, make sure you feel completely comfortable with anyone—whether it’s a friend, family member, or boarder—who will be looking after your pets while you’re gone.
Many stretches of road will warn you that an upcoming highway exit is the last exit for—well, more miles than you may be able to wrap your head around. If you find yourself with hunger pangs between stops, you’ll want to make sure you brought enough food to munch on. Even without those dire straits, you can avoid the high markups and impulse buys of gas stations and truck stops along the way by stocking up beforehand.
Prepare Your Audio
Outside of the major media markets, radio is unreliable or may not be to your taste. Ensure uninterrupted entertainment with expansive playlists on your devices. Now is your time to catch up on albums and podcasts you may have missed, so make sure to load up on music before you go.
Plan for Something Going Wrong
Preparing for your first road trip means preparing for worst-case scenarios, too. Pack a first-aid kit, a flashlight, blankets, and other essentials in case something goes awry on the road and assistance isn’t immediate. After all, whether you’re driving across town or the country, safety always comes first.