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  • Writer's pictureMichael Belfor

How to Plan Your Summer Road Trip

It’s beginning to look a lot like…vacation time! The skies are blue, the flowers are in full bloom, and summer is before us.

If the ultimate road trip is on your bucket list, we’ve got some tips to help guide your planning process.

Be Proactive

Summer is a busy time for travel, and many other people are itching to get out and hit the open road. Doing a little planning will save you time and money. If you have an idea of your route, locate accommodations along the way to check their availability. Campgrounds and low-budget accommodations in touristy areas book up months in advance at peak summer season (hello, Yellowstone National Park).

You may also want to review the cancelation policy before you book accommodations, in case your schedule changes.

Keep in mind that destinations like national parks and some theme parks may require advance reservations to enter. A little homework can save you a lot of headaches before you hit the open road.

Aim to Maintain

Speaking of headaches, it never hurts to check your car and tires before you log a few hundred (or thousand) miles. Bring your vehicle to a trusted mechanic at least a month before your departure so you have plenty of time to fix any issues.

Renting a vehicle? Make sure you’re up to speed on how it functions. This is especially true if you’re renting an RV, a camper, or a different type of vehicle than you’re used to (say you’re a sedan driver but you’ve reserved an SUV). Practice driving, practice parking, and don’t forget the ever-important reversing. It’s a whole different ball game if you’re in a significantly larger vehicle or if you’re towing something like a pair of jet skis.

Create a Budget

Hi, we’re APM, and we know a little something about budgets. Whether you’re embarking on buying a home or taking a grand adventure, it’s always good to know your parameters. Once you know how long you’ll be gone, take a little time to create a budget. This can include allotments for things like lodging, dining, and activities. Also remember to work in the cost of transportation since, you know, this is a road trip!

Don’t forget to add a little cushion for unexpected expenses as well. These can range from car repairs to fun items like a random stop at a water park.

Pack Appropriately

There are all the road trip must-haves, like snacks, toiletries, games, electronic devices, and home comforts. But in order to stay on budget, you’ll want to make sure that you also pack accordingly for the activities you plan to do and that you’re ready for any type of weather.

If you’re visiting national parks this summer, things like sunscreen, bug spray, a cooler for day trips, travel chairs, outdoor gear, and comfortable shoes are a must. You may even want to throw in things like binoculars, bikes, park maps, and books.

Stay Flexible

Even the best-laid plans can fall victim to outside forces. Having a plan is a very good idea if you’re embarking on a summer road trip this year, but a flexible attitude will certainly come in handy if things get derailed.

It might be a good idea to have alternate hotels, restaurants, rest stops, and activities in your back pocket just in case something doesn’t work out the way you thought it would. This list doesn’t have to be exhaustive. Having one or two extra ideas in a general area can save you a lot of time and hassle if option #1 is suddenly off the table. You don’t want to waste time scrambling when an extra 10 minutes of planning could have saved the day.

Plus, it’s a road trip! Spontaneity is practically required! See a delicious-looking ice cream stand? Hit it. Hear that this trail continues to a waterfall if you just turn left up ahead? Go see. Planning is prudent and super important, but so is fun! You don’t have to deny yourself one in favor of the other.

Go Where You Want to Go

You definitely deserve a break! So make this one count. Though every family is different, some places to consider include beaches, national parks, amusement parks, and historical monuments. You could even design a road trip around a theme, such as wineries, lighthouses, or ball parks. The sky’s the limit!

Since getting there is half the fun, it’s always great to opt for the scenic route whenever possible. This means seeking out overlooks, bridges, coastal towns, waterways, and lush areas that can take you straight through nature—just remember to keep your eyes on the road. Deer, bears, and other wildlife don’t understand the concept of summer road trips.

Fortunately, Americans have been enjoying road trips since America has had roads. If you don’t have any particular destinations in mind, there are many famous journeys that allow you to simply pack up and go.

California has its famous Highway 1 (Pacific Coast Highway, or PCH, to locals). Virginia’s Blue Ridge Parkway will take you through multiple national parks. Washington’s Olympic Peninsula is just begging for a little scenic hiking, while Arizona’s red rock country is an off-roader’s dream.

More of a city person? That works, too. You can still get the feel of a road trip while navigating to and from major hubs like Chicago, St. Louis, and Los Angeles via Route 66.

Whatever you do this summer, make sure you have fun! Best of luck on your adventures.

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