Road trips are often the most memorable and can be the best trip of your life. Make sure to do your road-trip research to ensure for an amazing adventure.  Here is our guide to road-trip the smart way.

Ultimate List of Road Trip Tips

Preparation:

1. Travel with folks you enjoy being with. Incompatibility will ruin the trip. Also, this is not the time to fix a family riff.

2. Plan but do not over plan. The unexpected surprise can enhance a trip

3. In addition to unplanned surprises, have a few planned “surprises” up your sleeve.

4. Include down time or quiet time in your schedule to give everybody a chance to re-charge.

5. Involve everyone in the planning of the trip.

6. If there are long days of travel, plan a stop to break up the monotony.

7. Read up on your destination(s) with 2-3 good guidebooks such as Road Trip USA: Cross-Country Adventures on America’s Two-Lane Highways or Healthy Highways: The Traveler’s Guide to Healthy Eating Also, do a few Internet searches for the places you will be visiting. There may be some information on local attractions, festivals, lodging and restaurants. The Internet can be a very good source of information but beware; the information can be out of date.

8. Ask friends, or use the large number of social networks, about places to see and visit on your trip.

9. Pre-trip car maintenance – Get your oil changed. Check battery, tires, coolant, and AC. Do a pressure check of the cooling system.

10. Check into AAA or other auto programs – They provide maps and guidebooks as well as roadside assistance in case of a breakdown.

11. Do a test pack. The longer the trip the more you will need to take. In addition, the type of trip planned, i.e. camping trip, will dictate some of the cargo you must take along. A test pack of your car will show you if you will be able to pack the car safely. Be sure to maintain the driver’s line of sight. You may find you will need to reduce your cargo, get a larger vehicle, get a trailer or get a car top carrier. It is better to know that in advance as opposed to when you are packing the car the night before or the morning you are leaving.

What to Pack:

12. Good Music – Get music for both yourself and your travel companions – Satellite radio provides a great variety of programming including music, sports, news and more. Download onto your MP3 player such as the Apple iPod classic 120 GB or go old school and burn CDs.

13. MP3 FM transmitter/adapter – Allows you to listen to a MP3 player through the radio. Check out the Griffin iTrip Auto FM Transmitter and Auto Charger for iPod.

14. AC Power Adapter – In combination with the proper charger, the adapter can be used to charge almost any electronic device while in transit. If you are low on power outlets in your car, a splitter can be used to double or triple your capabilities. Make sure you unplug them when stopped.
15. Take stamps and an address book – Mail postcards as often as you can.

16. Cameras – still and video – most digital cameras have the ability to do both like the Canon Powershot 10MP Digital Camera . Make sure you have enough memory cards and batteries

17. Journals – Bring along a good ol’ journal so you can write or draw pictures about your trip. If travel companions are too little, have them draw their favorite things. This can be a great keepsake and reminder of you adventure especially with a Classic Leather Bound Journal

18. Games and Books – Both for the road and destination. A few books or games can help pass the time on a rainy day or during some down time like Fun on the Run!: 324 Instant Family Activities

19. Pack tools – including an emergency road kit, for emergency auto work, camping, and minor repairs

20. Chargers for all of your electronics and, if needed, the proper adapters. A solar powered charger is a cool device for charging small devices like MP3 players and some phones if you lack power while camping, hiking or backpacking. Some are even built into bags or backpacks.

21. Cell phones – Great emergency flashlights at night.

22. GPS and Maps – The GPS is great for helping you get around and lots of fun. The Garmin nüvi 760 Navigator
is a great option. Maps are a great back up for the GPS plus they allow you to look at the big picture.

23. Pack your medications. Make sure you have your prescription meds and other over-the-counter medications.

24. Bring along pillows and blankets.

25. Ice chest that plugs into a car power outlet like this 18 qt. Compact Cooler
– great while on the road. They keep stuff cold while driving without the mess of ice, but don’t leave it plugged in once you ignition is off. It will drain your battery.

26. Comfort toys – If traveling with little ones, make sure they have their blanket or Teddy or whatever comforts them and be sure to track it like one of the children on the trip. If you lose it, the trip will be miserable.

27. Drinks and snacks – Make sure you have enough snacks and drinks for everyone. This saves time by not having to stop. Also a thermos is great for hot drinks like coffee. Most coffee shops will fill it for you.

28. Pack your sense of humor. Not everything will go as planned. Be ready to smile and move on.

While Traveling:

29. Set goals but do not stress over them. Worry less about the destination and more about the journey. You may get there a little late, but it will much more enjoyable without stress.

30. Try to find something special to do for each traveling companion. This can be difficult due differences in age, sex and interests of your co-travelers, but it will give everyone a vested interest in the trip and improve the experience.

31. Blog your trip– Make it simple – Tweets on Twitter or go all out with a website, but blog it for friends and family to see. Now, it requires you bring along a laptop, netbook or smart phone, but it will make it fun and allow you feedback from those following your trip.

32. Visit family and friends along the way – This will save you a few bucks, but don’t stay long. It is a vacation not a reunion.

33. Change drivers – This is most important if traveling long distances. Road fatigue can be deadly.

34. Document the trip – Use all that is available – photos, videos, journals, blogs, etc. These will be your best souvenirs.

35. Photograph your fellow travelers – We tend to get caught up in photographing the sites and scenery, but you are there to share the moment with people close to you. They are more important than the sites. Get the best of both worlds by putting them in the picture.

36. Stop and have a picnic.

37. Dress comfortably while driving. Make sure you are comfortable. I like to wear shoes that I can slip off while driving.

38. If a co-traveler wants to stop, then stop. The happier they are, the better the trip will be.

39. Use cruise control – It improves your gas mileage and allows you to move around and stretch your legs.

40. Gas – keep an eye on the tank, in some places, stations may be rare, use GPS to track stations. It is better to have a full tank than an empty tank.

41. Look for the unexpected – While we were driving through Memphis one afternoon on a trip from Baltimore to Houston, I saw a sign for Graceland. After a consult with the navigator, we decided on a spur of the moment stop to visit the home of Elvis. We reached our original destination much later than planned, but it was a memorable experience.

42. While on the road, try some local food favorites or delicacies.

43. Take advantage of rest stops – These vary but they tend to be clean and sometimes informative. There is usually a place for the kids to run around for a bit.

While at your destination:

44. Take advantage of local activities. Most State and National Parks have programs, both free and for a fee, that will enhance your trip

45. Enjoy a campfire. In my life, some of my best times have been around a campfire.

46. See the sites. Get out and see stuff.

47. Chill out. Try to relax on your vacation.

48. Make new friends. Meet and learn from fellow travelers or the locals about things to do and see in the area.

After the trip:

49. Develop or download your photos. Give a framed photo from a special event or place on the trip to your co-travelers.

50. Put together a slideshow or movie. There are many software programs– the easiest being Moviemaker for PCs and iMovie for Macs. It is a great way to show off your trip.

51. Change the oil on your vehicle and check it out.

52. Start planning your next trip.

Want to plan a road trip, but don’t know where to start? Check out some of these great books for inspiration:

Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives: An All-American Road Trip

The Great American Roadtrip from Travel & Leisure

Lewis and Clark Great American Road Trips series