11 Tips for a Road Trip That Doesn’t Suck

Click to read these tips for a road trip that DOESN’T suck from a “reformed” road trip hater! | https://passportandplates.com

I live in California, the third-largest state in the U.S. There is no shortage of things to do here, but I’m embarrassed by the lack of California landmarks I’ve visited. It took me an embarrassing amount of time to get off the beaten path in San Francisco, drive to Monterey, or even explore Costa Mesa, a city 30 minutes from my house. I’ve been to the big cities and some other cool places, but I’ve never been to Big Sur, Yosemite, or even Joshua Tree. Ridiculous, right? That’s because I’m a (reformed?) road trip hater, and road trips are the only way to see most of these places.

To be honest, sometimes I feel like road trips are as American as apple pie. People seem to love road trips and I’m often faced with disbelief when I tell people it’s still my least favorite form of travel. Although nowadays with new #VanLife movement, I’m starting to think that maybe I just need to turn my car into a campervan for road trips instead.

When you live in Los Angeles, you spend an ungodly amount of time in your car. For those of you who aren’t familiar with driving in the city of angels, this SNL skit is a pretty accurate representation. We love to complain about traffic and discuss “shortcuts”…kind of how the British are with the weather. So, needless to say, the idea of spending extra time in my car doesn’t exactly leave me screaming “vacation!”

Recently though, road trips have started to grow on me. I’d still prefer pretty much any other mode of transportation to get me from point A to point B, but I’ve finally learned some tricks to make road trips fun…or, at the very least, bearable. So I present to you 11 best road trip tips for a road trip that doesn’t suck.


1. Make it about the journey

No sh*t, Sherlock. I know, I know. It took around 20 years of “road trips” between Los Angeles and San Francisco with my family to realize this, though. If the only point of said trip is to get to a specific destination, then of course the journey isn’t going to be fun. It’s looking forward to upcoming stops, seeing the cool scenery, and maybe even staying at a hotel off the freeway for the night that makes it enjoyable (like I did in Ireland). So the first of the best road trip tips is, if you don’t have anything fun planned for the actual driving part, then you’re in for your own hellish version of Are We There Yet?so start planning now.


2. Pick the right person (or people)

Click to read my best road trip tips for a road trip that DOESN’T suck from a “reformed” road trip hater! | https://passportandplates.com
Had to do a pit stop for this scenery! // Morocco

I already wrote about choosing the perfect travel companion for trips abroad, and this is no different. If you’re spending hours in the car with someone, you should have a good enough relationship to be comfortable with quiet time, chatting time, and air-guitar time. Nothing is worse than having your introspection interrupted by your chatty companion (or vice versa). When I did a Puerto Rico road trip, my mom was an awesome travel buddy!


3. Bring good stuff to listen to

I know a ton of people who never get tired of listening to music. Ever. That’s totally fine, but I’m not one of those people. I like to mix it up – music, podcasts, audio-books, and even silence. If I’m driving with a friend who wants to blast music for an entire 8-hour car ride, we’re going to have a bad time. This links up to the previous tip, so it’s two of the best road trip tips in one – pick a great travel companion who shares your taste in music, or lack thereof. I was an excellent DJ on my Oman road trip, if I do say so myself.


4. Be spontaneous!

Click to read my best road trip tips for a road trip that DOESN’T suck from a “reformed” road trip hater! | https://passportandplates.com
The BEST spontaneous road trip of my life – Kenya. // Photo Cred: Tiffany Vlaanderen

One of the pros of a road trip is the ability to stop wherever you want, without having to follow a rigid travel plan, like my family and I did in Costa Rica. So I say plan a little, but be flexible. Choose a route that actually has cool stops, but don’t feel obligated to stop unless you want to. Same goes for booking hotels. Hotel Tonight is great for a last-minute booking, although Expedia and Booking.com (affiliate link) offer last-minute deals as well.


5. Set a budget

Gas prices are somewhat out of your control, but food and accommodation are in your court. This is one of the best road trip tips for harmony between you and your travel companions: make sure everyone generally agrees on how much they’re willing to spend per day, and make decisions accordingly.


6. Bring good snacks and water

I’m not here to preach healthy eating or anything, but I never feel great after eating a fast-food meal. If you do, then kudos to you! Either way, in-between snacks are always good to have, and you save money by not spending $3 on a pack of almonds at the gas station. Better yet, plan your entire road trip around the food, like I did while exploring Ireland’s Ancient East.


7. Get off your phone

You’re on the road for the scenery, not to be distracted by the Internet. You can do that at home.


8. Have a GPS handy

Click to read my best road trip tips for a road trip that DOESN’T suck from a “reformed” road trip hater! | https://passportandplates.com
A regular map works too…provided you know how to read it 😉

Your phone signal will not work everywhere. I’ve learned this the hard way. Bring a GPS (and ideally, a friend with a different phone provider :D). Being lost isn’t anyone’s idea of fun spontaneity.


9. Agree on the driving plan

Are we driving for a certain number of hours or miles per day? Is there a destination we want to hit? How are the driving “shifts” being split up? I doubt one person wants to be driving the whole time, so one of my best road trip tips is to make sure you all agree on this so there’s no resentment.


10. Clean your car throughout the trip

Just because you’re spending most of your day in your car doesn’t mean you need to feel like you’re living in a pigsty. Plus, this avoids the hassle of having to clear out your car at the end of the day when all you want to do is sleep.


11. Set an end date

Click to read my best road trip tips for a road trip that DOESN’T suck from a “reformed” road trip hater! | https://passportandplates.com
You might be rewarded with some stunning views. // San Simeon, CA // Photo cred: Megan Lindenberg

As a (former) road trip hater, the last thing I want someone to tell me is “we’ll get there when we get there”. This is still my last-resort form of travel transportation, remember? For the sake of everyone’s sanity, set a start and end date. I also recommend keeping the road trip on the shorter side, because at the end of the day, you’re still going to be spending a lot of time in the car.


So, while my preferred choice of travel is still by plane or train, I’ve slowly become more accepting of road trips. I’m particular about my travel companions and about how long the road trip will be, the two most important of the best road trip tips for me, which has made me enjoy them that much more.


What do you think? Are you a road trip lover or hater? What are some of your best road trip tips? Share in the comments below!

Click to read my best road trip tips for a road trip that DOESN’T suck from a “reformed” road trip hater! | https://passportandplates.com
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40 thoughts on “11 Tips for a Road Trip That Doesn’t Suck

  1. OurFamilyTravel says:

    Great post! Until a few years ago, I hated road trips. Then I learned that it was about the journey and my entire outlook changed. Now I look forward to them. It’s so important to live in the moment! Thanks!

    • Sally E says:

      Thank you! Yes, that’s something I just discovered a couple of years ago as well. Making it about the journey makes it better for sure. Thanks for the comment!

  2. Kevin Wagar says:

    I love driving when I travel. The freedom of being able to pull over and check out any sight I feel like, or change direction and head somewhere else on a whim is the best 🙂

    • Sally E says:

      That’s true! It’s definitely one of the benefits. I like the idea of being able to get up and walk around which is why I usually prefer busses / trains…but then again, you don’t have the luxury of stopping when you want to that way either. Pros and cons!

  3. samiyahl says:

    We are big on road trips, have done several all over Europe, North America and now NEw Zealand…really sound advice on planning trips!

    • Sally E says:

      Whoaaaa you have done a LOT! I’ve done a couple abroad but mostly do them in the U.S. since our public transport isn’t as great. Glad to hear the advice is good, especially coming from a seasoned road tripper! 🙂

  4. 2TravelDads says:

    OMG, clean your car. Yes. At every stop, and doubly so when you’re traveling with kids. And we’re doing the Yosemite trip next month… just sayin’…

    • Sally E says:

      Right! I know the last thing I want to do once we’ve stopped for the day is to spend extra time cleaning out the car. Haha good luck! Sounds like it’ll be a blast 🙂

  5. Kathi Kamleitner says:

    Love this post! Especially the point about cleaning the car every now and then… 🙂 I love a good road trip!

    • Sally E says:

      Thank you! And yessss having a clean car definitely helps you feel like you aren’t stuck in the car with a bunch of people and stuff everywhere :). Thanks for the comment!

  6. RoarLoud says:

    With the right people road trips are great. I’ve been on not so great ones where I felt like a hostage when they wouldn’t stop for interesting places!

  7. Patricia Steffy says:

    I am reformed, and now I love road trips! It started as an economical way to get to places where I had press trips or other travel work obligations. Now we make it fun by adding a side trip at the beginning or end of work trips. And I totally agree about the difference traveling with the right person makes!

    • Sally E says:

      That’s awesome! I hope to get to that point one day. That’s a great suggestion though – making a road trip out of a road trip. I’ll have to try it out 🙂

  8. Emily Melcher says:

    I usually enjoy road trips, but they have their downsides. It’s nice to see a realistic and well-rounded approach like the one in this post. I agree 100% about choosing the right companion, and, if I may, would like to add that the “right companion” could just be yourself! Have you ever done a solo road trip?

    • Sally E says:

      Thank you! I’ve never done a solo road trip but I don’t think I’d enjoy it personally. I imagine it would be a bit challenging to be the driver and the observer so to speak. But maybe I should consider it! Have you done a solo road trip before? Would love to hear your thoughts!

      • Emily Melcher says:

        I haven’t, actually (in fact, these days all my road trips *have* to be with someone else cause I don’t have a license and need someone who does to drive!). But I have done quite a bit of solo travel that I’ve really enjoyed, so I think I would love it.

        • Sally from Passport & Plates says:

          Oh gotcha! Yeah I think it has it’s pros and cons (just like solo travel in general!) but I could see how it would be fun. Especially when done at a leisurely pace with amazing scenery!

  9. M@thewanderlusteur.com says:

    Love road trips! Esp the sing-a-longs, games, and pit-stops to flea and farmer markets. Couldn’t agree more on the right companions! Thanks for sharing your tips!!


    • Sally E says:

      I hope to learn to love them one day! They’re very slowly growing on me, but people have offered tons of great suggestions to make them fun. Thanks for your comment!

  10. Karen Wanderlustingk says:

    I’m a huge fan of maps.me, which has been my go to GPS without data. However, I am a huge fan of making special soundtracks for a trip. My soundtrack for Iceland was the Game of Thrones soundtrack!

    • Sally E says:

      Ooooh that’s a great suggestion! I’ll have to try doing that next time. Epic playlist for an epic road trip 🙂

  11. Hannah Rollings says:

    Great tips! My bf and I are planning a southern Africa road trip. We regularly get on the road and we have a 200 song strong playlist to accompany us!

    • Sally E says:

      That’s AWESOME! I’m really jealous. I’ve been to a few countries in Africa but haven’t made it past Kenya. Will definitely be following a long. But that’s a great suggestion! I’ll have to look into making a cool playlist for my next trip.

  12. dailyadventuresofme says:

    I love a good road trip, especially with music, though. They provide something that brings me back to it when I hear it.

    • Sally from Passport & Plates says:

      That’s so true! Some of my best travel memories come flooding back when I hear a song that was playing during that time. I definitely need to make an epic playlist for my next trip!

  13. Stephanie Langlet says:

    The reason why I love so much road trips is the flexibility to stop whenever / wherever I want and enjoy the place. As you said, it’s a journey ! At the beginning of the montyh, I had to drive from southwest of France to southeast. I took a highspeed way on the part I knew and took my time after Toulouse. We stopped in a beautiful village for the night, spent the second morning walking around. And in the afternoon, before reaching our goal, we stopped in Carmague for birds and wild horses watching. I always make a road trip memorable.

    • Sally E says:

      That’s awesome! I agree – I’ve learned that it’s very important to treat the journey like an adventure. Otherwise you’re stuck in a very long and unappealing car ride. Although I must say, driving across France sounds awesome!

      • Stephanie Langlet says:

        Right, there’s a lot of parts of France where the landscapes are so beautiful that I never want to take the highspeed way. Especially from my place to Saint Paul de Vence, there are so many interesting places that it’s difficult to choose where to stop ! I have to do the same roadtrip in three weeks, and I know I’ll leave on early morning to have more time in Camargue.

        • Sally E says:

          Yes I can imagine! Now that you’ve done it once I’m sure you have a better idea where to stop. Looking forward to seeing your photos!

  14. Lili's travel plans says:

    I just LOVE a good road trip! Did one last your in the USA, it was awesome! It should definitely be about the journey and the people and a good road trip CD is obviously a must!!! 🙂

    • Sally E says:

      Oh that’s awesome! I’m sure you’ve seen more of the U.S. than me :p. After writing this, I’ve gotten so many good tips from people…now I want to plan my next one – good CD included 🙂

  15. Jennifer McIntyre says:

    Great article! Love a good roadtrip and will have to keep all these in mind for the next one to make sure it doesn’t suck haha 🙂 – Jen @ www.theredheadabroadblog.com

    • Sally from Passport & Plates says:

      Thank you! Haha yessss as someone who doesn’t enjoy extended periods of time in the car, I can vouch that these will make it more bearable 🙂

  16. Tag Along Travel says:

    I am not a fan of the road trip. I relate to you feeling out of step with others before your conversion. I think the secret for me is driving somewhere with lots of stops on the way and no more than 3-4 hours on the road a day. A cycling road trip on the other hand gets me excited.

    • Sally E says:

      I’ve gotten much better about road trips thankfully, but I agree with you that stopping frequently is the way to go! I’m not sure I would do well with biking haha but I imagine it’s super fun!

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