How to Plan a Road Trip: Follow these 5 simple steps to plan the road trip of a lifetime!

How to Plan a Road Trip

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How to Plan a Road Trip

We do a LOT of driving as a family. Road trips are our standard and prefered way of travel. Even when we visit other countries and continents, we tend to make road tripping a priority. For a family of six, it’s just more economical and more practical.

Last summer we drove 4,500 miles (80+ hours) in the car, on the way to Alaska! It’s the biggest road trip we’ve ever taken. The year before we drove from Maine, down the east coast to Florida, then to California. So we’ve got some major mileage under our belts along with numerous other long-haul road trips.

As much fun as spontaneous road trips can be, it is so important to prepare for your road trip. Here are my 5 sure-fire road trip essentials to ensure you have a safe and smooth ride to wherever you choose to go!

  1. Get Your Car Road Trip Ready
  2. Become a Packing Pro
  3. Plan a Road Trip Route
  4. Bring Activities to Keep Kids Happy and Learning
  5. Pack Your Road Trip Snacks

1. Get Your Car Road Trip Ready

Before leaving on any road trip, you want to be sure your car is thoroughly prepared and safe to drive. Driving long distances can put a big strain on your car’s engine. Making sure that you have sufficient oil and other fluids is essential to a smooth trip!

We use ExxonMobil 1 in our car to be sure we are prepared and safe for our road trips. Mobil 1™ synthetic oil protects more than just your engine.  It requires fewer oil changes and reduces oil consumption and wastes less oil. You can find ExxonMobil 1 at all Walmart stores in the automotive aisle, but Walmart’s Auto Care Center is a great place to get your oil changed as well.

How to Plan a Road Trip

Mobil 1™ Earth Day Drive Away Sweepstakes

Be sure to enter the Earth Day Drive Away sweepstakes and purchase Mobil 1™ motor oil at Walmart. Mobil 1™ is giving Walmart customers a chance to win a Chevy Equinox, plus $10 off their next Mobil 1™ purchase at Walmart. The Promotion runs January 15, 2018 – April 30, 2018. You can enter by

  1. purchasing 5 quarts of Mobil 1™ in the store or a Mobil 1™ oil change at the Auto Care Center or
  2. by recycling any used oil at an Auto Care Center
  • As a bonus, shoppers that purchase 5 quarts of Mobil 1™ synthetic oil or a Mobil 1™ synthetic oil change at the Auto Care Center are also eligible to receive a $10 Select Certificate valid on a future Mobil 1™ purchase at Walmart.
  • Once shoppers have made a qualifying Mobil 1™ purchase or recycled any used oil at Walmart, they can enter to win the Chevy Equinox and/or receive their $10 Walmart Select Certificate at
  • Limit 2 entries in the sweepstakes per customer (1 for purchasing and 1 for recycling).
  • Receipt required to receive $10 Walmart Select Certificate.
  • (Terms and conditions, FAQs, and other information can be found at )

Not all cars are the same. Be sure to pick the right oil for your car if you’re doing it yourself. You can use the Oil Selector Tool to help you determine which oil is right for your car.

How to Plan a Road Trip
Pack only the basics: jeans, leggings, shirts, coats (if it’s cold). Keep it simple and do laundry every few days. Remember, it’s a road trip, not a fashion show!

2. Become a Packing Pro

Packing for any trip, a road trip or a flight can be daunting, especially with kids. They just require so much STUFF. We try to keep it really light in our family of 6. We tend to pack the same, regardless of the length of our trip or where we are going. This is what we bring for each person:

  • 2 pairs of pants
  • 3 shirts
  • 1 dress (for the girls)
  • 3 pairs of underwear
  • 3 pairs of socks
  • 1 Jacket
  • 1 Toothbrush
  • 1 pair of really good walking shoes. We love KEENS

I can usually fit all of the kids clothes into ONE carry-on size suitcase. I love using these packing cubes to help keep each kids’ clothing separate so I don’t have to do so much sorting!


How to Plan a Road Trip

3. Plan a Road Trip Route

The next step to planning your road trip is to plan your route. It can be fun to just hop in the car and go without any forethought, but when you have kids and a long way to go, it’s smart to do a little bit of planning. We find that stopping every two hours to break up long drives really helps with attitudes and leg cramping (for kids and adults)!

How to Plan a Road Trip

How to plan a road trip with google maps

We like to use Google My Maps to plan out our routes. You can create your own personalized map with desired stops and even add notes and images on each stop. You can customize your maps with colors and icons to make it look pretty. You can see customized maps that I have created here:

Paris Walking Guide

Perfect London Itinerary

Iceland Road Trip

Budapest in One Day

Prague in One Day

Day Trips from Paris

Paddington’s Guide to London

What are the best road trip apps?

I can’t imagine how much more fun and efficient road trips would have been when I was little if we had apps to help us along the way! We are lucky to live in a world of so much awesome technology to help us out. These are a few of our favorite road trip apps that we love to use.

Roadtrippers: This app will help you find pit stops along your route, activities, restaurants, diners, gas stations, basically anything you could want (or not want) to find on your road trip.

Download it now on iOS | Download it now on Android

Field Trip: Very Similar to Roadtrippers. I like that it pops up with cards when you are near something of interest and you can select categories that interest you.

Download it now on iOS | Download it now on Android

Trip by Skyscanner: This user-driven social app will help you find places to stay, eat, and pay as recommended by other travelers.

Download it now on iOS | Download it now on Android

Trip Advisor: If you want multiple comprehensive reviews and hotels, restaurants or pretty much anything in the world, Trip Advisor will help you decide what’s worth a stop.

Download it now on iOS | Download it now on Android

Gas Buddy: If you’re looking to save money on gas (and who isn’t?), Gas Buddy will help you find the cheapest gas near you. And if you sign up with Gas Buddy you can get 5 cents off every gallon!

Download it now on iOS | Download it now on Android

Hotel Tonight: I love this app if our road trip is flexible andopen-endedd. If we want to have a day where we just drive until we can’t stay awake, Hotel Tonight is a great way to find discounted hotel rates at the last possible minute!

Download it now on iOS | Download it now on Android  

Spotify: Of course Spotify is a must if you’re planning to listen to awesome music without paying a fortune. We have the premium subscription so we have unlimited listening and download abilities. I love making my own playlists for different occasions, and there are millions of songs on Spotify!

Download it now on iOS | Download it now on Android

Audible: If you’re a fan of audiobooks, then you’ll definitely want to use the Audible app to listen to the best audiobooks for family road trips. Find my favorites here.

Download it now on iOS | Download it now on Android

4. Bring Activities to Keep Kids Happy and Learning

When road tripping with kids, it is essential to keep them occupied or entertained so they don’t “die from boredom!” Apparently that’s a real disease! I have four small kids who I try to keep off electronics as much as possible while traveling. I like to use road trip activities, road trip games for kids, audiobooks, and music to keep the kids entertained in the car.

What are the best road trip games for kids?

50 Road Trip Games: This is a nice little pack of different games to play in the car while on a road trip. Great way to keep everyone’s sanity in tact!

Spot It On the Road:  Our kids are obsessed with Spot It! I actually love playiing it too. It’s easy enough for even the tiniest travelers to play.

Family Road Trip: We love this Family Road trip game. Fun to play on or off the road.

Magnetic Hang Man: My kids love this magnetic hangman game. The pieces are foam, but the magnet is strong so they stay in place without flying all over the car and getting lost.

What are the best road trip activities for kids?

Tava Passports: Another family run company that we just adore! We even got to meet up with the owners when we were in Italy. They put their heart and soul into these adorable Travel Passports that are perfect for keeping kids engaged while traveling and learning all they can in a fun way. There are 13 Passports available for destinations around the world. But for road trips I recommend their Road Trip Passport. My kids absolutely love doing these on road trips!  

How to Plan a Road Trip


Boogie Boards: This is probably one of our most used road trip activities. Our kids use them on a daily basis and it’s a great alternative to hauling around paper and pencils! Boogie boards last for several years and are super thin and easily portable. They’re great for drawing on, playing tic-tac-toe, hangman or any other game you can play on paper.

What are the best audiobooks for family road trips?

We love listening to music in the car, but sometimes it doesn’t capture the imagination of our kids as much as I’d like, so we turn to audiobooks to hold their attention for a longer time-span. We have listened to hundreds of hours of audiobooks in the car and we definitely have our favorites!

The best audiobooks for family road trips are ones that will keep the whole family entertained, from the littlest listener to the oldest listener! Some of our favorites are Harry Potter, The True Meaning of Smekday, Wonder, Henry Huggins, Little House Series, and Ramona. If you want our full list of the best audiobooks for family road trips, read our post here:

Best Audiobooks for Family Road Trips

What are the best road trip songs?

We love listening to some good tunes on the road! It’s an opportunity to introduce our kids to some of our favorite classics. I’ve created this Wanderlust Crew Road Trip Playlist on Spotify that will hopefully be entertaining for kids and adults!


How to Plan a Road Trip: The best road trip playlist on Spotify


I have tons of other great ideas for road trips games and activities in my post How to Worldschool

How to Worldschool

How to Plan a Road Trip

5. Pack Your Road Trip Snacks

Nothing is more miserable than a carload of hungry kids (or adults really), so be sure you bring enough snacks to keep everyone full and happy! We try to limit the junk while we are road tripping and that means packing healthy road trip snacks that will fill us and fuel us. These are some of our favorite road trip snacks to pack in the car:

  • Fruit: grapes, blueberries, apples, apple slices, mandarins, bananas
  • Vegetables: celery, carrot sticks, small cucumbers, cauliflower, broccoli, sugar snap peas, sweet peppers.
  • Hummus Cups
  • CLIF Bars
  • KIND Bars
  • Lunch Meats, Cheese and Rolls for little sandwiches. Bring packets of mayo and mustard.

Be sure to bring a bag for garbage so the car doesn’t get disgusting and you don’t spend 10 minutes at every gas station cleaning the car out! I always travel with these little ones.

I hope you have a safe and well-planned road trip, wherever you road trip!

How to Plan the Ultimate Road Trip