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20 Road Trip Hacks for a Stress-free Trip

By: Craig

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Featured Image by averie woodard on Unsplash

Road trips are supposed to be fun, but they can also be stressful. 

A lot of planning goes into road trips and there are even more things to worry about once you’re on the road. 

Luckily, we have a few road trip hacks to make your life easier while you’re traveling down the open highway (or up into the mountains). These hacks will help ensure that your trip runs smoothly and you have the time of your life. 

Create Your Own Customized Road Trip Map

A road trip map for the journey ahead will ensure that you don’t forget any essential stops along your way. You could simply print out a normal map you plotted out on Google Maps. But that doesn’t even come close to the awesomeness of a customized map.  

A custom map is much easier to make than it sounds, and there are many different tools out there that help guide you through the process. Our favorite is Google My Maps but many other road trippers use Roadtrippers to plan their road trips.

To learn how you can use Google My Maps to plan your next road trip check out: How to Plan a Road Trip Using Google Maps

Get Free Paper Road Maps and Attraction Guides

There is no need to buy a road atlas or paper road maps.

As you enter each state along the interstate, you will likely find a Welcome Center. These centers offer free paper road maps of the state.

Therefore, make Welcome Centers a stop on your route. They are great for the free road map as well as a bathroom or lunch break.

Also, if you are a AAA member, you can order free road maps through them for your upcoming travels.

The Welcome Centers or Tourism Bureaus will also likely have visitor’s guides. If you look through, you may find some interesting stops along the way.

Make Time For the Small Towns

When planning road trips, many of us focus on the big cities or tourist attractions for our things to see and do. As a result, we end up driving right past those small towns along the route.

Over the years, we’ve learned that those small towns have a lot to offer, but the allure of a big city can easily overshadow them.

Small towns offer a chance to get to know the people and learn about the culture and history of an area. Stopping in small-town restaurants, shops, and museums, will also help support some great businesses.

Our favorite small-town stops have been breweries, wineries, and distilleries. They offer a chance to sit down and chat all while learning about the area.

Stay at Hotels With Free Breakfast

If your road trip requires you to stay in hotels along your route, find hotels with complimentary breakfast. Getting a meal in before you hit the road is a great money and time saver.

Complimentary breakfast means one less meal you have to plan for and spend money on. It’s also a great way to get your morning coffee and a few snacks for the day ahead.

Pack a Picnic Kit

Whether you are packing your meals or stopping for food along your way, you never know when you will need those napkins, cutlery, or plates. 

A Picnic Kit can include the following items:

  • Plates
  • Cutlery
  • Napkins
  • Plastic table cloth (you’ll be happy to have this)
  • Can Opener
  • Steak Knife
  • Trash Bag

Pack each of these items into an accessible small bag that you can set in a convenient place, such as under the passenger seat.  This way, the picnic supplies are easy to access when needed.

If you want to have everything you’ll need and keep it organized, you can always purchase a picnic kit.

Create Small Bags of Snacks for Each Day

Breaking up snacks into individual servings will not only help keep you organized but will also prevent you from eating an entire bag of chips in one sitting. 

No one has ever felt good after eating an entire 1lb of gummy bears.

You can also place individual bags of snacks in separate larger bags labeled with each day. Having small bags of snacks for each day makes it easy to grab what you need for the day and to divvy them out to each passenger.

Bring an Electric Cooler

Having a cooler to store snacks and meals will save you money. And having food on hand will prevent those hunger melt-downs that will easily ruin the mood of a road trip.

But draining a traditional cooler and restocking the ice can be a real pain.

Thankfully, there are electric coolers that you can purchase that plug into the 12 Volt outlet in your car. They come in a variety of sizes depending on the amount of space you have available.

These electric coolers are a must-have for any road trip. We like the affordability of this Igloo Cooler.

Bring Some Cash and Change

You never know when you are going to need change or cash on your road trip.

We like to keep an envelope with a little bit of cash in our glove box. That way, we always have cash if needed.

You also never know when you are going to need change. Tolls and laundry can require change, and scrambling to find some can put a damper on any trip.

Don’t Keep Your Credit Cards and Cash In the Same Place

Keep your credit card and cash in at least two different places so that if you misplace or lose one, you have a backup stash.

If traveling in a pair, this is easy to do as you can split up the cash and cards between the two of you. If you plan to use one card, maybe keep an extra card in a third place in case of an emergency.

If you are solo, keep a stash of money on you and inside a suitcase or glove box.

Raid the Dollar Store For Cheap Kid Distractions

Want to keep those kids entertained throughout your road trip?

Then hit up your local dollar store and find a bunch of little surprises to give to the kids every few hours.

These little surprises will help keep them occupied throughout the trip and help build anticipation. 

If you plan it right, you could even have themes for each gift related to where you’ll be. Some examples are bubbles when stopping at a park for a picnic or a pail and shovel for a stop at the beach.

Download Audiobooks

Keep everyone in the car entertained and mentally occupied with audiobooks. They keep your attention better than music does and helps the time fly by.

Books like the Harry Potter series or biographies read by the author are great options for road trips.

More Road Trip Entertainment Ideas:
15 Ridiculously Fun Road Trip Games
Road Trip Activities: Fun Ideas for a Long Car Ride

Download the GyPSy Guide App

Before heading out on your road trip, check to see if the GyPSy Guide App has any audio tours available for your destinations. Audio tours are available for many of the National Parks and popular road trip destinations.

We absolutely love using the GyPSy Guide App, to help us learn about the area we are driving through. It’s like having your own personal tour guide in your car.

The app plays snippets of information based on your GPS location. It also has great suggestions for the best ways to see an area.

Use Suction Cup Caddies to Hold Kids Art Supplies

Kids love to be creative on road trips.

But the backseat can get messy real fast when their crayons, markers, paint, and paper start flying everywhere.

Luckily, you can buy suction cup shower caddies that attach right to the window and hold all those art supplies in place for easy access.

Not only does this save the car from disaster, but it also helps prevent stress when the kids can’t find their favorite markers.

This hack is great for both kids and adults.

Instead of buying a car tray to eat, draw, or write on, use something you already have, like a cookie baking sheet.

Create a Bucket  Pulley System to Pass Items to the Back Seat

When the kid in the third row wants a snack, but the kids in the middle seats are sleeping, you’ll be happy you installed a bucket pulley system.

All you need to create your pulley system is a small bucket, some twine or string, and two suction cups.

Just attach the suction cups to the windows on either side of your car.  Then thread the string through both of them and tie a knot.

This bucket pulley system that you can use to pass things back and forth in the car.

This hack allows you to easily pass snacks, water bottles, extra toys, maps, etc., from one row of seats to another.

Use Cheap Portable Shower Caddies as In-Car Organization

Shower caddies are great for keeping all your road trip essentials organized.

So when you go to the dollar store and buy a couple of cheap ones, it will save you many headaches.

You can use them to hold everything from trash bags to paper towels, wet wipes, and tissues. They are great for keeping trash off the floor of your car and help prevent spills.

Use a Shoe Organizer for Back Seat Storage

Shoe organizers are great for keeping anything you need in the back seat organized.

They fit on most seat-backs and hold a bunch of stuff, from toys to extra clothes or food.  

Hang them from the front seats’ headrests, and you’ll have a back seat that stays organized.

Roll Your Clothes Instead of Folding Them

Rolling your clothes helps in two ways.

One, it helps keep your clothes wrinkle-free. And, two, it saves space in your suitcase or packing cube.

To make things even better, you can also roll your outfits for the day together. Roll together pants, shirts, socks, and underwear for each day. This prevents you from having to dig around your suitcase to find each piece of clothing.

Bring Overnight Bags

If you plan to stay in multiple hotels over your trip, it is a great idea to pack a small overnight bag for each person. This cuts down on the amount of luggage you have to lug into the hotel each night.

All you need is one set of clothes and essential toiletries in a small bag.

To make things even easier, label each bag with the person’s name, or get different colors, so everyone knows where their bag is.

Bring a Foldable Wagon

A foldable wagon will make it easy to take coolers, groceries, and supplies from the car to the campsite, picnic area, or hotel during your road trip.

Schedule a Car Detailing for After Your Road Trip

Getting your car detailed after you get back from your road trip will be the best decision you can make. When you get home, you can just unpack and not worry about cleaning up.

When planning your road trip budget, make sure to include the cost of detailing your car once you return.

Doing so will turn those stressful messes into “we’ll deal with that later.”

You’ll thank me later for this one.

More Road Trip Planning Tips:
Tips to Help You Save Money on Your Next Road Trip

When is the Best Time to Leave for a Long Road Trip?
How to Budget for a Road Trip

You Got This

With these road trip hacks, you will have a stress-free road trip.

Many of these hacks will also save you money and allow you to stay organized throughout your entire trip.

Now get out there and have the best road trip that you can!