14 Tips for a Stress Free Start to Your Road Trip

It can be very exciting to take a road trip.  On the other hand, getting yourself and your family ready, packed and out the door on the day of the trip can be daunting if you don’t plan well.  I have started off on many a road trip frazzled and at my wits end by the time we pull out the drive because I didn’t strategize a “get ready” plan.  I finally tackled the beast and came up with a schedule of sorts,  that helps my family and I pack and prepare in advance; so that the morning of the trip, we are free of the added stress  we’ve often experienced by being so unprepared.  Here are 14 road trip tips that should make the start (and finish) of your trip a little less stressful and a lot more relaxing:


1) Make Several Lists

Start out by making several lists.  Make one list for everything you need to bring on the trip.  Make another list for everything you need to do to get ready for the trip, and don’t stop there!!  Make a list of items or tasks for each little traveler so that they can participate in getting ready.  You can remind them that planning is half the fun!


2) Take 10 minutes

Starting one or two weeks in advance, take 10 minutes each day to tackle something on one or more of your lists.

For example:   

  • Monday: locate and pull down luggage
  • Tuesday: locate and clean cooler

This step, above all else, will make the day of the trip much less stressful.

3) Stage Your Luggage

Designate a staging area for your luggage and all other items that you are planning to bring with for the trip.  This way everything is in one spot, making it less likely that you will forget something.

4) Pre-pack a Necessities Kit

Pre pack toiletries and other personal necessities into a travel kit.

For example

  • If you take a prescription medication, count and store the meds in a travel case.
  • If you have contact lenses, make sure you pack a small bottle of contact solution.

5) Do Laundry and Pack Clothes In Advance

Launder and pack the clothes you plan to bring, several days to a week in advance.  Decide on everyone wearing their second favorite clothing choices to work or school the week before the trip, so that you won’t have to be rushing around doing laundry just before the trip.

6) Be Snack Ready

Stock up and pack plenty of snacks.  This will save time and money because you won’t have to make as many pit stops on the road which can be costly and slow you down.

I usually store all the non-perishable snacks in a large cardboard box and put it in the staging area.

7) Car Maintenance

Give you car a quick but thorough maintenance check.

For example: oil change, tire pressure, top off fluids, fill gas tank

This is a great preventative measure for you car, as well as your for your peace of mind when on the road.

8) Map Out your Route

GPS and all those new gadgets work great, but dare I suggest, you take a moment to document your route on paper?  Google Maps makes it very easy to create and print a route, and then there is always an actual road map if you’re feeling nostalgic.

9) Arrange Pet Care (and Plant Care)

Although you may only be gone a few days, if you have any pets (or plants), you want to be sure that you have some plan for their care.

10) Check the Weather Forecast

Start to follow the weather forecast for your travel destination at least a week in advance.  My dad used to do this at least two weeks before our vacation, and quite honestly I thought he was going overboard, but I have since realized that he knew exactly what he was doing.  Just because it is sunny and 60 where you live does not mean it is going to be sunny and 60 where you are going.

11) Go to the Bank

If you are planning to use cash, stop by an ATM a day or two in advance of your trip.  ATM charges can be much more expensive on the road, where the bank knows that you will pay the extra fees for using their ATMs.  In addition, this will be one less task that you have to do the morning of the trip.

12) Plan for the return home by Staging  a Designated Dirty Laundry Area

Stage your laundry area so that when you return from the trip, everyone can easily unpack their dirty clothes into the appropriate piles upon bringing the luggage in from the car.

13) Plan Your Back-Home-Safely Meal

Plan the meal that you will have when you return home from your trip.

For example:

  • Buy frozen pizzas in advance, so that when you return, you have an easy meal that is ready to go.  Everyone can unpack and sort dirty laundry while the pizzas are in the oven.
  • Do take-out.  My husband’s favorite memory from his childhood road trips was the take-out pizza night they would have upon return from their trip.

14) Plan One Back-to-Work-or-School-Outfit

Finally, make sure that everyone involved has at least one clean outfit for returning back to work or school on the day following the end of your trip.

I hope these road trip tips help!! If you can’t do all of these steps, I think you’ll find that even doing some of them will help make your trip less stressful before, during, and after.


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4 Responses to 14 Tips for a Stress Free Start to Your Road Trip

  1. Joy @ Yesterfood April 12, 2013 at 7:23 am #

    Amy, I love your blog, and this post is one of my favorites so far! The “return” points (#s 12,13,14) are genius!! I never think of THOSE, I’m just thinking of where we’re going. Thanks! 🙂

    Joy @ Yesterfood.blogspot.com


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