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26 Tips For The Perfect Summer Road Trip in 2020

Whatever your travel habits are, at least once you need to plan a summer road trip: driving freely on the road, choosing what to do without being forced by anyone and anything, take unknown routes and trails is just an incredible feeling. In this guide, we will give you a few tips on how to plan a summer road trip in 2020.

Road tripping is our favorite type of vacation: we started road tripping years ago, and over time we’ve perfectioned our skills, and nowadays, we consider ourselves experts.

That’s why we can give you the best expert tips and advice on how to plan a summer road trip!

Read Also: 8 Essential Travel Accessories to Travel Safely in 2020

What is a road trip?

A road trip is a long-distance trip on the road to get from place to place. Specifically, a road trip means a trip by car. Traveling with an RV or a campervan doesn’t qualify as a proper road trip for a specific reason: when you move in a vehicle, you need to find accommodation for the night. When you travel with your RV or a campervan, you don’t need accommodation.

Also, a camping road trip usually ends up in a camping spot while a classic road trip can end up anywhere because your goal is to go from point A to point B without any limit or restriction.

You can start your road trip in your home and then move across your country, or arrive at the country of your choice, rent a car and explore by car: in both cases, you will end up having so much fun that you will fall in love with road tripping.

Why road trips are the best?

Well, considering that traveling is such a personal matter, and everyone has different preferences and opinions, road trips certainly have their appeal. They are very often considered the best of the best. Without going too much in detail, we can only mention one big perk of road trips: flexibility.

Not only you can plan your vacation the way you want but, most of all, you can decide when to stop, what to do, and everything without being constrained by strict plans.

How To Plan A Summer Road Trip

Planning a summer road trip is fun but it also requires a lot of preparation, no matter the type of road trip you want to do. Here are our best tips to plan the perfect road trip this summer.

1. Define your budget

The first thing you need to do before planning a road trip is taking care of the budget:

how much money do you want to spend on your vacation? How much money do you need to go to your starting point? How much do you need to rent a car or to make sure your vehicle is in order and ready to go?

This calculation affects the choice you make, and it has to be revised once you’ve chosen your destination and are starting to book (see below) because it will assess the quality of your trip.

At this point, your budget has to take into consideration the basic things you need to book and plan first, then your day-by-day needs for when you’ll be on the road, with the latter being extremely difficult because it will be defined once you’ll be on the road. Still, it is good to have an idea of how much you’re also willing to spend daily.

2. Choose a destination

This may sound like crazy advice, but it’s possibly one of the best: your road trip has to have a goal. Otherwise, it becomes “wandering around a country.

Don’t get me wrong: wandering is not bad at all and can lead to spectacular adventures, but if you’re looking for a proper vacation, then you need to know where you want to go.

Choosing a destination also means that, if you’re landing by flight into a particular country, you need to plan on returning to the same starting point or end your trip in a different place: this may have an impact on the cost of your journey, because of the flight but also because you potentially are going to return your car in a different location.

3. Choose your itinerary

Once you’re done with your destination, you need to choose your itinerary. This means picking up the attractions to see, but also the best road to view them all and arrive safely at your next stop. To choose your itinerary carefully and sensibly, you need to spend time looking at maps, reading, trying to understand what you can and cannot do.

You should have a specific itinerary for every single day of your road trip to make sure you stick to the plan, and you can also book accommodation in advance to know for sure where to spend the night.

4. Have a loose plan

Once you have chosen your itinerary, review it to make sure it’s not too tight. In fact, despite your plans, your road trip may go to another direction while you’re traveling: you may end up to a different place and love it, so you want to stay more, your vehicle may have some problems that you need to fix, the traffic may be incredibly better.

Make sure not to overschedule everything. Make sure you allow yourself to take a deep breath, change plans, and not been caught off guard because of a schedule change. That doesn’t mean you don’t have to plan, just give yourself time to process the things to do.

5. Book flights

Assuming you road-trip from another country and not in your car, as soon your itinerary is ready, you need to book your flights.

Let’s say you travel from Ireland to Los Angeles, and you want to road trip California, your first thing would be booking a flight to Los Angeles that will be comfortable based on your needs.

The sooner you book your flight, the better it is, and once again, the more flexible you are, the better it is. When booking flights, we usually try different combinations before purchasing to make sure we get the best deals for our trip.

6. Rent a car

After the flight, you want to book your rented car, and this requires a lot of thoughts to avoid problems during your trip.

First of all, consider your needs and how many people are traveling with you. Most of all, think about how long your road trip is going to be, what type of attractions you want to see, and what kind of road trip you will be doing.

Based on your itinerary, you may go for a bigger or a smaller car, for an SUV if you need to go in the wild or an average vehicle if you will only travel on highways.

You also need to check the weather conditions: if you visit Italy during the summer, you need a car equipped with a robust air conditioning system. Make sure your car is comfortable for you and your luggage, but make sure you don’t get overexcited and go overboard.

Over the years, we’ve learned that aside from specific trips to specific areas, we don’t need huge cars when we road trip, and our choice is always based on how comfortable a car is and how functional it is.

We recommend you do the same: don’t look at the car itself, how posh it is, look at how good for your purpose it is and book accordingly.

7. Review your budget

Now that you’re all booked with flights and a car, you need to review your budget to make sure you can plan your next stretch.

Look at how much you have spent and subtract the total from your initial budget: this will give you an idea of how much you can pay for your accommodation, and it will leave you with more budget to review for your daily basis activity on the road.

This second part is tough to plan unless you are a master and you have everything sorted out: we recommend to be flexible again, because you may end up constraining you too much that your road trip won’t be a pleasure anymore.

8. Book hotels and accommodation

Once the second review of your budget is completed, it’s time to book your accommodations: have your day-by-day itinerary at your hands, decide upon a price range, and look at the best places where to sleep while on a road trip.

Make sure the accommodation is at a reasonable distance from your last stop of the day because you don’t want to end up driving for hours to reach a hotel once you’re done visiting a place.

We know that a lot of people stop and book when they’re on the road, but we prefer always to plan to make sure we know a bit about the places where we are staying and, most of all, that we don’t end up in wrong places just because we didn’t plan carefully. You can also choose not to book, but booking ahead is possibly the best way to play safe and have fun during a road trip.

A not so secret tip is always to book hotels and accommodation that do not require immediate payment, and that can be canceled without penalty up to 24 hours before. In this way, you give yourself the flexibility to change your mind and not losing money.

9. Buy your travel insurance

Too many people travel without insurance, and this is not recommended at all. If something happens to you while traveling, you may end up paying way too much to get cured, and without international insurance, you may also end up not being cured at all in certain countries.

Make sure your insurance covers everything for your trip, and if your choice is to pay less or pay more, well, we recommend spending more to be safe in case something happens.

Things rarely happen, but if they occur, you want to be covered no matter what, where, and why.

17+1 Best Advice on How To Plan A Summer Road Trip

Now that you’ve the plan sorted out and you’re ready to go, make sure your road trip is smooth. Always play smart to get the best out of your trip.

1. Check local laws and rules

Make sure you know what’s the driving rule in the country you’re going to visit. Speed limits can be different from your usuals, the road conditions may be unexpected, and also people’s habits while driving could be different.

As as example, if you come to Ireland, you need to drive on the left side, and it may require a bit of time to adjust to it, but if you’re prepared and informed, the transition will be more comfortable and safer.

Fines will make you want to forget your trip as quickly as possible!

2. Master the art of Google Maps

Google Maps is your best friend during a road trip, so make sure you know how to use it. Make also sure it is set in a way you understand, for example, choosing Km instead of miles and vice versa. And to drive safely, make sure you bring a car phone holder with you: mount it on the vents of the car so that it won’t disturb you, but it will help you while driving.

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3. Download the maps on your mobile

Make sure you download the maps of the places you want to visit and the itinerary on your phone to consult them offline.

Sometimes phone signals can be bad, and you don’t want to lose track of your itinerary just because you don’t have maps available.

4. Get a local SIM

A local SIM is vital in many cases: if you drive within the US and you’re American, then your SIM is enough, and so if you’re European and travel in another European country. But if you’re going outside of your country, you need to buy a local SIM to make sure you’ll always be reachable. No need for a large SIM: just buy one that has a lot of GIGA for the Internet, and you can use it for browsing, checking maps, but also calling internationally.

Another option is a Wi-Fi router you can buy and share with your travel companions: we prefer a SIM because since we already have our phone with us and us also with a lot of gears, having another one to carry around is frankly too much. But it’s an option you may consider.

5. Be flexible

This term is recurring in this step-by-step guide on how to organise a perfect summer road trip: you need to be flexible during the planning phase, but you also need to be flexible while on the road. If plans change, don’t be bothered and instead embrace them.

If you suddenly find the need to add a non-planned stop, by any means do it. The joy of road tripping is also based on how much freedom it allows and freedom comes with being flexible.

6. Eat local

Eating local is one of the biggest perks of a road trip, and if you miss on doing it, you’re missing a huge chunk of fun. Look for the best local restaurants by using Google Maps but also asking the locals or simply following them, and you won’t regret it.

During our road trip to South Korea, we ended up only eating in local restaurants, and we had a chance to taste the best cuisine tourists don’t usually taste: the more local, the better. Sometimes you won’t be able to appreciate particular food or traditions, but this is part of the experience; otherwise, why traveling?

7. Don’t stuff your car with food

In terms of food, we strongly recommend not to pack your car with food, especially junk food. Eating while driving may be tempting, and it’s also an excellent way to spend time, but it’s not very productive and could cause problems.

After eating, our body struggles to digest, and fatigue can affect our ability to concentrate. Driving while digesting may not be the best and could cause problems. The same thing happens if we eat sugary snacks that tend to unbalance our bodies.

We usually bring nuts in the car, which we munch when we are hungry, but nothing else (apart from water): we stop to eat when we are hungry, and in this way, we can also support the local communities.

8. Respect the law, the country, the people

This advice is valid for every trip, but when it comes to a road trip, it is even more compelling.

Be aware that people live in the place you’re visiting, that you entering in a field of sunflowers with your car just to snap a picture may hurt the owners.

Way too often, people don’t understand the consequences of their actions, and during their vacations, they think they are allowed to do everything: the truth is that you’re a guest in someone else’s house and you need to act accordingly.

Be a responsible tourist and make sure your road trip is not a treat to other people, to locals, and communities of every type.

9. Bring a reusable water bottle with you

It may sound silly but way too many road trippers, especially beginners, don’t bring a water bottle with them, ending up buying plastic bottles. Make the right choice: invest in a reusable bottle and help the Planet be safe and clean.

There are so many models that the decision is not straightforward. We advise you to buy one that is insulated, and which you can use for both water and coffee. If you bring a couple of insulated water bottles with you, one for hot drinks and one for water, it’s even better.

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Read Also: The Best 8 Reusable Water Bottles to Buy

10. Pack cleaning accessories

Make sure you have wet wipes, paper towels, and trash bags with you in your car. While driving, the amount of trash you will collect is gigantic, and you don’t want your car to be damp. Also, you may visit places where your face and your hands will become dirty (e.g., National Parks), so you want to go back to your car and freshen up yourself before moving to the next destination.

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11. Bring a foldable duffle bag

If you plan on stopping on places with just one night, it may be a good idea to pack an overnight bag that’s separate from your main luggage and fill it with daily essentials: a pajama, toiletry, and the outfit for the day after. In this way, you won’t have to mess around with your luggage too much, and you will still have your things with you.

We usually bring a packable duffle bag with us and, when road tripping and sleeping in one place for just one night, we simply open it up and pack with our overnight stuff.

It’s such a relief when you don’t have to carry heavy luggage in and out!

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12. Pack light

The tendency of people on a road trip is to bring so many things with them because they have a car and they know they can fill it with everything they may need.

We do recommend the opposite: travel light, bring just very few things and make sure you pack your bags with outfits that are interchangeable, easy to wash, and that fit with your road trip.

Merino wool is perfect for road trips: it’s breathable, it’s light, it doesn’t smell, it dries with few hours, and it’s also stylish, Our luggage is always quite small, and we bring with us lightweight trousers or dresses, Merino wool t-shirts, socks, and underwear plus a few other bits that we may need.

We never save on shoes: we always have two pairs with us, plus slippers, because the feet are the things you need to care the most when you’re traveling, especially if you go to discover and to experience.

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13. Fill your tank regularly

You’re traveling in a place you don’t know, so make sure your tank is always filled. Do not wait till the last minute, fill it as soon as you can, fill it often; make sure the level of your tank is always high. This may sound like an alarming piece of advice, but the thing you don’t want is to be stuck in the middle of nowhere with no gas and see your travel plans fade away.

14. Carry some cash

Credit cards are taking over, but some places still don’t accept them, or they are too remote to use their signals and allow card payments. Bring a bit of cash with you, and if you know that you’re heading to a place that may have problems with credit cards, bring even more money: national parks, off the beaten tracks places, small towns, just to name a few.

15. Don’t drive at night

Unless you need to be in a particular place at a specific time, make sure you rest and don’t drive at night. After a long day exploring and driving, the only thing your body wants is to eat and sleep, and you need to allow it to do so.

We ended up in situations where we needed to drive after sunset. It was so tiring that we almost forgot how enjoyable our day was. Now we always make sure we don’t drive after sunset, and we arrive at our designed accommodation even before nightfall if possible (unless we have to take photos!) to allow us some time to rest, enjoy the place and just relax!

16. Don’t oversleep

The point above leads us to the next point: don’t oversleep. Road trips are a perfect way to see the World, but you need to be organized. Otherwise, you will end up not sticking to the plan and hating this way of traveling.

We’re not suggesting you wake up at 5 am and be on the road at 6 am, but wake up at 7.30/8 am and be on the way by 8.30/9 am at the latest.

It goes without saying that if you’re like us, sunrise is the best way to travel: there are very few cars around, the atmosphere is just magnificent, it is breezy even in places where summers are sweltering. And you can take amazing pictures at sunrise, something that we do quite often!

17. Do not set expectations

It’s hard not to set expectations when traveling, but this a golden rule: the less you expect, the more you will be rewarded. The more you expect, the more you will be disappointed.

Expectation doesn’t always align with reality, especially nowadays, with the rise and shine of social media and too many fake pictures and representations of the truth. Approach every stop of your road trip with an open mind, and you will surely not be disappointed.

We did have huge expectations when we visited Copenaghen, and we ended up not liking it at all; we didn’t have any expectations when visiting Romania, and our minds were completely blown away!

18. BONUS TIP

Last but not least, our final piece of advice on how to plan the ultimate summer road trip: enjoy it and have fun!

Have fun from the moment you start planning it in your home to the moment you hit the road: a trip begins the minute you start imagining it, so make sure your road trip is modeled on you, your needs, your interests.

Read everything about the places you want to visit, but always make sure the reading doesn’t influence your judgment too much. Follow people’s advice, but make sure you customized your trip in the way you like. If everybody says to follow a specific itinerary, it doesn’t mean there aren’t other itineraries available in the same area that may be more suitable to you!

Adventures Await, Road Trips Await

Whether you’re road-tripping for the first time this summer 2020 or you’re expert road trippers looking forward to the next trips, we hope this step-by-step guide to planning the ultimate summer road trip has been helpful and has given you tips to make sure your trip will be successful, enjoyable and just amazing!

At the end of the day, and quoting Alain de Botton “The pleasure we derive from journeys is perhaps dependent more on the mindset with which we travel than on the destination we travel to”.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic, where your next road trip will bring you, what’s your best tip on road-tripping: follow us on social media and tag us in your post, follow us on Pinterest, be inspired and become part of our community and get in touch via email to request more info! Do not forget to sign up for our newsletter to receive delicious food and travel news and articles, but also discount codes and coupons to better plan your vacation!

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About the author
Veruska Anconitano
Veruska is a freelance content marketer and digital strategist. She's an accredited journalist, a member of the British Guild of Travel Writer, and a certified sommelier. She's the co-owner of TheFoodellers and a bunch of other websites.
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