I have aspirations to embark on a 3,000 mile road trip to visit some family on the East Coast this year.  This is going to take place in August, and even though we are currently in the beginning of summer, I am currently pinning down the details so that I can feel as prepared as possible.  As a self-proclaimed organized planner, operating under the motto of drafting out the deets for everything that is possible, my philosophy is that if 80 percent goes off without a hitch, that other 20 percent can be managed as situations arise.  If aspirations to galavant across the country this summer, or any season for that matter, are on your horizon, there are some tasks you can check off your list to get yourself prepared for whatever you may encounter along the way.  

Speaking for myself, I would lay out a schedule so that items are not forgotten.  This can be compiled using a paper list, a Word document, or by downloading a planning app that can be accessed from your phone.  Again, for me, I would use an app on my phone, but having a paper copy is also handy.  Piecing together the insights and knowledge nuggets I gained from the physical and e-books available through the Salina Public Library would be my next step.  That information came from the following sources: Road Tripping: A Parent’s Guide to Planning (& Surviving) the Annual Car Trip by Loralee Leavitt, Where Should We Camp Next?: Camping 101: A Guide for Planning Amazing Camping Trips in Unique Outdoor Accommodations by Stephanie Puglisi, The Open Road Awaits: Plan, Pack and Prepare for Your Best Trip Ever by Hadi Hans, and The Road Trip Survival Guide: Tips and Tricks for Planning Routes, Packing Up, and Preparing for Any Unexpected Encounter Along the Way by Rob Taylor.  What comes next is a summary of how you, too, can prepare yourself for a road trip.

Prepare your vehicle

Obviously a road trip requires the use of a car, truck, van, or other vehicle.  Along with myself, my sister plus four dogs will be embarking on the previously mentioned road trip this year.  We are going to be renting a van, and even though it is not our van, there are some things we will complete to get the car roadworthy.  If you are taking your own personal vehicle, there are a few additional details to attend to.

Ensure you have a tire pressure gauge, jumper cables, and a roadside tool kit handy, even if you are driving someone else’s car.  A paper atlas in case you are out of cell service range is always a safe idea.  Beyond the typical under-the-hood checks — oil check, transmission fluid, coolant, washer fluid, and brake fluid — be sure to check your light functionality and brake reactivity, even in rentals.  Spending hours on the road can decrease your focus and reaction time, so having a co-pilot to share drive time with if possible is always smart, in addition to choosing a vehicle that will be a safe and comfortable option.

The biggest investment to make in your pre-road trip vehicle is a new set of tires, especially if you tend to drive only in the city.  If you are preparing to drive or pull a camper, van or RV and have been putting off upgrading your tires, consider buying tires with a longer tread life or thicker tread for more diverse terrain.

Get Your Gear Together

Are you spending some time outside along the way to your final destination?  If so, having good walking or hiking shoes, sun protection, and a water supply are all essentials.  However, it is not just the outdoor gear to keep an eye on — road trip essentials range from storage options to electronics.

Even if you are not sleeping in your vehicle or camping, you will probably be spending a few days at a time in the car.  A cooler, a large water jug, and items for prepping and storing food are important.  Keep some blankets or sleeping bags and extra clothes, regardless if you are traveling in the heat of the summer.  Other items to have on hand include a flashlight, batteries, chargers for electronics, and a way to signal for help, such as a flare.  Include household items such as a small trash can and bags, tissues, baby wipes, hand sanitizer, and a first aid kit.  Since we have four extra critters tagging along with us, we will ensure we have all of their supplies such as dog food, treats, dog bed/blankets, toys, and any meds they need to take.

Map Out Your Route

A classic way to plan a road trip is to follow one of America’s best-known vacation drives, like Route 66, the Pacific Coast Highway, or the Lewis and Clark Expedition Trail.  These drives are still famous for a reason — they capture the history of America.  You can use social media or Google to find the attractions you might want to visit.  Locals have a lot of useful information, so be sure to ask them what their favorite places are to visit.  

Another option is to group together destinations that will give you something concrete to plan around and the most bang for your buck.  Depending on the number of days you expect to be gone, you can add or remove stops along the way.  A trip through three national parks in New Mexico and Texas — White Sands, Carlsbad Caverns, and Guadalupe Mountains — could be enjoyed in a long weekend.  Tack on Big Bend National Park for an additional few days to account for the extra mileage and time to explore.  

Whether you are following a well-known path or keeping an open schedule, try to become familiar with the major waypoints before beginning your drive.  This will give you points of reference to then research lesser-known sights and dig for local suggestions.  By the time you hit the road, you will have the confidence to make better informed decisions.  To keep yourself from overcommitting, keep a list of these potential food, entertainment, and nature stops along the way to seek out when you need options. 

Make Reservations

This is going to depend on if you are staying at national parks, RV parks, hotels, casinos, resorts, water parks, other all-inclusive venues, etc., but booking online or over the phone is going to secure your spot, versus just waiting until you pull up.  Making reservations also gives you a daily drive time allotment so you ensure you are not spending too much time with your foot on the pedal, and you will know exactly where your daily end destination is.

For example, if you want to reserve a spot at a national park, keep in mind that every park has its own schedule of openings, reservation requirements, and campsite availability.  The best advice is to track a few parks for announcements.  While some national parks save a portion of their campsite reservations to be released a week before booking, most park reservations open several months in advance.  Other national parks reserve a few spots per campground as a first-come, first-serve option.  Timed entry reservations will still be required at a handful of popular parks during the peak summer months, such as Yosemite or Rocky Mountain.  So, knowing where you need to be at a specific time is a key element to your preparation success. 

Hotels, resorts, casinos, water parks, etc. can all be booked well in advance and reservations can usually be changed up until 24 hours before you arrive.  Often when you book multiple nights with a chain, you can get a discount, too.  If you want to visit several water parks along a certain path, places like Great Wolf Lodge offer group rates and bundle packages and are available pretty much all over the United States and into Canada.  Best Western Plus has locations that are dual purpose – a hotel and water park together.  Knowing what kind of accommodations you desire and getting those reservations lined up is very beneficial to your excursion.  

Allow For Hiccups Along The Way

As much as you consider every painstaking detail, not everything can be predicted.  There is bound to be a rerouted stop due to scenarios such as construction, a flat tire, or maybe you forget to pack an essential.  Allotting some time in your schedule for a random pit stop to grab that missing toothbrush, an unexpected sickness, or a detour that takes you five miles off the predetermined path will help keep you on track.  And if you do not end up needing that time, that is more time you have for exploration, relaxation, or whatever your intended activity may be.  That free time could allow you to discover something you had not planned for which makes it feasible to fit in a random undertaking.

Lastly, allow me to provide you with a couple additional suggestions.  If you need some jams to listen to on your drive this year, make sure you check out the Library’s CD collection as well as use your Salina Public Library card to stream music through one of our digital platforms, such as Hoopla.  We also have a vast variety of audiobooks and e-audiobooks for your listening enjoyment.  If you find that a hotspot would be valuable while you are out navigating in the wilderness, Salina Public Library has you covered in that area.  Finally, several libraries provide state park passes that essentially covers the cost of parking at any of the Kansas State parks.  Feel free to stop by and grab one when you know what day and which park you want to visit.  Passes are on a first come, first serve basis, so do not wait until the last minute.  Happy travels.