Road Trip Planning: Our Top 10 Road Trip Tips

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Road trip planning might sound a bit boring but doing some itinerary research before you hit the road will save you time and money. And you should get more from your adventures as well.

We’ve lost count of the number of times we’ve gotten lost or missed seeing an amazing tourist attraction because we didn’t even know it was there! All because we didn’t make any plans.

On this page we’ve listed our top 10 road trip planning tips to help make your next adventure the best yet…

road trip planning: best tips to make your next road trip more epic

Our Top 10 Tips for an Epic Road Trip

1. Plan and research your road trip route before you go

Sounds obvious but if you want to get the best from your road trip it really does make sense to plan before you go (unless you’re quite content to wander around in circles and see what happens).

Doing some research before you hit the road means that you won’t miss out on some of the landmarks along the way. For instance, had we not read Martin Dorey’s ‘Take the Slow Road – Scotland’ we would have missed some stunning locations on our honeymoon road trip. So, get the travel guides out and do some research online.

Once you know the sites you want to see you can then plan the route. Our aim is to always to take most scenic route but this can have its problems…

On a trip from Suffolk to Wales we’d lazily written the road numbers down on a scrap of paper instead of properly planning the route. What should have taken us about six hours turned into ten! We ended up going through town centres, encountering diversions because of road works, and getting caught up in jams a couple of miles long.

Since then we’ve always jotted down the proper route and kept a written record of all the amazing places we’ve visited along the way. Keeping a journal will tell the story of your road trips – something you can reminisce over in years to come.

CHECK OUT THESE BEAUTIFUL TRAVEL JOURNALS

2. Know your road map symbols!

The other thing about using maps or a road atlas is you’ve got to know how to read them properly.

Hobo Trudi’s a pretty good navigator and has gotten to know the map’s symbols well…

For instance, on the A470 approach into Dolgellau in Wales, she spotted this sign >> on the map. It means steep hill!

Little did we know – until too late – that it was a 20% incline. If you drive an older van like ours, that type of hill fills you with fear! There was no way to turn around. But luckily we made it over the summit in second gear, albeit with a long queue of traffic behind us.

We’ve learnt to avoid anything this steep after struggling previously in Derbyshire where we had to reverse all the way back down a hill when our old VW Cree ran out of puff.

RELATED CONTENT: The Snake Pass road trip in the Peak District

So, know your map symbols! There are some routes that are simply not suitable for larger motorhomes.

3. Use a satnav but don’t depend on it

Of course, using a satnav might save you all this hassle. We say ‘might’ because even these can lead you astray if you’re not careful…

We don’t use a satnav ourselves but when a road closure in Wales diverted us miles out of our way we ended up relying on Google Maps. But this led us to a bridge that was only 6 feet 6 inches wide! That’s no good when you’re van is 7 and a half feet across!

Perhaps a proper satnav, where you can programme in the dimensions of your van would have helped? Indeed, this is something we’d definitely look into if we were heading into Europe but even then it needs to be programmed correctly.

Gav recalls trying to cross the Pyrenees aided by a satnav but it was programmed to take him by the shortest route. He ended up driving on a goat track for a while before turning around when things got too perilous.

You don’t want to be doing this in a 20 foot motorhome with a 1000 foot drop on one side – with no safety barriers!

cyclist riding on old goat track across the Spanish Pyrenees
Picture Source: https://bikerumor.com/

4. Expect delays

A road trip – like a pilgrimage – should be more about the journey than the destination. Sure, we all want to get to where we’re headed, but it’s about the trip, not the actual arrival.

And you can be pretty certain of one thing: delays. No matter where you go in the UK these days there will be traffic jams due to road works, accidents, or the sheer volume of vehicles on the road.

You’ve just got to accept it as part and parcel of travelling in the 21st century; it’s no use getting stressed about it.

On a recent trip to Liverpool we sat stationary on the M6 for 90 minutes (a road to avoid if you can!)

But as with all problems, we try to see the ‘learning’ in the situation, a bit like watching the excellent and hilarious BBC comedy show Zen Motoring.

5. Take regular breaks

If you’re not held up by roadworks, stop anyway! You’ll need to rest those tired eyes, stretch those legs, and refuel on caffeine. The main thing is to stay hydrated and energised, especially if you’ve still got miles ahead of you.

We’ll usually drive for 90 to 120 mins then have a tea break or snack, stopping at a place of interest en route. There’s usually something to see wherever you go.

RELATED CONTENT: See the brain boosting energy foods we always have with us in the van

The thing is that driving (and navigating) can be tough on concentration levels, especially if you’re in unfamiliar territory where you’re looking at the atlas or satnav and road signs all at the same time. Oh, and avoiding potholes, and if you’re in an RV, low bridges and overhanging trees.

And if you’re on a road trip that lasts for days, we recommend taking a day off from travelling every 3rd day. Set up camp and simply chill in your van and/or enjoy a stroll in the area. Driving everyday can turn a long road trip into an ordeal.

Taking regular breaks will also help with the next tip…

6. See the road trip as a team game – everyone is in it together

If things go wrong and you end up miles from where you should be, don’t slip into blaming the navigator. It’s all too easy to start criticising and playing the blame-game but it gets you nowhere and only adds to the stress levels.

We like to think that when we get lost, it’s happened for a reason.

Perhaps there’s something here that we need to see, learn, or experience? Perhaps there’s a chance encounter with a stranger who will give us some valuable advice? Maybe some life-changing wisdom? Who knows?

Thus, even if things seem to have gone ‘wrong’ see each ‘mistake’ as an opportunity and work as a team to put it right. Be ‘zen’ about it!

It really helps if you ‘check in’ with your fellow travellers every so often. Get out of your own driving trance and reach out to others. We think this is especially important for any youngsters who will inevitably be entranced by screens during the journey.

Be supportive of each other, learn from any stressful situations, then get back on track again.

This leads nicely onto tip 7…

road trip planning: how to stop kids getting bored on long trips

7. Keep the kids involved

Yes, no matter their age, if you’re travelling with youngsters get them involved in the road trip.

Your excitement and enthusiasm for the journey ahead will rub off on them (eventually!) They need to feel as if they are part of the team and the kids should be involved right from the planning stage.

Whilst on the trip itself you might have to use your imagination and invent some road trip games or make up some stories together.

Of course, kids will need their toys and gadgets to help stave off any boredom if it’s a particularly long road trip, but the main thing is to keep them interested and involved.

Perhaps suggest they use their phones to take pictures and videos of the trip that can later be edited and uploaded to YouTube or Tiktok?

8. Take all your gadgets and chargers

Along with all the road trip essentials you should take, don’t forget your gadgets and chargers.

It’s the 21st century and there’s no escaping the fact that the younger generation are reliant on technology and screens. Even on the most scenic road trips, there’ll be times when the kids have their eyes glued to their phone or playing on their Nintendo. It’s the world we live in these days.

The majesty of the mountains or a cliff top drive along a magnificent coastal route can seem rather humdrum compared to the thrills of Battle Royale in Fortnite! For many youngsters, fantasy is more real than reality, or at least, that’s where the thrill seems to be.

So, to keep everyone happy we use this power bank that charges things on the go.

9. Blast out some road trip songs or listen to podcasts

One way to stay awake is to blast out some road trip songs. So, compile a playlist before you go and turn up the volume.

When we hit the road Gav always reminds us of Canned Heat’s famous blues song, ‘On the Road Again’. But it’s not long before Trudi’s thrash metal takes over!

We’ve just started the Motorhome Hobos You Tube Channel and have put together a playlist we can both agree on – sort of! It kind-of meets our tastes half way. It’s a playlist of classic road trip songs that will have you singing along and playing air guitar. And great songs will add a soundtrack to your epic adventures!

10. When you arrive at your destination share the gratitude

When you arrive, it’s all too common to jump straight out of the van, hook up the electric, put the awning up, and get the next meal on the go as if life depended on it. For sure, phone or text home if people back there are waiting to hear of your safe arrival – but then pause!

Recognise the efforts you have all made and be grateful. Hopefully the journey itself will have provided you all with some epic moments that will live long in the memory.

Thank your van for getting you there. Thank the people who laid the roads for you all those years ago. Be grateful for the road trip itself and all that it might have taught you along the way.

This might sound a bit New-Age Hippie but a moment of gratitude brings a spiritual element to the journey, turning a road trip into a more meaningful experience, like being on a pilgrimage.

And it’s these meaningful moments that make road trips epic.

SEE HOW WE TURN ROAD TRIPS INTO VANLIFE PILGRIMAGES IN OUR LATEST EBOOK

van life pilgrimages: meeting god in a motorhome ebook

Feeling inspired to start planning your next road trip?

We hope you’ve found these 10 road trip tips useful and that they make your next adventure more epic.

Remember to check out our road trips essentials page and the stories of our best UK road trips involving some spectacular mountain drives.

For inspiration for your next road trip, take a look at some of the best travel quotes we’ve compiled.

And if you’re thinking about hiring a motorhome make sure you know what to ask any RV hire company before you go.

Related Blog Post: When Our Road Trip Went Badly Wrong!

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