I am pretty sure most of you have been on a road trip. You might ask how long does a drive count as a road trip? My answer is not the miles you drive but the attitude that matters. Even if it is a short 6 hours drive to get to the mountains, but you pack the essentials like your beloved playlists, snacks, a thermos of hot beverage, and most importantly, your favorite person – you have my permission to call it a road trip.
How did I come up with these 15 tips to make your trip memorable, and by memorable, I mean fun, easy, mostly hassle-free, and enjoyable? Simply, by taking over 40 road trips in the past 8 years and 10 out of these included camping in the car.
Few facts from my road trip diary:
The longest time I drove:
9 hours straight (I do not recommend that, but it was a bet, and I am one stubborn cookie)
Furthest road trip:
3700 miles Lithuania – Bulgaria
Time spent in the car during that trip:
2700 meters in French Alps
Most beautiful drive:
Monument Valley in Utah, US.
The most joyful destination:
Santa’s Village at the North Pole
The most beautiful sunrise:
During the white nights in Finland
Ok ok enough about my road trip career. Let’s get to those tips!
1. Choose your company wisely
My main piece of advice and rule number one – go on a road trip with your favorite people. Believe me, I traveled with random folks in the past, and that made my trip miserable. So I would not recommend this to anyone. I will let you in on a secret – go with someone you have things to talk about for hours.
2. Everything is easier than it seems
Do not get intimidated by those giant lists of camping essentials or photos of hardcore campers with some fancy built-in kitchens in their vans. Camping road trips are about being spontaneous and adventurous in the first place and are much simpler than it looks. Pack things you think you will need, and if you forget something, you can always buy it at the first pit stop.
3. Mix and match comfy camping sites with wild camping or boondocking
Camping sites can be super comfortable as you have access to hot showers, a fully equipped kitchen, picnic areas, grill zones, sometimes even a gym with a swimming pool. The downside if you are traveling on a budget is the cost. A night on a campsite costs from $12 to $45 both in the US and Europe. Also, it is not as adventurous as spending a night in the wild.
My advice, spend only every third day or so on these fully equipped camping sites and try wild/ dry camping in-between. This option is so amazing as it can take you to breathtaking places that are not marked on the map.
4. Use Google Maps in a satellite mode
That might help you find secret roads and pathways that would lead you to the seaside or some free campsites that are not marked on Google Maps. Warning! It requires a lot of patience.
5. Have a designated camping storage box
There are so many little things that you will want to pack for a trip like this, and having everything in one clear bin will help you stay organized. You can also toss the entire box on the front seat when it’s time to turn the back of your car into a bedroom.
6. Do not forget to add podcasts to your playlist and download everything
If you are driving outside your country, you have to be careful about extra data charges or using up your mobile data too fast. Believe me. You do not want to put your faith in FM radio abroad.
7. Pre-cook and pre-cut your food
I don’t know about you but being hungry makes me one cranky traveler. Make sure the food you pack is easy to eat in the car. Pack some sliced cheese, bread, veggies, and you have a perfect combo for a quick snack or light lunch while driving. You can also prep pancake batter or omelet in advance and store it in disposable icing bags.
8. Portable solar charger or tons of external batteries are a must
Most days, you will not drive enough time to charge your phone or recharge your external battery fully. In case you don’t feel like investing in a solar charger, bring all your external batteries with you. Do not forget to charge them before you pack!
9. Get a portable foldable camping stove
Compact cooking stoves are tiny but super-efficient. You can boil water for your morning coffee or even cook a full meal. Believe me, you will end up using it more than you think for hiking or quick gateways to nature.
8. Use comfy pillows
Even though it is wise to pack minimal, do not compromise on a good night’s sleep. One more secret: you can even use pillows from your bedroom.
9. Dry shampoo
Honestly, dry shampoo has been a life savior, especially if after three days of wild camping you decide to mix in some city sightseeing.
By the way, if you have time and energy, you can always look for public shower stops.
10. Pack a hammock or two
A lightweight hammock does not take up a lot of space but gives you tons of joy.
11. It is not only about essentials, do not forget to decorate
I’m not trying to convince you to take everything you own. But battery-powered Christmas lights, your favorite blanket, or even a smaller throw pillow will make your camping experience cozier, and photos will look great.
12. Be mindful and present
Unplugging and not being productive might be challenging. But try to be present. Stop constantly checking your phone, turn off data for social media apps, and even your e-mail if you get constant updates from your office.
13. Never drive when you are sleepy or tired
Hopefully, you are lucky enough, and your partner in crime also drives. In this case, as soon as you feel tired, ask to switch, and if that is not an option, find the closest rest area and get some sleep.
14. Document your trip
Get a travel journal and fill it up with warm memories and beautiful discoveries about yourself.
15. Do not expect everything to go exactly as planned
This tip will save you from unnecessary frustration and reminds you why road trips are fun. It allows you to be spontaneous and make last-minute changes. It’s perfectly normal to change your mind as you go!
It is very unusual for a campsite to be fully booked, but if this happens, you can always choose wild camping instead.
As a BONUS TIP, here are my golden rules:
Rule number one: respect nature by leaving your campsite cleaner than you found.
Rule number two: do not obsess over little things.
Rule number three: be open-minded, and you will see how these camping road trips strengthen your flexible mindset that comes in handy in the real world.
Use my tips with caution cause once you experience the road trip and the benefits of camping, you become hooked on it, and it becomes part of your lifestyle.