5 Tips for a Happy Road Trip

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Updated 05.09.2020: What is it about the boomer years that inspire a road trip? Every time I turn around, Alan’s at the kitchen table with a Benchmark Atlas spread out before him. 

With no work obligations—if you don’t count My Itchy Travel Feet—we’re free to explore the scenic roads and byways of the U.S. to our heart’s content. Yes, we have a strategy to make a good road trip the best it can be. I’m here to share it with you so that your roadtripping adventures are happy ones.

Tips for a happy road trip

curvy gravel road leading into forest
Nothing puts a smile on our faces like hitting the open road!

Before fastening your seat belt, switching on the ignition, and starting down the road, it pays to reassess road trip habits. What checks do you make before leaving home? I suggest asking these questions:

  • Have you checked out your route for road construction?
  • Is your vehicle prepared for a road trip?
  • Is there enough time in the itinerary to get out of the car to exercise?
  • Do you have a healthy plan for eating on the road?
  • Is the itinerary slow enough for exploring and having fun?

Poor road trip habits lead to stress and an unhealthy body, making a trip anything but fun. Answering these five questions will put you on the road to a happy road trip.

Need some road trip inspiration and maybe some new gear for the adventure? Check out our Road Trip Planner.

How well do you know the route?

Road map from Santa Barbara to Los Angeles, California
Map out your driving plan carefully, and make sure to keep in mind a few alternative routes in case plans change.

How do you react to traffic jams? Do you know how to avoid them, if possible? Traveling spontaneously sounds fun until the route is clogged with road construction traffic.

I’m a big believer in “know before you go,” so prior to leaving home, check the state highway department websites along your route to discover construction zones where slowdowns may occur. Alan and I opt for two-lane highways and scenic byways over interstate highways whenever possible. Arriving slowly is part of the fun.

Road trip apps are convenient route planning tools, in addition to maps or GPS. And since they can be downloaded to a smart phone, the advice travels with you. We’ve reviewed many road trip apps at My Itchy Travel Feet. Roadtrippers, Along the Way, and Waze are some of our favorites.

Check the best USA road trip destinations for your next trip.

Is your vehicle ready for the road?

Boomer man airing down tires on vehicle
Alan airing down tires to drive the Alpine Loop in Colorado.

When is the last time your vehicle had a checkup? Breakdowns or flat tires do not make for a happy road trip. Alan, the car enthusiast at My Itchy Travel Feet, recommends checking oil levels, fluids, hoses, battery, brake pads, and tire wear.

Whether your road trip is by car, RV, truck or motorcycle, preparing a vehicle before the trip is a must. Did you pack an emergency road kit?

If you’re roadtripping in the winter, check out our do-it-yourself winter driving kit.

Do you have a healthy eating plan for your road trip?

egg omelete with tomato topping
Starting the day with a healthy breakfast will help you stay on your plan!

How do you feel when abandoning your healthy eating routine? Not so great, right? Freedom on the road does not equate to eating anything you want. I guarantee your body will rebel.

Besides packing healthy snacks, avoid fast food chains in favor of restaurants serving locally sourced foods. Of course you’ll still need self-discipline to turn down that piece of pie.

Planning a long one? Check out some of my advice on how to Survive a Long Road Trip.

What is your exercise plan on the road?

view of hiking trail leading into green landscape
A 30 minute hike after eating will rev up your energy levels.

“It’s been awhile since you’ve taken a break,” rolled across the dashboard of our new SUV. Yes, our vehicle actually reminds us to get out of the car and move. While the car manufacturer’s goal is to encourage safe driving practices, it’s also a reminder to get out of the car to exercise. A few tips:

• Filling up the car with gas? Walk a few laps around the parking lot or do jumping jacks beside the car. And do a few stretches while you’re at it.
• Stopping for a meal? Walk a couple of blocks before getting back into the car.
• Did you see a sign for a nature walk or hike? Stop to explore the trail.
• End the day early enough for a walk before dinner.
• Early risers should take advantage of hotel exercise rooms.

How will you slow down while roadtripping?

wooden chairs overlooking coastal view
Stop the car, get out and smell the roses, check out the views, and … breathe!

What’s your hurry? Road trips don’t have to be marathons. Slow down, stop at roadside attractions, and allow time for short hikes.

One of my favorite road trip rules is to plan at least two nights at each stop to explore the area. Staying at charming country inns or bed and breakfasts adds relaxation to the trip, as well.

And don’t forget to bring a road trip sound track or audio books for long hours spent in the car. This is a journey to be savored.

How do you plan a great road trip? As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” Those wise words apply to road trips, too.

Good lodging is also conducive to a happy road trip. Start your hotel search with us. Then read the reviews on TripAdvisor.

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