How to Plan a Road Trip

Tips for a Fun Adventure and a Safe Journey in Your Car

planning a road trip

A road trip can be a great way to explore and see new places in Oregon and the rest of the country. It’s also often the most cost-effective way to get from point A to point B. Either way, the best road trips are safe and well-planned. This guide will help you get the most out of your trip and help make sure you get to your destination safely and on time.

Here’s a tip: Bookmark or print this page so you’ll be able to go over it again before you make the trip home.

1. Map Your Road Trip

While you plan your trip, make use of online resources like Roadtrippers, which lets you plan a trip and save the map to your mobile device. They have an amazing database of trip guides and “off the beaten path” places to visit on your route.

A good rule of thumb is to take advantage of technology, but be prepared for anything.

  1. Know where you’re going to stop and, if necessary, book hotel rooms as far in advance as you can.
  2. If you might have to drive long distances where there won’t be many gas stations around, plan when you’ll stop for gas. You may even want to stock up on gas before you leave.
  3. Is there a chance you won’t have cell reception and/or data access during your trip? You may want to print out maps before you leave so you’ll always have a backup.

plan your road trip

2. Set a Budget for Your Road Trip

Budgeting isn’t the most fun aspect of planning a road trip, but it is important if you want to ensure a smooth sailing and stress-free adventure.

You can get a rough estimate of gas expenses using AAA’s Gas Cost Calculator. Then you can use another travel budget calculator to get a full trip estimate that factors in other costs as well.

If you want to minimize expenses, here are a few tips:

  • Bring nonperishable food and snacks so you won’t have to eat out every day.
  • Bring a cooler for food items that need to be kept cold.
  • Make a thorough packing checklist to avoid having to repurchase items you forgot.
  • Pack light. More weight in the car decreases your gas mileage.
  • Let your bank know before you travel out of state.
  • Don’t speed. Fuel efficiency decreases as you speed up on the freeway.
  • Get your vehicle tuned up before you leave (more on that soon).

3. Prepare for the Weather

driving snow

Check the weather forecast in every destination as well as areas you’ll pass through.

If there’s a chance of extreme cold, you may want to bring warm clothing, a thermus, blankets, and hand warmers.

If there’s a chance of snow or ice, bring chains, an ice scraper, and a snow shovel. Also look out for heavy rain and flood warnings.

For extreme heat and sun, bring lots of water, sunscreen (most car windows don’t fully protect against UV light), and a cooler full of beverages and ice.

Above all, put safety first. If conditions look dangerous, be willing to cancel or reschedule your trip.

4. Make Sure Your Car Is Ready

A long road trip can be hard on even the most reliable cars. Make sure all necessary preventative maintenance is done before you leave. Review our 10 Car Maintenance Tips for Oregon Drivers to find out what maintenance your car needs and when.


In addition to preventative maintenance, you also want to be sure you’re prepared for the unexpected. Read our Car Emergency Preparedness Checklist to learn how to be prepared for anything. Here are a few of the most important things to keep in your vehicle:

  • Cold weather supplies like chains, an ice scraper, and a space blanket
  • Emergency food supplies like energy bars, dehydrated meals, water, and water purification tablets
  • A phone charger
  • Tools like jumper cables, tire sealant, duct tape, and a leatherman multi-tool
  • A first aid kit

5. Bring Everything You Need to Change a Tire

Make space in your car for:

  • Spare tire that’s full of air
  • Tire iron
  • Car jack
  • Reflective warning signal to place behind your car
  • Flashlight

This video shows you how to change a tire yourself:

6. Bring Stuff to Do

  1. Music: Make playlists or just use one from Spotify. If you’re car is too old to have a AUX input for your phone, bring some CDs or make a good old fashioned mixed tape.
  2. Books: Bring a book on tape. Or bring an actual book if you’re not the only one driving and you don’t get car sick.
  3. Other entertainment: If you’re traveling with kids, bring stuff for them to do. Plan activities like the license plate game (look for all 50 states) or a road trip scavenger hunt.
  4. Camera: Bring a good camera (or just your phone, if it has a good camera) to document sights along the way.

7. Relax and Have Fun

Once you’re fully prepared and your car is ready to go, all you have left to do is get ready to enjoy your road trip. In all of your meticulous planning, don’t forget to leave time to have fun and be a little spontaneous!


Need your car checked or your oil changed before a trip?

Stop by Valvoline Express Lube in Springfield or Scappoose for quick, efficient service with no up-selling. Let’s get your car ready to drive!

Photo Credits: mroach, Bureau of Land Management