Knowing how to drive a car opens up endless possibilities, such as being able to enjoy one of the most memorable vacation experiences, the road trip.

‘The road trip’ is a general phrase that describes a long journey made in a vehicle, for recreation. A good road trip means a whole lot more than just getting there and back, so you should approach your trip as an adventure, but also a responsibility.

Whether you’re going for a weekend, a week, or a month, here are six tips to help you plan your road trip.

  1. Decide on a destination. If it is your first road trip, it is a good idea to choose a destination that is not too far away, ideally, a day trip. For example, choose a location a couple of hours away that will allow you to enjoy a nice drive to your destination, give you enough time to explore the place, and then drive back home, all in one day. If you’re planning a longer road trip, which may have you driving for days, factor in when you’ll be passing towns, and sleeping. Drive no more than 10 hours a day and book accommodation in advance.
  2. Choose a route. As you are setting out on a pleasure-drive, and if you are in no particular rush, try and take the most scenic route to your chosen destination. For example, take back roads rather than interstate highways. You can use a map or the internet to plan the route. It’s always good to have an old traditional map in case your GPS lets you down.
  3. Make a checklist. Before piling everything in the back or on the roof, make a list of the essentials. This helps prevent taking more than you need, especially if you’re travelling with kids.

Pack the big items first like suitcases and boxes and get as many things into each one to save room. Then fill in the gaps between with other essentials. With 4x4s or SUVs, don’t pack so high that it blocks your rear vision. Keep things like snacks, shoes, blankets, and toys in easy reach. For a long road trip here are some essential you should make room for:

  1. Visit a mechanic. Whether you are setting out on a day trip or are planning on a much longer drive over several days, remember, better safe than sorry. If you have any doubts about the reliability of parts of your car or find yourself nearing a due service, do yourself a big favor and book it in with your mechanic. Also, make sure your roadside assistance membership is up to date.

Here are the car essentials you (or your mechanic) need to check before hitting the long, open road:

  1. Plan for stops. You will need to take a break from driving every two or three hours. If you’re driving along a long, straight stretch of highway, just be aware of mental fatigue. It can be easy to lose focus and concentration. If there are interesting places to see and things to do – a park, local restaurant, monument, lake, or store that you would like to visit on your road trip, schedule stops accordingly. Check your GPS and map for sightseeing stops.
  1. Bring entertainment. As the driver needs to focus his or her attention on the road, music is the perfect choice. So top up your playlist or put someone with similar taste in music in charge of the road trip songs. However, some of your passengers might want their own form of entertainment along the way. Portable DVD players with headphones, MP3 players, books, crossword puzzles, magazines, and travel journals are some good choices.
Remember, road trips are as much about the journey as they are about the destination. So don’t rush it. Let every mile write its own story. And live the ride.