How to Plan an Epic Summer Road Trip

How to Plan an Epic Summer Road Trip

Photo by Nick G - Unsplash

With a few more solid weeks left of summer, it’s the perfect time to squeeze in a road trip. With many travel options off the table at this point in time, it can be your way of getting out of town — but on your own terms. Recruit your partner or best friend to join you and hit the road for a couple of laid-back days or even a week. To get you started, we’ve gathered some of our top simple tips on how to plan an epic summer road trip.

Prep your car for the journey

Whether you’re setting out for a cross-country trek or simply hitting the road for a few hours, it’s important to make sure your car is up for the journey. Check that it's up-to-date on oil changes and any other services like tire rotations, making sure no service lights turn on when the key is in the ignition. To be fully prepared, check to make sure you have a set of jumper cables and a good spare tire in the trunk. Joining a simple AAA membership involves a small monetary commitment, but the roadside assistance guarantee adds a whole new level of peace of mind when it comes to potential breakdowns or flat tires. 

Jumper Cable Bag | Kaufmann Mercantile

Sturdy Brothers Jumper Cable Bag, $118

Pack your car with care

There are certain things you never want to leave behind when hitting the road. The simplest yet most important ones: a blanket and water, water, water. No matter what climate you’ll be driving through, you never know how cold it may get at night or how dehydrated you may become in the summer heat, especially if you hit some unforeseen delays. Stock up on water and fill up your bottle every chance you get from gas stations, food joints, or water fountains.

Seljak Moss Wool Blanket | Kaufmann Mercantile

Seljack Moss Wool Blanket, $237

Pack light

Remember that you’ll probably be wearing a few of the same pieces of comfortable clothing throughout your journey, so no need to pack too many options — taking away much-needed space in your vehicle. Keep it simple and plan ahead by checking the weather forecast (morning and night time temperatures) for the regions you’ll be visiting. The safest strategy is to bring layers, while keeping in mind what activities you’ll be partaking in. Hiking? Think hiking boots and an appropriate backpack. Beach days? Think a swimsuit and sunscreen. But no matter what you’ll be doing, some multifunctional essentials are always good to have, like a hoodie, hat, and a fanny/waist pack

Everyone knows it's fun to snack on the road, so fill a cooler or pack with some road trip-worthy nibbles — without going overboard. You don't want to take up too much space and end up with a stomach full of junk food. You'll be able to pick up food along the way from roadside cafes, drive-through spots, and gas stations when you're really in a pinch, but it doesn't hurt to carry some emergency dry goods like granola, crackers, nuts, and dried fruit.

Barebones Living Rambler Backpack Cooler

Barebones Living Rambler Backpack Cooler in Black, sale $48 (originally $80)

Bringing some kind of equipment to snap some pictures along the way is always a great idea, even if that means your smart phone or vintage Canon film camera. Just remember that if you’re a more experienced photographer, you may not want to bring the whole studio, due to the unfortunate possibility of car break-ins. 

Plan your routes in advance

Before you head out, decide if you want to take interstates and freeways, scenic routes, or a mixture. Whichever way you choose, you’ll thank yourself if you plan your routes ahead of time. And while many areas will still have service so that you can use your preferred smart-phone GPS app, you can’t rely on this 100 perfect — especially when passing through rural areas. Make sure to keep a classic paper map book on-hand for these instances. Also consider bringing a notebook and pen to jot down plans, directions, and revelations you pick up along the way.

And if you want to create a full-on game plan in advance, will help you plan your route and build your itinerary based on your interests and what you’re looking to experience. They’ll help you navigate while finding cool stops along the way. 

Izola Road Trip Essentials | Kaufmann Mercantile

Izola Road Trip Essentials (pocket knife, water bottle, canvas bags, and a travel cup for nightcaps before hitting the sack), From $19

Make the most of pit stops

One of the funnest things about a road trip is stopping along the way, whether it’s planned or spontaneous. Think interesting little towns, roadside cafes, local museums, market fruit or beef jerky stands, quirky tourist destinations, and unique shops. Take advantage of what you find, but just know that things may be different out there at the moment. Because of the pandemic, you may not be able to casually cruise inside every interesting destination you find. Either way, just go into it with an open mind, and don’t forget to bring a mask and hand sanitizer. 

Raen Benson Sunglasses | Kaufmann Mercantile

Raen Benson Sunglasses, $155

And did we mention nature? This is really the best opportunity to pull off the road and enjoy the outdoors at its finest. Take in some beautiful turn-offs with epic views or wander into a cool tree-lined area. Take a walk, snap a few pics, set up for a picnic, or just enjoy a few moments of peace and quiet.

Alpine Division Timberline Backpack

Alpine Division Timberline Pack in Navy, $89

Figuring out where you’ll sleep

If you’re setting out for a multi-day journey, you’ll need to decide where you’ll post up for the night, whether it’s tent camping, camping out in your SUV or van, or finding a hotel that’s operational. If you’re planning on camping, check out this website for up-to-date information on which campgrounds are open, halfway open, or closed due to COVID-19.

Camping on a Road Trip | Kaufmann Mercantile

Photo by Alvin Engler - Unsplash

Because many campgrounds are still closed, you can consider camping on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land. BLM-managed land offers numerous opportunities for camping under the stars. Just make sure to read up on their guide to learn about permits, fees, limitations, and dispersed camping options.

And click here for their COVID-19 updates.

It's worth mentioning that many people take this opportunity to visit and stay with family and friends along the way. But this will be another case where you’ll have to go with the flow and see who’s comfortable with this due to social distancing. 

Bringing your pup along?

If your pup is good in the car and has no issues with car sickness, this could potentially be a great trip to bring him or her along. Keep in mind that you’ll encounter some restrictions (from indoor stops, cafes, some beaches, etc.), but if you’re okay with this, then it may be worth it to get him or her out of the house and exploring with you. Just make sure to pack enough dry food, a water bowl (a collapsible one is the best), a leash, waste bags, and treats for when you really just need him or her to cooperate. 

band&roll travel dog bowl | Kaufmann Mercantile

band&roll Melo Travel Dog Bowl, $58

Medium Travel Dog Bed | Kaufmann Mercantile

Spruce Medium Travel Dog Bed, $199

 Travel Dog Water Bottle

Green Pet Travel Water Bottle, $43

Dog Treat Bag via Design Milk Shop

Helen F. Green Logo Pet Treat Bag, $24


Stock up with essentials from our Road Trip Collection.


Written by Paige Alexus Yau