Tips for a successful road trip

Firsthand advice from Root customers and employees

In our last road trip blog post, we shared firsthand road trip mistakes (and travel horror stories) from Root customers and employees. Here’s some of their best advice that comes from those past fails. Use these tips to make your next weekend getaway or family vacation fun, easy, and memorable.

  1. Before you leave
  2. When kids are in tow
  3. With pets aboard
  4. When attention fades
  5. To save money
  6. For the sake of the journey

Before you leave

Speaking from experience, these Root folks have advice on how to prep before you hit the road. From car maintenance to what to pack on your travels, start your road trip off right with these pre-trip tips.

“As a professional driver, I [know] how important a pre-trip [vehicle] inspection is. Even if you have to cancel the trip because of what you find, it's still better than being stuck on the side of the road. Get there safely!”

—Rusty A.

“Always have contact numbers in your phone and written down. Make a list of the number for roadside assistance, the destination person/place, and emergency contact.”

—Michol C.

Pack the right supplies. The whole community chipped in for this tip:

  • Jumper cables
  • First aid kit
  • Extra chargers (including portable ones)
  • Paper map (in case you lose service for GPS)
  • Spare tire (don’t forget to check the air)
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Tissues and baby wipes
  • Food and snacks to save money
  • Plenty of water

“If you bring a cooler, freeze some water bottles the night before instead of buying ice. They melt slower than ice and you can still drink them after.”

—Katrina T.

Photo by Katie Z.

“Make sure to have a good music playlist.”

—Katie Z.</cite

When kids are in tow

Everyone has a different approach that works for their family, so advice varies depending on the circumstances. Some say it depends on the number and age of kids, the length of the trip, and the purpose of the trip—whether you’re just trying to get to a specific location or the trip is part of the vacation. Regardless, family road trips bring all sorts of memories—and lessons.

“Don’t overpack for your child’s needs. I used to pack tons of snacks, tons of drinks, a Nintendo DS, tablet, blanket, pillow, coloring book, crayons and books. I have learned that half of it does not even get used. Now, I have her pick one book, one drink, one snack and pack the tablet. This is more than enough, without creating a mess in your back seat and an extra bag to have to haul around.”

—Clara C.

“Upgrade your rental to the biggest car you can get.”

—Betsy H.

“Turn off all the screens. Engage, discuss, spend time with your family. Count 'punch-bugs,' play the license plate game, make up a scavenger hunt, anything to get the family talking and enjoying the trip. In our family the vacation begins when you get in the car, not when you arrive at your destination. Enjoy the journey!”

—Brendan O.

“Headphones for the kids equal sanity for the parents. And don’t give your son a bubble maker in the back seat.”

—Melissa J.

With pets aboard

Our four-legged friends can be great travel companions, but they require some extra planning and care for the trip.

“When I travel with my pet, I make sure her tags are on, and I write her name, my name, and phone number on her collar.”

—Michol C. and pup Beatrice

Photo of Beatrice by Michol C.

“Put up the cat food the night before moving, and use old towels to start the trip [instead of nice bedding]. Pro tip: If you are staying at a hotel with cats, get a couple of the disposable litter boxes. You can fill them up when you stop for the night, and toss them the next morning so you don't have to have a reusable litter box in your car.

—Sarah A.

“There are seat belts and back seat barriers you can buy for your pets. They are life savers, but make sure you can still see your pet in case they entangle themselves in the seat belt.

—Katrina T.

“Always have a lint roller for the person that gets the dog in their lap.”

—Melissa J.

When attention fades

Road trips can be exhausting (or even boring after awhile). Some people like to frequently stop to stretch and wake up. Others like to power through. Whatever your strategy, make sure you’re well rested beforehand and have a plan to stay alert.

“Always be aware of everything going on around you, check the weather along your route, never let yourself get too low on fuel, and NEVER EVER text while driving!!!”

—Kara J.

“Save some cash ahead of the trip (if you can) and stay the night halfway. So rather than arriving super tired and needing to sleep, stay at a hotel, relax, watch TV and get up early. Arrive at your destination bright eyed and bushy tailed. Yes, it’s an extra cost, but totally worth it.”

—Clara C.

“Red Bull! Lots of Red Bull!”

—Ray S.

To save money

Road trips can be pricey. So if you’re trying to take a cheap vacation, there are tips and tricks to cut back on spending. Some tips include packing food for along the way (and actually eating it instead of fast food) or tapping into free resources. A great road trip doesn’t have to break the bank.

Photo by Michael K.

“There is a huge amount of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land out west that you can camp on for free. Now...the land usually isn't marked and arranged into proper campsites. But if you don't mind roughing it and you know how to read a map showing BLM lands, the price and the experience can't be beat. The most beautiful campsite I've ever had the pleasure of waking up to is a small patch of BLM land outside of Canyonlands National Park.

—Michael K.

“Keep all your receipts after an accident. Even though I had to pay everything upfront for mine, I was able to get reimbursed for a lot of it later on.”

—Tim W.

“Use tools and communities like couchsurfing.com to find free housing along the way. (And be super kind to your hosts!) Not only does it save a lot of money, but you meet interesting folks and gather great stories. On a cross-country trip, I only had to pay for gas and one sandwich since my hosts fed me, too.”

—Rosemary M.

For the sake of the journey

The best road trips sometimes have an element of surprise. Yes, plan your trip to limit negative experiences, but be open to the unknown, too. After all, it’s vacation. So sit back and take it all in.

“Remember, ‘the journey is your destination.’ Make each stop special by eating at unique places and visiting museums/unique spots. Use tech like Yelp and Trip Advisor and social networks to identify such restaurants and other stops. Eat the regional cuisine and take risks!”

—Katie M.

“You have to check out historic Route 66. I live in Springfield, MO, known as the birthplace of Route 66. I love driving down it and seeing all the history. It's amazing to see the things still here.”

—Jessica B.

Photo by Justin M.

“Sure, a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step, but it also helps to have your car keys. Or to not lose them at, say, an Icelandic waterfall in the middle of nowhere. Because trust me, you don't want to walk a thousand miles if you don't have to.”

—Justin M.


Wherever you go on your road trip this summer, we hope these Root community tips will help you have a relaxing (or adventurous) and safe trip. Don’t have auto insurance through us yet? Root customers love the savings they get (up to 52%) and the free Roadside Assistance that comes with every policy. Check us out and get a free car insurance quote.

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