You’ve been looking forward to your trip for a while, and everyone is excited to hit the road. The last thing you need is for something to go wrong, leaving you broken down on the side of the road.
Having a plan for your road trip can take some of the stress out of the journey. You don’t need to plan every single moment, but having a good idea of the route you’ll be taking and planning some stops along the way will help keep your road trip fun-filled and stress-free.
These tips will help you get road trip ready and ensure your journey is a fun and memorable experience for everyone.
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In this article
1. Road trip essentials
Before setting off on your big adventure, make sure your car is ready for a long journey to avoid a breakdown. Some pre-trip checks you should do include:
- Tyres – Make sure your tyres have enough tread on them for a long journey, especially if you encounter unexpected weather conditions. Make sure your tyres are the right pressure because driving with flat tyres isn’t only dangerous, it also increases your vehicle’s fuel consumption.
- Lights – All your car’s lights need to be working to avoid any dangerous situations. Defective lights can also lead to a fine if spotted by a police officer.
- Wiper blades – You wouldn’t want to have to pull over due to rain because your wiper blades aren’t keeping the rain off your windscreen. If your wiper blades are smearing your windscreen when it’s raining, replace them as soon as possible.
- Battery – Make sure your car’s battery is in working order. If it’s more than five years old, your battery may need to be replaced. If the battery symbol on your dashboard is illuminated when the engine is running, there may be a charging fault. Get this checked by your mechanic immediately.
Packing is also a vital part of any road trip. We’ll go into more detail further down the page but ensuring you’ve brought all the essentials will make your journey more relaxing and comfortable for everyone.
2. Plan your route
Knowing which route will get you to your destination can help prevent any unforeseen incidents along the way.
Use our AA Route Planner to help you get where you’re going safely and easily, by avoiding any major incidents and traffic jams. The route planner also includes information about any weather incidents to look out for, as well as road closures and roadworks.
3. Plan your stops
Make sure you plan a few stops along the way. Driving for long stretches of time without taking a break can lead to driver fatigue. Driving requires concentration and focus, which you can’t maintain for hours on end without taking any breaks.
Everyone is different, but the general recommendation is taking a 15-minute break for every 2 hours of driving. This will give everyone a chance to have a stretch, as passengers may start to get uncomfortable after sitting for several hours. It’s a good time to have a bathroom break and stock up on some more drinks and snacks for the rest of the journey.
If you’re driving at night you may need to take more breaks as your body clock is naturally programmed to expect sleep at night. Driving tired is dangerous and should always be avoided. Read more about the dangers of driving tired.
4. Road trip checklist
The items on this list will vary depending on the time of year you’re travelling, but it will give you an idea of some important things to have in your car:
- Important docs – Have your insurance details handy in case of an emergency, and don’t forget your driving license.
- UK sticker – The GB sticker is no longer valid, so if you’re travelling outside the UK, you’ll need to display a UK sticker on your vehicle. If you have a UK identifier on your number plate, such as the Union Jack flag, you won’t need the UK sticker displayed.
- First aid kit – You never know when you or one of your passengers might have a minor scrape or cut. Keep a first-aid kit with plasters and bandages in your car. It may also be useful to have cream to treat insect bites, depending on where you’re travelling.
- Jump leads – A jump start is a handy way to start a car with a flat battery. But jump leads can cause damage to both cars and people if they’re not used properly. Find out more about how to use jump leads.
- Phone charger – You don’t want to be worrying about your phone running out of battery, so have a phone charger in your car for peace of mind.
- Warning triangle – If you break down on the side of the road, you’ll want to be visible to cars passing by. Having a warning triangle placed at least 45 metres (147 feet) from your vehicle on flat ground will help make you clearly visible to other drivers. It’s not safe use a warning triangle on a motorway.
- Torch/flashlight – If you break down or stop on the side of the road at night you’ll need a torch handy.
- Food and water – You and your passengers need to stay hydrated while driving, as well as have some food or snacks available for long stretches between stops. Have refreshments handy and if you’re travelling with pets make sure you have a bowl for them to drink water from.
- Warm clothes and blankets – You may need to get out of your vehicle in cold conditions, so have some blankets and warm clothes in the car.
- Hats and sunscreen – If you’re travelling in the summer be sure to have hats and sun cream for everyone in the vehicle. You wouldn’t want to get sunburnt before you’ve even made it to your destination.
- Music and games – Remember to take some games the kids can play so they don’t get bored on a long journey. Having some music that everyone can enjoy will also keep everyone’s spirits up throughout the trip.
5. Pre-trip car checks
Keeping your car maintained is important, not just when going on a road trip. Find out more about our car maintenance tips.
Here are the 6 key areas to check, they can be remembered as FLOWER:
- Fuel – Ensure your car is filled up so you don’t run out of fuel and get stranded along the side of the road. The same goes for users of electric vehicle (EVs) – make sure your car has sufficient charge for the journey.
- Lights – If you have any light bulbs that need replacing, make sure to do so before leaving for your trip. In addition to being a legal requirement, your car’s lights make you more visible to other road users and can help to avoid a collision.
- Oil – Don’t let your engine oil level get too low as this can lead to low oil pressure. With low oil pressure, there’s less lubricant for the bearings and other moving parts in your engine. When metal rubs on metal, it quickly causes irreversible and expensive damage. Find out more about how to check and top up your engine oil.
- Water – Water helps keep your car cool, so if the water level in your car is running low, you’re at risk of your car overheating. This could lead to serious and expensive engine damage. Read more about how to check and top up your water – also known as engine coolant.
- Electrics – Battery problems are a common cause of breakdowns at any time of year. Your car may have a built-in battery monitor, or you can buy a manual monitor to check your battery's health. If you need a new battery, find out more about AA Battery Assist.
- Rubber – Ensure each of your tyres is set at the correct pressure level before setting off on your road trip. You can find out what pressure your car’s tyres should be on a small label attached to the inside of the driver’s door.
Make sure you have enough tyre tread for a long journey, and that there are no bulges or any other visible damage to the tyres. The minimum depth of tyre tread in the UK is 1.6mm. In parts of Europe, it’s common, or even a legal requirement, for drivers to keep two sets of wheels and tyres – one for summer and another for winter.
Find out more about what tyres you may need for your road trip.
6. Packing the boot
When packing to go on a road trip, getting a lot of luggage into a small space can be a challenge. You don’t want things sliding around or tipping over when you brake or corner, which can be dangerous and distracting.
Never rush your packing and make sure you have enough time to get all your luggage into the car safely. It‘s a good idea to buy a boot divider if you’re packing a variety of goods. This helps with organising the boot better and helps stop things from shifting around.
Pack heavier luggage at the bottom and softer, smaller items or suitcases on top to avoid anything being crushed. Read more about how to pack safely – reducing risk to yourself, your passengers and others on the road.
7. Invest in a roof box
If you have a lot of luggage you may want to invest in a roof box, which can be fitted onto a pair of roof bars on top of your vehicle. Roof boxes come in various sizes depending on your family’s needs and will save you the difficulty of trying to fit everything into your car’s boot.
8. Share the driving on your road trip
You shouldn’t drive for longer than 9 hours in a 24-hour period, and it’s recommended you take a 15-minute break every 2 hours.
9. How to keep cool on a summer road trip
If you’re taking a road trip in the summer, it’s important to keep yourself and all your passengers cool during the journey.
Make sure everyone is sensibly dressed for the heat. Cool clothing that’s loose fitting and light in colour is best. Freeze some water bottles so you have cold water to keep everyone refreshed, including pets.
Use your car’s air conditioning to ensure a constant, cool temperature in the car throughout the drive. You could also try driving at cooler times of the day to avoid the sun baking down on your car.
If you take a break, try and park your car in the shade. If you have to park in direct sunlight, make use of a windscreen shade on the dashboard to reflect the sun’s heat away.
Have sun cream and hats handy so nobody gets sunburnt on the journey. Read about more ways to stay cool while driving in the summer.
10. Keep the kids entertained
Travelling with kids can be difficult, as they struggle to sit still for long periods of time. Here are a few tips on how to keep your little ones entertained during a long journey:
- Find out what car games your kids like and be sure to play those during the drive, for example “Eye Spy”.
- Sing-alongs can be great, and everyone can get involved.
- Handheld game consoles can provide a good distraction, and there are educational games available.
- In-car films will keep kids busy for an hour or so at a time.
- Trivia questions can be related to the surroundings you may be passing at the time, or can be about the destination you’re heading to.
- You could have a scavenger hunt, where the kids identify certain things along the road, such as cows in a field, a motorcycle or green number plate emblems.
- Food and snacks are also a great way to distract the kids, as well as preventing them from becoming irritable and hungry.
11. Be prepared in case of an emergency
- Make sure to have the AA app downloaded on your mobile phone. It will give you the ability to report a breakdown with just a few clicks, and take some of the stress out of an unforeseen situation.
- Ensure you have water for all passengers, including your pets (make sure you have a bowl for pets to drink out of). Also have some snacks in case of a breakdown.
- Have a first aid kit in your car, as well as mobile phone chargers, jump leads and your vehicle insurance documents.
- Take hats and sun cream in case you break down in an area with little or no shade.
We'll get you back on the road.
- Report via the AA App. There's no need to give us directions – we'll come straight to your phone's location.
- Report online. Tell us about the problem and track your AA Patrol right up to your vehicle.
- If you aren't already with us, call us on 03330 046 046 to get instant breakdown cover.