Tips for a Relaxing Road Trip
Updated: October 11, 2023
AAA Travel Editor Laurie Sterbens
If you're still feeling cautious about travel but cabin fever is closing in, a relaxing road trip can be the perfect escape.
Why a Road Trip?
Road trips are becoming a popular option for those who are ready to travel again because they allow travelers more control over social distancing, are budget-friendly and they allow you to customize your vacation based on your interests and schedule. But we don't want to think about budgets and distancing and schedules, right? We need to escape and relax! Don't worry, we'll get there. But first, make sure your vehicle is as ready for this trip as you are.
Before You Go
The first step to a truly relaxing road trip is to make sure you're free of any nagging worries about potential car trouble. Get your vehicle ready for the trip with a tune-up at a AAA Approved auto repair shop, which are inspected and offer benefits including priority service, discounted labor and guaranteed quality of work. To find an approved repair near you, visit, . Make sure your AAA membership is up to date before you go so you'll have peace of mind knowing Roadside Assistance is there should you need it.If you're not confident in your own vehicle or want to avoid adding mileage, consider renting a vehicle for the trip. Renting is also a great option if you'd like more cargo space, need four-wheel drive for winter or mountain driving, or just for the fun of driving a new-to-you vehicle. AAA members can get up to a 20 percent discount and other benefits with , which now offers enhanced cleaning and touchless rental transactions with its Hertz Gold Standard Clean Program.
Planning Your Relaxing Road Trip
Before you map out your road trip, think about destinations and activities that interest you. Are you a ? Want to visit a national park? Into quirky attractions? Or are you craving the ultimate unwinding experience, a luxurious spa? Once you've determined the type of place you'd like to go, you can look for an enjoyable route to take you there. If you need inspiration, visit AAA.com/RoadTrips, where you can search for pre-planned road trips by region. Looking to stay closer to home? Simply type your state into the search box to find fun and scenic drives near you. You can also search for attractions, resorts, national parks and road trips at AAA.com/TripTik.
Need more inspiration? AAA Travel editors named these trips as their favorite scenic drives :
Scenery is key to making a drive trip enjoyable and relaxing, and that includes considering the season. Summer isn't the only time for a road trip–or even the best time, since destinations can be more crowded and costly then. For an autumn trip, research the ideal time for viewing fall foliage in your chosen region and plan seasonal activities along your route, such as in these Hudson Valley road trips. In winter, escape slushy streets and bleak landscapes with a winter-themed vacation spot such as a ski resort and enjoy a leisurely drive through snow-covered scenery on the way there.Once you've decided on your road trip route, plan your stops along the way. Do you typically race along the interstate, only stopping when you see a gas station near the exit where you run in, use the restroom, grab a soda, jump back in the car and merge back onto the interstate as quickly as possible? That's a pit stop. Instead, try to plan a more wellness-enhancing break every couple of hours to do something enjoyable, even if it's just stopping to snap a selfie at a scenic overlook. You can find restaurants, attractions and gas stations along your route in the . And speaking of gas, take the guesswork out of your fuel budget before your trip with AAA's Gas Cost Calculator. Members can save up to 5 cents a gallon by enrolling in the Fuel Rewards Program at AAA.com/Shell.If you're planning an overnight stay, look for AAA Diamond-designated hotels, all of which must pass rigorous inspections by AAA's professional inspectors to make sure you have a clean and comfortable experience at any budget level. You can find AAA Diamond hotels at , on the TripTik Travel Planner or contact a AAA Travel Agent.
What to Bring on Your Relaxing Road Trip
Now that you know where you're going, it's time to stock your vehicle with everything you'll need to make sure your road trip is relaxing and enjoyable.
• Pack masks, hand sanitizer, sanitizing wipes, and/or sanitizing spray to disinfect surfaces you contact during restaurant stops. Bring disposable gloves or plastic sandwich bags to avoid touching gas pumps.
• Hopefully you won't need them, but it's always a good idea to keep a first aid kit and some basic roadside emergency equipment in the trunk of your car, especially if you're traveling to a remote area. AAA's Premium Traveler Road Kit covers all the bases with items such as a jumper cable, flashlight and a 45-piece first aid kit.
• If you're using a navigation app, a car mount will allow you to see your phone while keeping your eyes on the road. And speaking of directions, be sure to print out or download your route so you have a backup if you're traveling through an area with no service.
• Bring a cooler filled with healthy snacks (or whatever you like; you're on vacation!) and beverages. If your route includes scenic areas where you can stop for a picnic, pack picnic supplies and have lunch in the great outdoors with bonus points for social distancing.
• Create a playlist ahead of the trip to set the mood while you're driving, or download audiobooks or podcasts to listen to as you enjoy the scenery. You can even theme your playlist based on your road trip. AAA’s Grand Ole Music Road Trip, for example, is a scenic trip through the roots of country music, blues and rock ’n’ roll.
• The aroma of your last fast food order does not create a spa-like driving experience. Clip an aromatherapy air freshener with a relaxing essential oil to your air vent to maximize your road trip relaxation.
• Try to unplug. Resist the urge to check email and post updates during your trip. It's not really an escape if you're still tethered to work or social networks.
• Finally, be flexible. Allow plenty of time to enjoy your planned stops as well as the unexpected.
Start Your Next Road Trip with AAA
AAA Travel provides peace of mind for travelers — from the first mile of the journey to the last. Get inspiration for your next road trip and locate AAA Diamond designated hotels and restaurants with AAA’s TripTik Travel Planner, AAA Digital TourBook® or browse pre-planned itineraries on AAA.com/RoadTrips. Estimating fuel costs for your trip is easy with the AAA Gas Cost Calculator, and if your car needs a quick tune-up before the trip, find a AAA Approved auto repair facility near you at AAA.com/AutoRepair. For printed maps and trip planning advice, contact your local AAA office.
AAA Travel Editor Laurie Sterbens
Laurie Sterbens is a AAA Travel Expert.