Car Road Trip

How To Prepare And Plan A Road Trip With Friends (Complete Guide)

Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr

Last Updated on September 23, 2022 by Rose Morah

It’s about that time of the year. Time for a road trip!

Going on a road with friends requires adequate planning. Otherwise, what was supposedly meant to be an epic road trip with friends may turn out quite the opposite.

Did you know, that 60% of best friends end up breaking up their friendships after and during the road trip?

Personally, I have had both good and bad road trip experiences with friends in the past.

But over years, I have realized that with a proper road trip plan and preparation, there is a good chance that you’re going to have an epic road trip. 

This article gives you great tips for preparing and planning a road trip with friends.

1. Choose The Right Travel Partners

Let’s be honest, not every friend is going to be your ideal travel partner. 

Therefore, knowing how to choose a travel partner is important. 

Traveling with friends on a road trip can really test your relationship, and I am talking about even with the closest friends. 

Perhaps you might have known each other during the good times.

But one thing’s for sure when you are in the midst of challenging or difficult times on the road, chances are you will have conflicts and disagreements.

Somebody once told me, before you marry someone, go on a long road trip together.

Tips to help you choose the right road trip partner

  1. Find out if you share common goals and interests.

Discussing the needs that each one will want to achieve from the road trip and the kind of trip they are looking to have could be a great place to start.

You may have a best friend in mind, but if you don’t share goals, then you probably need to reconsider going on an extended road trip together.


Road trips with friends with who you don’t share a common goal will normally have the following challenges;

1. Lots of heated arguments.
2. Sometimes you might feel like you dragged them along.
3. The friendship may most likely not last.
  1. Find out if you both are capable of doing the trip, financially.

You should both be on the same page, financially.

If that’s not the case, you may experience the following challenges:

  • One person may end up overburdened by most of the road trip costs.
  • It will be difficult to plan a trip together. The places you would like to sleep or visit may not be affordable for the other person. This means you may have to compromise. 
  • Some friends will never pay for anything. For example gas or even food. They will always come up with excuses every time they get asked to pay.

And you are wondering where arguments come from? This is one of the reasons!

How do you deal with a bad travel partner?

If you happen to be traveling with a difficult partner:

  1. Ensure that you are both on the same page regarding travel responsibilities, style, and privacy.

You could also try to find road trip activities that you will both enjoy.

Having said that, it would be great if you could reflect inwardly on how you might also be contributing to the conflicts arising between the two of you.

Why?

Because most of the time, figuring this out may go a long way in alleviating arising issues when you are on the road.

And another thing, try to hear them out and gain a common ground.

But even more importantly, always remind yourself why you are still friends after all.

  1. You don’t have to stick together all the time.

You could wander alone for some time during the trip if your interests don’t align. 


You can find friends with who you share common interests on Trip giraffe or the Travel buddies app.

Bottom line: Take a chance on a friend or someone you think will be a good road companion, then see what happens.

And…they don’t necessarily have to be your friend.  

2. Choose Your Road Trip Destination

Your choice of destination has a huge influence on how the journey will turn out.

When researching a road trip destination, there are a few important factors that you will need to consider to come up with the right choice:

  1. How much time do you have

The choice can be influenced by the amount of time you have, and of course, where you live. 

For instance, do you have a week, a weekend, or a month to go on this road trip?

If you only have a limited time, your destination will need to be somewhere closer to home. 

Otherwise, you might rush and end up not quite enjoying the trip.

Taking an extended trip with friends requires more time and planning, make no mistake.

  1. Who you are going with

When planning a road trip, your travel partner can dictate the choice of your destination. 

Some destinations are best suited for solo travelers, some for friends, and others are couples’ destinations. 

A friend’s destination will hence need to be a place suit for friends. And in other words, it should offer an experience that is practical for friends. 

See also: How To Entertain and Keep Yourself Busy On A Long Car Ride (10 Tips).

  1. What will be the weather like?

Depending on the type of season you will be taking the road trip, the weather could determine the choice of a destination. 

The weather may cause a rise in the number of visits to a destination (peak season) or a fall (offseason).

Additionally, this change in the number of visitors could cause a rise or fall in the prices of the destinations.

This influences your choice of destination.

  1. What’s your travel budget 

Your travel budget will no doubt influence the choice of your destination.

If you are on a budget, you will be forced to visit destinations that will not put a strain on your budget.

Your travel budget will influence your accommodation, travel gear, and the type of vehicle you will use for the trip. 

See the 11 Best Cars To Sleep In (Tips From Avid Campers).

  1. The type of road trip experience you want

The type of experience you want will influence the choice of destination. 

You could choose a destination for adventure, an outdoor experience, relaxation, beach experience, food and cultural experience, and so on.

When planning, be sure to use road trip planner apps to help you find a ton of amazing destinations that offer a wide range of experiences.

And once you have narrowed down the possible road trip destinations, look for the common ground before you finally come up with the final decision. 

Going on a backpacking trip? Check out these backpacking tips when you’re overweight or out of shape.

See also: Fun places to go on a road trip with friends.

3. Set a realistic road trip budget

This is probably the most crucial part of planning. 

First,  you need to know how much everyone should contribute to the trip’s budget. 

Your budget will affect your trip in several ways – the length of your trip, dining and accommodations, distance, the vehicle that you are going to use – and the list goes on.

Therefore, having a round table meeting at a friend’s house would be important when it comes to money matters.

And perhaps more importantly, this will be a time well spent, instead of sending long texts or emails. 

How do you split travel expenses with friends?

First, you need to come up with the maximum expenditure per person, then work out the budget for the whole group. 

When you plan a road trip, you could split up the bills with the help of a mobile app- such as Splitwise. Splitwise helps you split up the bills and keep track of the expenses which you then settle up later on.

You could also opt for other ways of splitting the expenses.

For instance, instead of booking a hotel room, you could go to Airbnb. Airbnb will allow you to split the rent among yourselves equally.

How do I split my Airbnb price with a friend?

You can easily split the Airbnb price with a friend at the time of booking.

One of you will simply need to book an Airbnb. This will allow you to access the invitation page, which will allow you to invite your friends.

The one friend who booked the Airbnb will pay their share, which in the meanwhile will be placed on hold. The rest will then have 72 hours to pay up for their remaining equal amount of shares.

If anyone on the invited list does not fulfill their payments, the booking will automatically be canceled, and the money returned to those who had already paid.

It’s also important to note that Airbnb will allow only a maximum of 16 people to split the rent.

How should you split gas money on a road trip with friends?

The best way to split gas money on a road trip is by having everyone contribute equally, except for the car owner.

Why?

Let’s assume that the car owner had already gone the extra mile to service the vehicle. It wouldn’t be fair for them to contribute a similar amount towards the gas costs.

You could also consider creating a separate fund and having everyone contribute equally before the trip.

This is because it is easy to forget small miscellaneous expenses when budgeting.

Having a separate fund will also be helpful in case you exhaust the main fund before the end of the trip.

Each person will hence need to make an extra equal amount of contribution. And this extra amount should cover you until the end of the trip.

It is important to ensure that there is good communication throughout the budget process. 

For instance, communication on important details such as the amounts contributed by everyone needs to be well communicated.

And again, make sure that everyone is satisfied.

Finally, remember to leave room for some extra cash in hand in case of any emergency change of plan or as a backup for a rainy day. 

Do keep it in a safe place. You just might need it when you least expect it!

Quick tip:
Money is still king in many places. Carry your credit card and some emergency cash as well. 


The total costs of your road trip with friends will mostly fall under food, gas, hotel, and activity fees. 

See also: How to calculate the average cost of a road trip.

4. Choose The Right Car

Choosing the right car for the road trip will guarantee you safety and comfort.

Imagine going for an extended road trip in a vehicle with poor AC, uncomfortable seats, constant mechanical problems, and to top it off, a fuel guzzler – a car that is always thirsty for fuel. 

That’s an experience that no one would ever want.

A good road trip car should be able to give you and your friends a thrilling driving experience from its vehicle dynamics.

But what is a good road trip car?

A good road trip car needs to fulfill the following key aspects:

  1. Comfort

You will be sitting in the car for long hours. Make sure the car is as comfortable as possible. 

To check, you can start by taking the driver’s seat.

Adjust the seat backward, forward, downwards, or upwards in a way that will make you comfortable, depending on your height.

Make sure you leave enough legroom to stretch and move your legs.

Additionally, if you are taking a trip when the weather is too cold, consider getting seat warmer and travel pillows. 

  1. Size matters

A good road trip car should be spacious for everyone to fit in comfortably.

Your choice of vehicle needs to have enough seats for everyone. Larger models are better, of course, depending on the number of passengers on board.

See How To Pack A Small Car For A Road Trip.

  1. The gas mileage 

To minimize the expense, you will need a vehicle that gets quality miles per gallon. And in other words, a vehicle that will be efficient to cover a large distance per gallon. 

This way, you only make just a few stops to refuel. 

  1. The vehicle air conditioner 

This is a must-have for a comfortable driving experience. Be sure to check if it is in proper working condition.

  1. The vehicle cruise control

The cruise control keeps the vehicle at a constant set speed when driving, which controls overspeeding. 

This also limits the amount of fuel consumption during acceleration and deceleration, reducing your overall road trip budget.

Other aspects include:

  1.  Backup camera 

A backup camera, also known as a rearview camera, is important. It helps you reverse without hitting objects from behind. 

  1. Trunk space 

Your luggage needs to fit in the trunk.

Therefore, you need to consider the storage capacity of the trunk before choosing your road trip car. 

To help fix your storage blues, here are a few hacks to help maximize the storage capacity:

  • If you plan to go skiing on a winter road trip, getting a vehicle fitted with a ski rack on the rooftop would help preserve the boot space for other stuff.
  • Installing a backseat and a trunk organizer,
  • Carry a trash bin.

That being said, if you consider going on an adventure road trip, chances are, you will be carrying lots of kits. And most certainly, you will be driving on treacherous roads. 

An off-roader would hence be the best option in this case. 

You should hence consider 4×4 model SUVs such as VW Tiguan, Skoda yeti, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Jeep Wrangler, the new Land Rover Defender (my personal favorite), or even a Range Rover Sport if you are looking to have a luxurious off-road trip. 

The good thing is, all these SUVs come with ample luggage space for your gear. 

See also:

7 smart Tesla long-distance road trip tips.

Tips for traveling by bus to Mexico from the US.

5. Prepare Your Car For The Road Trip

One or two weeks before embarking on the friend’s road trip, take the vehicle for a full tune-up by an automotive service technician.

In a nutshell, here are the basic things you will need to do:

  1. Change the Car Fluids

You should change the engine oil as opposed to adding it. I bet you’ll want to avoid unnecessary breakdowns during the trip.

You’ll also need to top off the coolant, oils, windscreen wash, transmission, power steering, and brake fluids. 

  1. Check the tire condition

Check the tire for air pressure and wear.

In any case, the tires should last for the entire trip. 

And needless to say, driving on tires with improper inflation pressure is dangerous.

Therefore, properly fill it up to the recommended tire pressure or refer to the manufacturer’s manual if unsure.

Be sure to check the tires when they are cold – when the car hasn’t been driven for a minimum of 3 hours.

When checking the tire condition (for wear and any need for replacement ), perhaps it’s worth noting that the average tire tread depth is 10/32 to 11/32 inches, and at least not less than 2/32 inches. 

Additionally, carry out a thorough tire inspection for bulges or bumps. If you happen to find any, then this means that there is a separation in the tire’s body.

You will also need to be on the lookout for any uneven wear, flat spots, and cuts.

If you don’t know how to check the tires, consider taking the car to a qualified mechanic.

Safety should be your number one concern, especially when going on a road trip with a friend.

See also: Tire Pressure Guide: What is the Proper Tire Pressure For Vehicles?

  1. Check the Engine Performance

To enhance proper and efficient engine performance, you need to inspect the air filters. to ensure that enough air supply to the engine. 

  1. Check the Lights and Signals

Check to ensure that lights and signals are in proper working condition.

To check, you can turn on the lights and signals and have someone check from the outside. 

Be on the lookout for any warning indicators and light symbols on your dashboard.

  1. Check the Car Battery

If it’s been long since you last changed your car battery, then it’s probably time you checked it for corrosion or for signs of the battery dying and have it changed.

For instance, the sluggish sound of your starter is one such indication.

See also:

Best Travel-Size Family Games (Recommended by Most Families).

Fun Games to Play With Friends on a Weekend Night.

Other Safety Measures

Remember to carry your reflective warning triangle in case of a vehicle emergency, and to also wash your car to enhance clear visibility on the road. 

Lastly, give your car a test drive.

Why?

Because you will need to have a feel of the vehicle on the road to detect any unfamiliar sounds or shakes, especially coming from the wheels.

You should do this before you hit the road.

On that note, if you notice a squealing sound coming from the brakes, that could indicate the brake pads have worn down and need replacement or the brake fluid needs a top-up. 

Repeat this process after the trip.

Note:
There’s the risk of the car breaking down during the road trip.

Make sure you pack the following in your road trip emergency kit:

A fully inflated spare wheel, a jack stand, lug wrench, and owner’s manual in your vehicle emergency kit. 

See also: A Complete Overlanding Trip Checklist.

A vehicle emergency kit should at least have:

  • A car battery(with an extra battery)
  • Battery booster cables
  • Tire pressure gauge
  • A flashlight( with extra batteries) 
  • Jumper cable
  • A reflective warning triangle 
  • Reflector jacket
  • Whistle, window breaker 
  • Road flares
  • A fire extinguisher 
  • And the most important, a first aid kit. 

A first aid kit should have:

  • Bandages 
  • Pain relievers 
  • Antibiotic ointment 
  • Scissors
  • Disposable sterile gloves
  • Tweezers 
  • Safety pins 
  • An emergency blanket 
  • A thermometer and 
  • A first aid manual 

Essential vehicle documents to carry. 

  • Your driver’s license and registration (copy and the original)
  • Your own car insurance policy( with emergency contacts)
  • Owner’s manual
  •  A paper map –  or alternatively, you can use maps.me app offline 
  • Your vehicle insurance copies

See also:

Must-have Road Trip Car Accessories.

How to prepare your motorcycle for a cross-country road trip

A complete guide for a motorcycle road trip for beginners.

6. Divide up the task

I bet you’ll agree with me here:

When planning a road trip, getting everyone involved reduces the pressure and the burden of leaving the task to one person. 

It speeds up the planning process and minimizes disagreements arising from conflicting interests on destinations, accommodations, fun activities, etc.

So, how do you divide up the tasks?

You could for instance research the car rental deals and have someone else browse hotels and accommodations or research destinations. 

And to enhance effectiveness, try to assign tasks based on strengths.

Be sure that everyone focuses on a single task and works to its completion. 

Later on, you could discuss your findings together to make sure they match everyone’s needs and interests.

7. Maintain Effective Communication

Crafting proper communication during the planning process is important.

You will want to make sure that you are not caught up in the thrill of booking and making reservations without checking up with the others.

You need to hear their word. 

The road trip planning process should, in fact, be a team effort.

Any communication affecting everyone in the group, such as the departure time and other important decisions, needs to be well communicated. 

This is for the sake of your relationship and the success of the road trip.

Be sure to give everyone a voice to vocalize their opinions, desires, and needs that they want to achieve from this road trip.

Let them feel that their needs are being met. 

The process of planning a road trip calls for patience, compromise, kindness, and most importantly, good communication skills.

Are you wondering what you will do on the road trip?

Check out these fun things to do on a boring friend’s road trip.

8. Craft A Good Road Trip Playlist

Planning an extended road trip is impossible without some musical tunes from a good playlist. 

But even the choice of your playlist can make or break a road trip.

Don’t let a boring playlist ruin your trip.

Here are a few tips for crafting an ideal playlist for the road trip:

  1. Set a discernible playlist tone 

The tone of your playlist could have recurring musical lyrics of a certain topic. Let it also be a tone that evokes a certain mood or sensation from the tracks.

  1. Consider the length of your trip 

The playlist needs to cover the length of time you will be on the road.

  1. Take your time 

Start compiling as early as a few weeks before the road trip. This way, you will have room for some inspiration from online platforms such as Spotify, SoundCloud, YouTube, Pandora, etc.

  1. Ask everyone to contribute to the playlist 

Needless to say, it needs to be a collaborative playlist.

  1. Do a test run 

You need to add what’s missing and remove what’s not working.

Finally, don’t forget to download it before you leave.

9. Pack Some Healthy Snacks And Water

Consider taking various healthy snack options.

This will minimize the number of pit stops in fast food joints and will also lower your trip budget. 


The snacks need to be rich in proteins, full of nutrients, and should also be dry to avoid leaking into your bags. 

Check out these 5 Healthy Non-refrigerated Road Trip Snacks To Keep You Awake.

What are the best healthy snacks for your road trip?

Here are 5 healthy snacks ideas to consider when planning a road trip;

  1. Peanut butter pretzels

This snack will greatly help you stay full till the next meal. It has healthy fat and protein, but ensure that you go for the natural peanut butter pretzels because they are not loaded with extra sugar.

  1. Walnuts 

They are great road trip snacks that will keep you full on long road trips. 

  1. Sunflower seeds

Sunflower seeds keep you awake when driving. They are also great due to their healthy fats and magnesium, which are great for your heart.

  1. Popcorns

Popcorns provide you with energy while on a road trip. They are also an excellent source of complex carbs and fiber.

Avoid microwaved popcorns that are filled with chemicals.

  1. Yogurt

You need yogurt on the road trip because it has probiotics (good bacteria) that are great for maintaining good digestive health. It is best when taken on an empty stomach.

Be sure to also carry plenty of water as opposed to excessive sodas or alcoholic beverages. Milk and juices are great alternatives.

When carrying lots of perishable foods, you will need a cooler. 

It provides storage for your canned drinks and other foodstuffs that normally go bad in hot temperatures.

See also: How To Keep Perishable Food Fresh and Frozen While Traveling.

Lastly, don’t forget to take your breakfast first thing in the morning before you hit the road. You will need that energy to start the trip.

10. Stay Connected During The Road Trip

It is important to have strong internet connectivity on a road trip with friends. Your devices also need to stay charged during the trip. 

This is because you’ll need to stay connected with your loved ones.

Having portable Wi-Fi helps you stay connected, especially if your phone does not have an international data plan.

A good place to start would be buying or renting a Teppy travel Wi-Fi. 

It comes with a wireless hotspot that everyone in the car can seamlessly connect to.

Secondly, it is essential to have a Bluetooth hands-free car kit.

This kit enhances the safety of the crew in case the driver needs to make a call or stream audio on their mobile devices while maintaining focus on the road. 

Other Road Trip Comfort Essentials when planning a road trip

  1. Sunglasses 

You need them to minimize the glare on the road due to sun rays or snow that blocks your vision of oncoming vehicles.

They also provide a better view of the road ahead without straining your eyes and protect you from direct UV light. 

  1. Travel mugs 

Look for those with sealable lids to prevent spillage on the floor or vehicle surfaces.

They also need to have an insulated double wall to keep your hot beverages hot and the cold ones cold.

  1. Hand sanitizers

Hand sanitizers keep germs and viruses out of the car.

  1. Mints

When you are cramped in the car, you need mints to keep a fresh breath inside the car.

  • Painkillers 

Sitting in a car for long hours with a pounding headache or muscle pain is fun.

Be sure to carry some painkillers in your first aid kit.

Hey, I’m Rose. I’m passionate about electric cars and clean energy. My adventurous spirit and journalistic pursuits make each day fascinating and far greater. I consider traveling not just about the grandeur moments, but the little elements that transform the whole experience.