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Over the years, I have discovered that there are two kinds of road trip people: commandos and amblers. Commandos like getting to their ultimate destination as quickly as possible and stop only when necessary. Amblers, on the other hand, tend to take longer to get there and stop much more often. Whether you are a commando or an ambler, if you want to save time on your next road trip, this article is for you! Here are my best tips to save time on road trips so you can get there faster.
Tip #1: Strategic Planning
When deciding what time to leave on your road trip, plan strategically in order to save time. What I mean by this is to think about your route and potential traffic you might encounter.
If you have two route options that take roughly the same amount of time, choose the one will less traffic. If you will be traveling through a major city during your trip, leave at a time that will allow you to avoid that city’s rush hour.
When we lived in a big city, we would leave on trips around 4-5 am so we could be out of town before rush hour started.
If you find yourself hitting a city at the height of rush hour, try stopping for a sit down meal to let traffic clear out while you eat. This has the added benefit of making your trip less stressful while also saving you time.
Tip #2: Drive at Night
Another way to save time on your road trip is to drive at night. This is very useful if you have two or more drivers, and at least one of them can easily sleep in the car. When you drive through the night, you typically encounter less traffic and have a smoother journey than during the daytime. This fact alone can save quite a bit of time on road trips.
If you are traveling with kids, this is an even better idea. By driving at night while your children are sleeping, they will be less likely to want to stop.
Additionally, most people eat more during the day than at night. So, by driving at night, you can eliminate the stops for food and bathroom breaks because everyone in the car, except for the driver, should be asleep most of the time.
My husband loves driving at night. Once everyone in the car is settled and goes to sleep, he turns on his music, finds his zone, and drives for hours without stopping.
Tip #3: One Stop Shop
An easy way to save time on road trips is to minimize the number of times you stop. The best way to do this is to take care of all of your needs in one stop.
When you stop for gas, make everyone in the car go to the bathroom and get whatever food and drink you need at the same time. This will prevent stopping every hour or so.
If it is time for a meal, find a gas station that is next to a fast-food restaurant so you can hit them both up before getting back on the highway. Travel centers are great for this because they usually include fast food restaurants and gas stations in one building.
If you need to stop to eat but your gas tank is not yet on empty, go ahead and top off your gas. This will allow you to drive that much further before the next stop.
Tip #4: Pack Snacks
One way to eliminate some of the stops you need to make while on a road trip is to pack snacks, drinks, and maybe even a meal or two in the car before leaving home. Then, when someone gets hungry, you can grab some food while still moving.
This is a great tip for families traveling with kids because they seem to always be hungry. This one will also save you some money while traveling.
I usually pack a snack bag for the car that contains a variety of easy, no-mess snacks for the family. I try to include everyone’s favorites.
Tip #5: Use the Drive-Thru
When you do have to stop, make it as quick as possible. The less time you spend getting gas or food, the faster you get to your destination.
Meals are one of the biggest time sucks there is when traveling. This is where drive-thru restaurants come in handy. Why spend an hour sitting down to a meal when you can run through the drive-thru in a few minutes and keep moving?
We almost always use the drive-thru and eat in the car when we are on road trips.
If you can’t stand the thought of multiple meals from a fast food restaurant in one day, then try using the drive-thru for breakfast and lunch and then treat yourself to a sit down meal at dinner. That alone can save you from one to three hours on your trip.
Tip #6: Divide and Conquer
My husband, Chris, and I are big believers in the divide and conquer technique. We use it at home and while traveling. When we are on road trips, we use it to save time whenever we stop.
As soon as we pull into a drive thru line, my son and I get out and go to the bathroom while Chris orders and picks up our food. By the time he has the food in hand, we are done in the bathroom and back in the car.
We also use this method whenever we have to stop for the night. I’ll check us into the hotel while he unloads the car. When it is time to hit the road the next morning, one of us checks out while the other one loads the car.
This little technique saves us lots of time.
Tip #7: Slip-On Shoes
This tip can be used by anyone, but it is vital for anyone traveling with younger children. Put slip-on shoes on your children for the road trip.
This way, they can take their shoes off in the car. And when it’s time to stop, you won’t have to waste time putting their shoes back on them. They can just slip them on quickly by themselves before you actually stop.
This will help to get you in and out and back on the road even quicker.
If you believe that the fun of travel is in the journey more than the destination, then you probably don’t care how long it takes you to get to your end point. But, for those of us who want to make the most of our time at our vacation destination, getting there as quickly as possibly is key. So, it is important to save as much time as possible on your family road trips. I hope these tips to save time on road trips work for you the next time you are traveling with your family.
For more road trips tips, see our ultimate guide to family road trips, how to handle kids and car sickness, how to pack the car like a pro, tips for road trips with babies and toddlers, and essential items for road trips with kids. And see how to plan an epic family vacation. Happy travels!
P.S. Need help finding the best places to go on your family vacations? My Ultimate USA Bucket List for Families will instantly give you 60 of the best vacation destinations for families in the United States! Get it for FREE in the box below and start planning your next trip today! Plus, as a bonus, you will receive my weekly email newsletter full of family trip tips and inspiration!