How to Plan Gas Stops on a Road Trip

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Road trips can be about getting to the destination, enjoying the journey or both — but no one wants to find themselves between towns with no gas in the tank. You can avoid this fate by doing a little planning and calculating before you start your adventure. Your journey will be much more enjoyable when you know you won't run out of gas and will have access to food and a restroom.

Start by Planning Your Route

The first step in being prepared is to plan your route. This is the only way to ensure there are gas stops when you need them. Figure out which roads you're going to take, whether it's the fastest route offered by your GPS or the long scenic way.

You should consider if you want to make additional stops to experience museums, scenery or other local gems. The route may be taking you straight through somewhere you want to explore! Do a little research into the areas you are passing through. Finding a new stop may influence the path you take and the time you need to get where you're going.

Also, estimate when you will start your journey and when you should arrive. Remember to factor in time for multiple stops along the way for gas, food and restroom breaks. You may need to stop more often than just for gas, like if you realize you should have used the restroom at the last stop and can't wait for the next one.

Spend a little time figuring out when you will be in which area. This could affect your plan, like if some gas stations are closed at night in a certain town.

Calculate Your Car's Range

There are times when you may be on a stretch of road with no rest stops for 60 miles or more, so leave a little bit of a buffer for your car's range.

To figure out when and where you'll have to stop for gas, you need to know how far your car can go on a full tank of gas. You'll need to know the miles per gallon of your car and how many gallons your tank holds. Then, multiply the MPG by the number of gallons your tank holds.

For example, if your car gets 30 MPG and has a 12-gallon tank, your car should be able to go 360 miles on a fill-up. However, your actual mileage will vary so you should plan to fill up with around a quarter tank left, just in case. Multiply by .75 to find the optimum miles to go between gas stops. In this example, the answer would be 270 miles.

You can use your car's range to figure out approximately where and when you should stop for gas. There are times when you may be on a stretch of road with no rest stops for 60 miles or more, so leave a little bit of a buffer for your car's range. Your gas mileage will also vary depending on your speed and if there is traffic.

Price Gas by City

Gas prices can often vary from place to place. If budget is important to you, you should do a little research to find out the gas prices around your route. There are certain apps and websites, like GasBuddy, that you can use to check current gas prices at different gas stations. You can check prices ahead of time to find general trends and see what places are cheaper.

When picking out gas stations that you may want to stop at, remember that not all gas stations are open 24 hours a day.

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Keep in Mind How Often You Want to Stop

Some people like having frequent stops whenever they need something or see something they want to look at, while others like to streamline their road trip. If you stop often, your trip will take longer, but you may get to see more! You may find it more enjoyable to take your time and stop at a campground or motel for a night. This will give you extra time to explore your surroundings and give you a break from driving.

If you only want to stop when you absolutely have to, it's best to do everything each time you stop. Each time you stop for gas you should also go to the restroom and buy a snack if you didn't bring any with you. This prevents you from having to stop more often just to go to the restroom or eat.

If you find yourself having to make an additional, unplanned stop, don't worry. Even if you don't need gas yet, you may as well top off the tank.

Prep Your Car

Your road trip will be much more enjoyable if you prepare. Other than planning around gas stops and bathroom breaks, there is some additional planning to do. Make sure your tires are fully inflated, your windshield wipers are working and you have an emergency car kit. An emergency car kit should include things like jumper cables, tools, a flashlight with extra batteries, reflective triangles, a first aid kit, reflective vests, a phone charger, duct tape, a fire extinguisher and a blanket. Remember to bring your license, registration and insurance information.

Long trips can be improved with a memory foam cushion, a cooler full of snacks, plenty of hydrating drinks and comfortable shoes and clothes. You may need sunglasses, a phone mount and an on-the-road music or podcast playlist. Since you'll be sitting for a long time, make sure you are as comfortable as possible.

Save Money on Your Road Trip by Planning Your Gas Stops

Planning when you want to stop for gas not only makes your trip easier, but it also saves you money. You can plan to hit the cheaper gas stations without having to go out of your way to find them. This can reduce the length of your trip and how much gas you use overall. Thinking ahead and bringing your own food is another way to save some money on your trip. Prepping your car for a long journey will also prevent potentially costly repairs if something breaks down.

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