Use these 7 essential tips to get out of town, even on short notice.

Monument Valley by Thomas J. Story

 Thomas J. Story


This summer is a big one for the travel industry, with numbers climbing well above pre-pandemic levels. But if you haven’t gotten around to planning a getaway yet, don’t panic. There’s still time to plan an epic road trip, whether you’re going solo, with family, or friends. Here are our tips for planning a last-minute weekend road trip with minimal stress.

1. Book Using HotelTonight

Now owned by Airbnb, one of our favorite last-minute booking sites is HotelTonight. The company generally sells excess inventory to customers looking for a room within the next 24 to 48 hours, but you can also book further out in advance. They offer extremely low rates on a range of popular hotels, and we’ve scored some serious deals over the years. For example, the design-driven Downtown L.A. Proper had rates at $264 over the July 4 weekend, about a $100 discount. Keep checking to see how Labor Day shakes out.

Van riding through the Going to the Sun road in Glacier National Park off Highway 89

Courtesy of NPS

2. Strategize on Timing

Traffic can be a total buzzkill, especially on long weekends. To avoid the stress of gridlock, opt to travel outside of rush hour and on off-days.

More Videos From Sunset

Or better yet, look into alternative transport like hopping the Amtrak Surfliner up the California coast rather than driving.

3. Use Resy Notify

As we witnessed on our last-minute road trip on Memorial Day weekend to Palm Springs, tables can be hard (or impossible) to come by on holiday weekends, so you’re definitely going to want to make reservations. Snag spots at fully booked restaurants with Resy’s Notify feature, which is basically a virtual wait list. You can set a Notify the same way you would normally book a table on Resy—just click the “Notify” button with the bell icon, rather than the “Book Now” button. If another party cancels or a table opens up within your preferred time range, you’ll be the first to know.

Equator instant coffee
Equator Instant coffee is perfect for camping, road trips, and hotel room alternatives.

Photo courtesy Equator Coffee

4. Pack Good Snacks

No matter how much you plan, on a holiday weekend traffic is inevitable. Rather than having to pull off at a pit stop and eat subpar fast food, opt for some of our favorite healthy road trip snacks, which’ll have you feeling slightly less guilty for stress and boredom snacking. Another pro move is to pack up groceries and bevvies in a proper ice chest that keeps things cool for hours, like one of these handy new Oyster performance coolers. The Norwegian made brand has engineered a high tech way to keep all your goods cold without any ice packs using vacuum sealing—a worthy investment for future camping trips down the line, too.

5. Check Your Vehicle

There’s nothing worse than car trouble on a holiday weekend, so don’t forego the check just because you’re in a rush to get out of town. Make sure to check your tires for air, get an oil change, and ensure charging for your e-vehicle. And be sure to map out charging stations on your route, too.

Car camping

Thomas J. Story

6. Go Under the Radar

When it comes to selecting a destination, think of lesser-known spots instead of following the crowds. While old faithfuls like Palm Springs or Santa Barbara are always appealing, on a holiday weekend it’d be smart to spend some time in Mammoth Lakes, Cuyama, or Temecula, which are equally fun and not as buzzy.

7. Order Groceries to Your Destination

If you’re really tight on time, there’s no luxury quite like having an Instacart full of your weekend supplies sent to your Airbnb, eliminating the need to stop at a grocery store once you finally arrive at your destination. Don’t forget the essentials like coffee, tea, and sunscreen.