Want to hit the road? All a road trip takes is a vehicle, a sense of adventure, and a plan. Well, and some money, but will be sharing our money saving tips for road trippers in another post, so stay tuned! We can’t help you with the funding, the vehicle, or the mind set, but we do have the plan! Today, we’re sharing our 5 easy steps for planning the perfect road trip. Let’s get going…
1. Where to go
Road trips don’t necessarily need to have a destination, it’s about the journey after all, but every trip starts with an idea of what you want to see or do. Is it a particular city, visiting friends or family, simply looking at scenery, a national or state park, or something else that interests you? Making the decision can be hard, but we’re fortunate to have multiple trip idea resources at our fingertips. Here are some great places to start:
- Travel blogs, magazines, and books
- Online news site travel features
- National and state park websites
- Google, along with Google Maps and Google Images
- Only in Your State – https://www.onlyinyourstate.com/
- Friends – ask them for recommendations based on where they’ve been
2. When to go and for how long
The nice thing about road trips is that they can happen any time of the year. Is your trip going to be for a weekend, a few days, a week, or longer? Most people have limited vacation days per year, so time can be a big consideration when planning a trip. Some of our best trips have been weekend or long weekend trips, so don’t let a shortage of time be a discouraging factor.
Here are some timing guidelines:
- Weekend: plan a trip to a destination that is less than a three-hour drive from home and consider leaving on Friday evening.
- Long Weekend: plan a trip to a destination less than a five-hour drive from home. Leaving early in the morning is a bonus because you can get to your destination by lunchtime.
- One Week or Longer: figure out the distance between home and the destination then decide whether to drive from home or fly to the beginning point.
Once the destination has been decided, Google the distance between point A and point B. (For example: Distance between Amarillo, Tx and St. Louis, Mo.) Then plan your itinerary from the Google map. This allows you to see what interesting cities are along the route, the travel time, and it even allows you to add up to nine additional destinations. Consider taking a different route home so you get the bonus of seeing more great places.
3. Have a plan
We make an itinerary for every trip whether it’s a weekend trip or a long trip. The reason for this is it provides structure and helps with the financial planning aspect of the journey. Nobody wants to get in the car and waste valuable time trying to decide what to do or where to go next. Writing it down makes it a commitment even if we don’t always stick strictly to our plans. Below is an example of one of our itineraries.
Itineraries can be super detailed or as simple as some notes jotted down on a piece of paper. Our theory is that it’s better to have too much of a plan than no plan at all. We don’t want to arrive at a destination without a hotel or rental car reservation or not have a clue about what a city has to offer. On the other hand, we have a lot of admiration for the free-spirited road warriors who are brave enough to just get in the car and go!
4. Do some research
Find out everything you can about your destination and the cities you will be passing through using Trip Advisor, Chamber of Commerce websites, and other online resources. Google “things to do” in every town or city on your route and add the things you want to see to your itinerary. Atlas Obscura and Roadside America are great resources for finding unusual or quirky sights in a specific city or along the road. If you’re like us, we want to see it all and do it all in every destination because we’re probably not going back.
Remember all those times as a kid when you wanted to see a roadside attraction and your parents would never stop? Well, now that you’re in the driver’s seat you can stop all you want. Go ahead and check out that alligator farm! Spray paint those cars at Cadillac Ranch! Spend thirty minutes browsing around that quirky tourist trap! This is your trip, so plan it the way you want.
One more thing about our planning strategy: we try to plan where we’re going to eat so we don’t waste time driving around looking for a place to stop. We make three choices per meal via Trip Advisor, blog, or other website recommendations. Asking hotel desk clerks for recommendations is also a good way to find the best local dining hotspots. In fact, on the trip from the itinerary above we didn’t eat at any of the listed restaurants. We ate at the restaurant recommended by the hotel clerk and ended up having one of the best meals of the trip!
5. Don’t take chances
Before you hit the road, make sure you and your car are in shape to travel especially if you’re going to be driving a long distance. Here is a short checklist:
- Make sure tires are in good shape and aired properly, including the spare, and be sure you have a jack. Check the wiper blades and oil levels too.
- Check to make sure the vehicle’s instruction manual and insurance information is in the glove box or console.
- Outfit your vehicle with a roadside emergency kit including jumper cables, mini air compressor, flares or reflector triangles along with a few tools and other emergency needs in case of a flat or breakdown.
- Keep a first aid kit handy for little scrapes, bug bites, blisters, etc., and add a nail clipper and emery board because someone will probably need them.
- A cooler or basket full of your favorite road snacks and drinks.
- A great road trip playlist.
- A paper map or road atlas in case your electronics don’t work – it happens.
- Chargers for electronics.
- A few plastic bags of various sizes, including zip lock types, because they have thousands of uses besides for trash: muddy shoes, wet bathing suits and towels, dirty clothes, leftover snacks, just to name a few.
Now you’re ready to buckle up, crank up the tunes, and hit the road! Have fun and travel safely.
We will see you down the road…
Mike and Kellye
Need some inspiration? Check out these exciting road trip destinations:
Abilene, Texas Road Trip: Things to Do
Things to Do in San Antonio: River Walk
Things to Do in Sedona, Arizona
As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.