With more than 4 million miles of navigable roadways across the U.S., planning a road trip means choosing your own adventure. You could go for just a weekend or months on end. You could stay nearby or check off states you’ve never visited. You could pitch a tent or opt for hotels. Your road trip can be whatever you want it to be. No matter your preferences, planning in advance will guarantee you get the most out of your time on the road. Here are some important steps to consider before packing up the car and driving away.
Map it out.
Narrow down your options by thinking about how long you want to be gone, what you want to do, and where you want to go. For high-level planning, Harley Sitner, owner of Peace Vans in Seattle, prefers laying out a paper map to plot points (available online through AAA), whereas Clare Healy, a seasoned road tripper originally from California, uses digital maps to determine distances between destinations.
When it comes to picking activities and destinations, you can gain inspiration from blogs, travel guides, friend recommendations, and more. These specifics can include historic sites, tours, restaurants, museums, farmers’ markets, hiking and biking trails, and more curiosities, both well-traveled and off-the-beaten paths.
“We always encourage people to pick one thing a day that will be a highlight,” Sitner says. “Then let the road unfold as it does going there.”
For popular destinations, take note of busy seasons and reservation requirements. Some National Parks, for example, open up their campground and entrance bookings up to three months in advance. However, don’t get discouraged if accommodations are already booked: many parks have first-come, first served options, and there are an increasing number of alternative camping options, such as through Hipcamp, The Dyrt, iOverlander, Sēkr, and elsewhere on public lands.
As you create your itinerary, these are a few other key details to consider:
- Travel times between destinations
- Noteworthy stops along the way
- Park fees and hours
- Accommodations for the night
- Gas or charging stations