Road Trip Planning: What Do You Need to Make Your Vacation Truly Great?
Road trip planning, like many things in life, is harder than it looks. The fantasy is the idea of just jumping in your car and heading off to experience wonderful adventures. Any problems? They'll just turn into hilarious stories you'll be able to tell everyone.
I've been on a lot of road trips - travel is my passion - and I can tell you that it's just not that simple. Taking the time to plan your road trip can make the difference between a great vacation full of fun and adventure, and a disastrous detour down the wrong road, one you wouldn't wish on an enemy.
Road Trip Planning 101
It all started as a kid; my family loved to take road trips in our big ugly blue station wagon with brown paneling on the side. A lot of times, we’d cram two families into that station wagon and all the kids would be piled the “back-back” seat that faced backward. Between making faces at the cars behind us, telling each other jokes, and trying to make the trucks blow their air-horns, we had a blast!
Okay, some kids did throw up - I guess it’s that going-backward thing.
College and my twenties were no exception, although being a driver made me appreciate all those hours my parents spent behind the wheel! I also started learning about the magic of the road, all the cool places you’d never find in a tourist guide, the unique characters you meet along the way, the funky hotels and beautiful campsites by the sea.
I learned the hard way about planning, too. Money can run out, your car can break down in the middle of nowhere, food (maple syrup in my case) can leak all over your clothes making a sticky mess. When you and your friends are pushing your car for miles to get it to a service station, you really start to rethink things.
The purpose of this road trip planning guide is to help you have a great road trip while avoiding all of the pitfalls that I had to learn about through the school of “hard knocks”.
What do you need to know to plan your road trip?
There are so many things to consider when planning a road trip, especially if you want it to make it a great one. Think about it, with what little vacation time we have these days, don’t you want your vacation to be the kind that you remember forever and talk about for years to come? Don’t you want it to be jam-packed with good times? Without the right planning, that may not happen!
Everything you need to plan a road trip is on this site or there's a link to the resource you need. There are so many road trip planning articles and tools that it can be hard to figure out where to begin. Here are some ways to approach all the information here in a way that will best help you plan your vacation
- The Number One Thing - Start by reading the article The #1 Thing - one of the most important decisions you'll need to make when planning a road trip. Read this even if you're traveling with family as it's important to remember your traveling companions when selecting your destination and route.
- Select Your Destination - Next, if you haven't already, select a destination. There are multiple articles here that include trip ideas, free road trip plans, and tips regarding specific destinations. My Top Ten Road Trip Destinations article is a popular one.
- Road Trip Planning Basics - This is the stuff that will help protect you from all of the common road trip problems and dangers. The Road Trip Planning Toolbox includes road trip planning articles and tools that cover the “big stuff” like mapping out your trip, preparing your car, home and road safety, and preparing a budget.
- Road Trip Games and Songs - This is where the FUN comes in! Road trip games are always a great idea, and the longer your trip is, the more you’ll enjoy them. Creating your own soundtrack is another key to a fun road trip. Whenever you hear those songs long after your trip, they will bring memories flooding back and a smile to your face. I save some of my songs just for those gloomy days when I need a pick-me-up. Put one on and I’m dancing!
- Packing Lists and Tips - Before you go, you’ve got to figure out what to pack. My road trip packing lists and tips cover every kind of trip from camping to family to Spring Break to romantic. There are also general tips including how to pack a suitcase, create a packing list, and pack your trunk most efficiently.
- What to Eat - Road trips are a great chance to try new foods (see my road food section for state-by-state tips and places to eat) as well as try some new recipes. Using my road trip recipes you can make some of your own trail mix, pack some delicious sandwiches, or pull off the road and grill your dinner at a scenic rest area. These road trip recipes will inspire to think outside the vending-machine/fast-food box.
- Save Money - Some people might say – isn’t a road trip itself frugal? Not necessarily. Things can add up fast. These frugal road trip tips will help you cut corners a little, making your vacation that much more affordable.
- Maximize Your Travel Experience - Having traveled all over the world since I was a child, I've gained some insights into getting the most out of traveling. Travel is more than just going to a place, it's an inner journey as well. Growing as a person while on a road trip - or any kind of vacation - is the best kind of souvenir to bring home.
Please note that there are tons of linked articles on every page - particularly towards the bottom of each page. They include free road trip itineraries, road trip destinations, top ten lists, and much more, so don't miss out. Enjoy this road trip planning guide and get ready to plan your best road trip yet!
- Road Trip Planner Toolbox
- Road trip planner with lots of tools and articles that you'll need to make your next vacation a great one.
- Road Trip Calculator
- This road trip calculator wil help you pin down the cost of your next road trip.
- Road Trip Games and Songs
- A road trip can be a boring haul or a fun and exciting journey. Adding road trip games and songs to your vacation can make a huge difference.
- Travel Packing Tips and Lists: Everything You Need to Hit the Road
- Travel packing tips, tricks, and lists to help you with packing for your road trip. Learn how to a better all-around packer for every vacation you take.
- Road Trip Recipes
- Use these road trip recipes to make delicious meals for your next trip. Not only are you assured of the quality of your food, it saves money, too.
- Road Food - The Best of Every State in the U.S.
- Whatever state you'll be visiting, there's a delicious road food waiting for you to try. Use this list of good eats for your next road trip.
- Frugal Road Trip Tips
- Use these frugal road trip tips to save money on your next vacation. From hotels to dining out, it can add up quickly and hurt you financially.
- Road Trip Planning: The Journey
- Road trip planning is so much more than just planning your route and packing your bags. Learn about the deeper and more meaningful benefits you can reap from your vacation.
- Top Ten Road Trip Destinations in the U.S.A.
- These top ten road trip destinations in the U.S. are the best because of their universal appeal, uniqueness, and the fact that they all have tons of activities and sights.
- Plan a Road Trip on the Greatest Roads in the U.S.
- Use this listing of the greatest routes in the U.S. to plan a road trip and your vacation really will be all about the journey!
- Plan a Road Trip Across the U.S.
- These essential tips will help you plan a road trip across the United States. A cross-country trip is the pinnacle of road trips and also the most important type of trip to plan thoroughly.
- Road Trip Ideas for Every Season
- No matter the season, you want to get away from it all on vacation, and these year-round road trip ideas will get you started!
- Wintertime Free Road Trip Plan - Heading South
- This wintertime free road trip plan takes you south and away from the cold and snow, heading back in time to the Florida of yesteryear.
- Disney Travel Tips
- Get the most out of your next vacation by using these great Disney travel tips to help you save money while squeezing the maximum amount of fun out of every day in the park.
- Road Trip Vacation Planning: Cliffs Notes Version
- This is the Cliffs Notes version of all of my road trip vacation planning advice which has been narrowed down to some top tips for those too busy and frazzled to read much more.
- Road Trip Resources
- These online road trip resouces are my favorites for when I plan my own trips - maybe they'll be helpful to you, too!
- Road Trips and Me
- Learn all about me and the story of how a well-traveled office manager started her own website about road trips.
- Contact Me
- Contact me about my website, planning-fun-road-trips.com, and let me know your thoughts, suggestions or advice.
- Legal Notice
- Legal disclaimer and liability information.