How to Plan a Road Trip

With the pandemic affecting travel abroad, road trips are becoming increasingly popular. If you want to go on vacation or even get out of the house for a long weekend, a day trip by car to a new but socially distanced location is a fun and safe option. A road trip is also a great choice if budget is a concern.

But how do you make the most out of your trip? Planning the perfect cross country road trip is possible thanks to useful applications and time-honored tips. Check out how to plan your next road trip and hacks to make travel easier and more rewarding.

Download a Road Trip Mapper
Download a Road Trip Mapper

Road travel gives you independence. As the driver, you can go wherever you want. You are free from schedules and itineraries, such as traveling by air or as part of a tour.

However, this freedom also comes with the burden of making sure you get where you are going. A trip planner is an application that gives you turn-by-turn directions and helps you find amazing stops along the way. Some of the best trip planners include:

  •   Roadtrippers Trip Planner
  •   AAA TripTik
  •       Furkot Road Trip Planner
  •       Waze
  •       MapQuest
  •       My Scenic Drives

If you are traveling with specific goals or animals, a planner is practically crucial. For instance, only select locations accept pets, so apps like BringFido and GoPetFriendly make it easier for you to find a place to stay with your furry companion. Similarly, apps like Free Campsites show you campgrounds along your route.

Pick a Location or Direction
Pick a Location or Direction

One of the many benefits of a road trip is autonomy. Do you want to take the scenic route? Go for it! Do you want to stop at every diner along the route? You are in control, driver!

But just jumping in your car and heading out onto the open road sounds more exciting than it is. Without a road trip planner, you could find yourself on a long stretch of road with no interesting rest stops or views.

Now that you have your drive planner downloaded, where are you going? Your destination may be an out-of-state friend’s house or a nearby attraction you have meant to take your family to.

Wherever you go, make sure you have your route in your electronic trip planner. Apps like Waze can help you avoid traffic and road hazards, so you make it to your destination faster.

Do Not Over Pack
Do Not Over Pack

When you do not have to worry about carry-ons and luggage restrictions, you may want to pack your car full before heading out. However, like leaving room in your suitcase for souvenirs, you will want to leave space in your vehicle.

Road trips, especially cross country routes, are significantly longer than most flights. Therefore, you will want to make sure you and your passengers have room to stay comfortable and enjoy the ride without feeling cramped.

Invest in a storage unit for the top of your car if you need extra room for gear like:

  •       Camping equipment.
  •       Sports equipment, such as skis and snowboards.
  •       Water toys, such as paddleboards, kayaks, and canoes.

The extra space will give you and your passengers more elbow and leg room. If you plan to travel cross country, the additional space can mean a sleeping room when you or your travel companion need a break from staring at the road.

Make Realistic Plans
Make Realistic Plans

Do you need to be somewhere by a specific date? How long can you actually drive in a day? Do your plans account for rest stops?

Your GPS map may say it takes 12 hours to get somewhere, but it does not factor in delays for getting fuel, bathroom breaks, and congestion from new accidents. While many apps like Waze and Google Maps consider peak traffic times on your route, they cannot predict the future. For instance, a multi-car pileup can occur after you set off on your trip.

Even being time-efficient on your breaks by fueling up, using the restrooms, and grabbing to-go food, you can lose about 30 minutes getting off and on the highway. Add 30 minutes for each three to four hours, or however frequently you will stop for gas.

Likewise, do not exhaust yourself trying to do everything in one day. If you are driving alone, limit your time driving to eight hours. If you are splitting driving with a travel companion, make sure to give one another time to rest their eyes, even without sleeping.

Stop for the Night  
Stop for the Night  

Your road trip does not have to be a race for the finishing line. After all, life is not about the destination. It’s about the journey.

Roadtrippers Trip Planner and other travel apps can help you find accommodations on your route and in your budget at the last minute. The following are other apps that can help you find a room for the night:

  •       HotelTonight
  •       One Night
  •       Expedia

You can download a particular hotel app and join a rewards program if you are loyal to a particular chain. Some hotel apps include Marriott Bonvoy, Hilton Honors, IHG Hotels and Resorts, and World of Hyatt.

Get Resources to Help With Basics
Get Resources to Help With Basics

You know where you are going and how to get there, you pack comfortably, and you know how to find a room when you get tired. So what else should you plan for?

How about good places for bathroom breaks? The app Flush helps you find a clean restroom and ones that accommodate those with disabilities.

GasBuddy is an app that shows the last reported prices of gasoline at nearby stations. Fuel costs tend to be higher around the highways, and this app can show you if other alternatives are worth driving a little farther.

Do you kids need someplace to run around before jumping back in the car for a few hours? The Outbound shows nearby outdoor activities, like national parks, hiking trails, and swimming holes.

Similarly, DayPass gives you lists of fun activities that are not outdoor-focused. You can find pools, spas, gyms, beaches, clubs, and more using the app.