When it comes to planning a road trip, I fully understand that the process can seem a bit daunting. Unlike a destination vacation or an all-inclusive getaway, there are a lot of variables to consider when heading out on the open road. So in order to help make your planning process a little easier, I’ve decided to share what I do when I’m prepping for a road trip.
What I Need
A web clipper or other online link saving system: When I first start thinking about a trip, I do some light researching to decide what I might want to see along the way. To keep track of all of these recommendations (and to prevent myself from having a dozen tabs open at any given time), I use a web clipper. My personal favorite is Evernote because it not only allows me to save and categorize the articles I find but also because it has a great app which makes them all easily accessible on mobile.
Notebook & colored pens: As much as I love online resources, I still prefer an analog method when it comes to keeping track of everything for a trip. Especially for a longer trip, I love being able to dedicate a full pocket-sized notebook or two specifically to attractions, accommodations, and roadside notes. I typically prefer Field Notes since they fit easily in pretty much any pocket and are a great length for most of my trips. If we’re headed somewhere longer than a week, I usually try to shove at least two in my travel bag. Obviously, color-coding is a must.
Travel books & guides: Regardless of where I’m headed, I always love leafing through a travel book or two. Even if it’s more of an aspirational look at where I’ll be traveling or what I want to do, you can’t go wrong with a classic travel guide. One of my absolute must-haves is the Wildsam Field Guide series, which serves in part as a historical archive of the city as well as a guide to its best places to visit, eat, and shop.
Online planning resources: While I may keep paper logs of places I want to see, things I want to eat, and potential roadside rarities, I also typically use some sort of online planning resource. Roadtrippers is always a favorite as it lets you use the app not only to plan your trip but also to navigate while you’re in the road. I also typically stop by Roadside America to see what type of weird wonders might be along my travel path.
What to Do Before Your Trip
Before you hit the road, there are a few other important things you need to make sure you’ve ticked off your to do list.
Find a place to stay: It may seem obvious, but after you’ve decided on a destination and plotted out some of your must-see stops, the next step is to decide where you’ll be spending your nights. If you’re traveling a bit off the beaten path, I’m a big fan of hotel chains as they’re fairly reliable when it comes to quality and offer benefits through options like free rewards programs. If you’re headed to a more popular destination or looking to live like a local while you’re in town, Airbnb is the way to go!
Share your itinerary: It may seem silly, but send your trip schedule to a friend or relative, even if it’s just your overnight stops, so someone else knows where you’ll be and when.
Pack an emergency car kit: Sure, there are essentials that you always keep in your car, but consider tossing in a few road trip specific extras before you head off. My must-have items include a car charger, emergency snacks, and an extra pair of sunglasses.
Create a cost-sharing plan: If you’re traveling with a group, make sure how you’ll split your collective costs (i.e. gas, hotels, etc.) is a conversation you have before you hit the road. I’m a big fan of apps like Trip Splitter that let you divide variable trip costs evenly among members of your group without any disagreements.
One more tip…
If there’s anything I’ve learned from traveling, it’s that things never really go as planned. Especially on a road trip, it’s important to be able to go with the flow. Don’t be afraid to make an unexpected stop and be able to roll with the punches when you, say, have to take time out from your plans for some emergency car repair.