Plan the Perfect Road Trip

Eager to get out of town? Here’s how to plan the perfect road trip whether it’s just for a day or a longer trip. Get all my tips for planning, packing and getting on the road! 

How to Plan the Perfect Road Trip // Feast + West
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Road tripping is one of my favorite things in the entire world. I love doing the driving and the riding.

(But if I’m riding, I’ll have my nose in a book, not out the window. Call me crazy but I love to read in the car.)

What I love about road trips is that there is so much you can explore by car. You don’t have to have a big budget to plan the perfect road trip. 

And technically you don’t even need more than an hour or two to plan one when you’re feeling spontaneous. You can travel by car for months at a time or just a weekend.

If you’re planning a longer trip, you can even tack on a day trip to another vacation as a way to see more. 

Take a road trip to the Outer Banks of North Carolina!

I live in North Carolina, and some of my favorite local road trips have been to super cool places like The Outer Banks (for a week), Asheville (for a weekend) and Richmond (for a long weekend). 

Truth be told, there are lots of ways to take a road trip, and you can fill it with detours or plan it to the minute. I love how versatile a road trip is! 

Here are my tried-and-true steps to planning the perfect road trip: 

1. Decide where to go.

If there’s nowhere nearby you’ve been dying to check out, get out the map, close your eyes and pick a spot. Just kidding. (But not really.)

You could go toward a city, a small town, the beach, the lake or the mountains. Maybe all five! 

Or you can explore your own city and make it into a super staycation.

Maybe it’s a side trip of another vacation. Check out the Hidden Gems series, which is written by real bloggers about their own cities, to see Feast + West‘s top road trip picks. 

Asheville Travel Guide // Feast + West

2. Make a budget.

Knowing what you can spend will help you figure out what you can do and how long you can stay.

Estimate the mileage and gas expenses, lodging and food costs.

Don’t forget to plan for anything you might need to buy beforehand, such as new hiking boots or a thicker jacket. 

A staycation in Charlotte is the best way to relax and get away from the stresses of life, without having to go too far. Plan a staycation of your own with these tips and see my recent stay at the Charlotte Marriott City Center for inspiration. [AD] (via

3. Book lodging. 

Decide where you’ll stay — it could be a campground, a hotel, an Airbnb or bed-and-breakfast.

I am Team Airbnb because I like staying in cool neighborhoods, but a hotel or bed-and-breakfast is great if you want some more amenities. Camping can be fun too, but only if you have the right equipment (and I don’t). 

Whatever you decide, book it as soon as you can to get the best rates. 

Adventures in Arizona — Phoenix, Scottsdale and Sedona make for a gorgeous vacation out west. (via

4. Get your vehicle checked out.

There’s nothing worse than traveling with a potential flat tire. That’s an accident waiting to happen.

Take your car in to your local shop and get them to look it over before you add major miles to the odometer. Get that inspection and oil change too, if you need one! 

And don’t forget to fill that tank! (Trust me on this. I have a ran-out-of-gas horror story that my best friend would rather I didn’t share with you, I’m sure.) 

GasBuddy is a free iOS, Android, Windows Phone and BlackBerry app you can use to find cheap gas along the way, too.

It’s also not a bad idea to pack a first aid kit, an emergency roadside kit or even a pair of jumper cables. You know, just in case. 

Adventures in Arizona — Phoenix, Scottsdale and Sedona make for a gorgeous vacation out west. (via

5. Plan your route. 

Get out a map, GPS or good ol’ Google Maps or MapQuest and pick the best way to go. AAA is also a great choice if you are old school and want a map. 

Running through your route ahead of time can help get you there faster, and it’s always helpful to know if you should expect road construction or rush hour traffic. 

Figure out how long it will take to get there, and count backwards to pick a time to leave. Be sure to factor in time for traffic, bathroom breaks and any meals you might need to stop for. 

In December, we took took a weekend getaway to Nashville to see a totally new-to-us city. Check out this recap to see where we ate, drank and shopped during our three-day visit. // Feast + West

6. Plan your itinerary.

If you don’t like to go with the flow as far as things to do and food to eat, plan ahead. 

Roadtrippers, free on iOS and Android, helps you discover interesting places along your route. Foursquare and Yelp are also great for finding restaurant and attraction recommendations from other users .

Love obscure things? Try planning your trip with Instagram. I’m also a big fan of the app Atlas Obscura to find really weird things to see and do on your trip.

The Atlas Obscura book is both a great read and awesome coffee table decor. 

Adventures in Arizona — Phoenix, Scottsdale and Sedona make for a gorgeous vacation out west. (via

7. Make a packing list.

Even though you could always pick up something on the way, it’s better if you try to plan ahead.

I’ve got the ultimate packing list just for you, too, or you can try my favorite app, PackPoint

Make sure to purchase and pack any must-haves you need too, like road trip snacks! (I like this trail mix or bacon roasted chickpeas.) 

How to plan the perfect road trip (via

8. Pack your bags. 

Get out your suitcase(s) or duffel bag(s). Don’t forget something for your toiletries! If you need a cooler, get that out too. 

Thankfully, there’s no bag limits or luggage fees for road trips (beyond what will fit in your car) so you are safe to bring bigger items like golf clubs, picnic blankets and camera tripods, if needed. 

That said, make sure everything will fit in the car before you start packing your bags! (Nothing worse than trying to shove a suitcase into a too small trunk — ask me how I know!) 

Once packed, double and triple check that you’ve got everything you need. And don’t forget the snacks! Or the Mad Libs.

A posh getaway in Birmingham is just what the soul needs! This Southern city is filled with surprises and charm. No wonder it's called the Magic City! (via

8. Get on the road.

Then, get the car packed before hand (the night before is best, if you can swing it) so you can leave on time and get there as fast as possible! 

Run through your list one more time, then, hit the gas and gooooo! 

What it's like to enjoy a retreat in Las Vegas! (via

8. Be spontaneous.

This isn’t planning, I know.

But always leave yourself a little wiggle room to stop and take an Instagram, visit the teacup museum you stumbled across or eat at the diner with the prettiest neon sign.

The spontaneous memories are always the greatest ones from my road trips.

Fire, Flour & Fork is a food festival in Richmond, Virginia. In this recap of the 2016 event, get a sample of all the food and drink buzz in the River City. Sponsored by Wolf Gourmet. (

How do you plan the perfect road trip?

P.S. Wouldn’t you just love to go on a road trip in that star-studded bug? Me too, man. Me freakin’ too. //susannah

How to Plan the Perfect Road Trip // Feast + West
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How to Plan the Perfect Road Trip

Learn how to plan the perfect road trip so you don’t hit any snags on your way!
Prep Time3 hours
Active Time3 hours
Total Time6 hours
Course: Travel
Keyword: car trip, road trip, travel, weekend
Yield: 1 road trip
Author: Susannah Brinkley
Cost: $200


  • vehicle
  • smartphone
  • camera


  • packed suitcases
  • packed toiletry bags
  • packed cooler
  • snacks
  • map and/or GPS
  • emergency kit
  • tent and sleeping bags if camping


  • Decide where to go.
  • Make a budget.
  • Book lodging.
  • Get your vehicle checked out.
  • Plan your itinerary.
  • Make a packing list.
  • Pack your bags.
  • Get on the road and be spontaneous!
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  1. Iida-Emilia says

    This post was super helpful since me and my boyfriend are going to make a road trip through Europe in September. It really takes so much planning!

  2. Gina says

    I’ve been daydreaming about an extended road trip to see a good chunk of the country. Not sure if it will happen, but this post is definitely inspiring me! 🙂

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