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!
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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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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 .
The Atlas Obscura book is both a great read and awesome coffee table decor.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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
- packed suitcases
- packed toiletry bags
- packed cooler
- 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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Atlas Obscura: An Explorer's Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders
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