Planning a road trip with your family this summer? But do you find yourself stuck when it comes to planning one? Asking yourself “How do I plan a road trip?” I was there last year and I overcame the challenge with a few tips to help you plan a road trip.
I’m a sucker for a road trip. Some people think I’m crazy, but I prefer a long road trip over an airplane trip any day. I think it’s because I was raised going on road trips. When we were growing up, flying in an airplane was a luxury. But you could jump in the car and go anywhere affordably.
My parents took long road trips each summer because they were teachers. The most memorable road trip we took was driving from Texas all the way to Washington over three months one summer. We took our time, we had no plan, no agenda, and I have some of the best memories of our time. So now as an adult a parent of three, I look at road trips as a way to relax, as a way to create amazing memories, and as a way to really discover this great country that we live in.
Last summer, we embarked on a 5 week road trip, driving from Austin, Texas to Boston, Massachusetts and back. I wanted to take the kids on historical road trip of the east coast to take them to some of the most important sites that helped create our nation. I wanted them to see the battlefields of Gettysburg, I wanted them to see how people lived in colonial Williamsburg, and I wanted them to visit all the monuments of Washington DC. The only way to do this was to take our time and drive.
So how do you do this? How do you set out on a road trip? Believe me, I looked at a five week road trip and was completely overwhelmed. I didn’t know where to start. I didn’t know how to plan how far to drive every day or where to stop or what to see. But I learned some very valuable tips on how to plan a road trip that I want to share with you today.
9 Tips to Plan a Road Trip
Plan a Road Trip: Where are you Going?
Let’s start with the basics folks, you must first determine where you are going and what your goals are to see along the trip before any planning can commence. My advice is to have a goal for your trip in mind, such as ‘seeing as many historical sites’ or ‘visiting National Parks on the West Coast’. Having a goal helps you narrow down where you will go and how long it will take you to see it all.
Plan a Road Trip: Map it Out
I am a big fan of a paper map. Our US atlas is so folded and used but I rely on it over a computer any day. I like to fold it completely out and see all the various routes there are to take to see the sites I want to see. I also like to draw on it, highlight roads, circle interesting sites, and write down mileage on it for future reference.
Plan a Road Trip: How Many Days Do you Have?
Knowing how long you have to go on your road trip will help you determine how far you can go and most importantly, how far you will be able to drive each day. If you don’t have enough time to see it all, prioritize and cut back what you can to ensure you hit your road trip goals.
Plan a Road Trip: Pick Your Night Stops
Once you know where to go and what’s most important to see, pick the places you want to stop for the night. When planning our 5 weeks, I wrote down all the major stops I wanted to take and how many miles it would take to get to each major stop. From there, I was able to realistically determine how many miles we wanted to ideally travel each day, to figure out our nightly stops.
Plan a Road Trip: Make an Itinerary
Once we knew where we wanted to stop each evening, I printed out a blank calendar and wrote down the cities, attractions, & sites we wanted to see on each day to determine how many days we would need at each stop. This helped me realistically see how it would take us 5 weeks to see all that we wanted and I had a plan that was written down. It wasn’t in stone and we were still making changes along the way, but it helped us plan everything else moving forward.
Plan a Road Trip: Make Hotel Reservations in Advance
One of the smartest things we did was to make reservations in advance of the road trip for each of our stops. One of our favorite hotels to stay in were the Residence Inns by Marriott. Because we were together non-stop for 5 weeks, it was essential that we could spread out a bit in the evenings. We loved having spacious suites to really relax in. My kids liked having more than one TV in some rooms and I enjoyed having a full kitchen to make dinner in so we were constantly eating out. Residence Inn also has free wifi (key for me as a blogger), complimentary hot breakfast, free grocery delivery, pools and fitness centers. Plus, staying at the same chain allows you to earn points for future stays for your next road trip.
Plan a Road Trip: Get Your Car Tuned Up
Before embarking on any size road trip, you should take your car in for a tune-up to ensure it is in tip-top shape. One year we discovered my minivan needed new tires before we drove to California and back. It might have been an added expense before the trip even started, but could you imagine trying to fix a flat tire in the middle of the Arizona desert? Here are a few other tips to having a safe road trip.
Plan a Road Trip: Smart Packing
Depending on the size of your vehicle, you may need to do some creative packing for a road trip. Last summer, we drove a minivan and had a ton of space in the back to pack. However, I wanted to be efficient moving in and out of hotels, so I packed daily outfits in large ziplock bags labeled for each day of the week. Before heading into the hotel at night, we pulled out our ziplock bag for the next day and only had one suitcase to bring in. Made it so easy!
Plan a Road Trip: Plan some Road Trip Boredom Busters
Even a 3 hour road trip needs creative ways to keep kids distracted. Some of our favorite boredom busters that have worked for us are reading chapter books out loud, creating a road trip binder with info and games, creating a “mix-tape” with everyone’s favorite songs for impulsive sing-a-longs, and good old-fashioned “I Spy”. We pulled together over 100 Road Trip Boredom Busters here.
I’m not going to lie, road trips can be stressful and unexpected things can happen while you are on one. My best advice is to always have wiggle room in your itinerary and go with the flow. If you do get a flat tire (happened to us last summer), take a deep breath and figure it out. If you are having an awesome time at one particular site, take your time and enjoy it, don’t rush the moment. And if you are just NOT enjoying your trip, it’s ok to go home early. Road Trips are not for everyone.
I think we have one of the most diverse and beautiful countries in the world and road trips are a great way to not only see it, but enjoy it as well.
Plan a Road Trip: Residence Inn Twitter Party
In honor of summer and vacation planning, I am working with Residence Inn as a host of an upcoming Twitter Party. Join us on Thursday, May 19 at 9:00PM EST (8:00 CST/6:00 PST) as we talk summer travel and tips to help make your vacation the best it can be.
Residence Inn is giving out some amazing prizes to participants on the Twitter Party:
Prize #1: $50 Residence Inn gift card and a Motives for LaLa lip gloss
Prize #2: $50 Residence Inn gift card and a Motives for LaLa lip gloss
Prize #3: $50 Residence Inn gift card and a Motives for LaLa lip gloss
Grand Prize: $300 Residence Inn gift card and Motives for La La makeup kit
Enter to Win here:
And make sure to RSVP for the Twitter Party here. We will see you on Thursday night with the hashtag: #RIMom
Disclosure: I have been compensated for this article and Twitter Party hosting. All opinions are my own. I really do LOVE road tripping!