How to Plan a Road TripPage Overview
When you consider we reside in a nation with more geographical diversity than Subarus in a Farmers Market parking lot, it comes as no surprise that the road trip is a pillar of American life. Point your vehicle in any direction and within a few hours you’re badgering friends with cell phone photos from a different landscape in a different climate.
But before pulling out of your driveway, here are a few tips to consider:
The crux for any good road trip is to first settle on the “intent.” You must decide whether you’re Clark Griswold trekking across country with the family, or Jack Kerouac seeking the giddy possibilities of life. This will allow you to plan accordingly.
If you’re the latter, the best plan is no plan. Allow the moment to determine on where to eat, lodge and explore. Often the sleepiest towns provide the most memorable road trip moments. And, collectively, author a road adventure that’s uniquely yours.
If you’re traveling with family, or prefer a more regimented trip with pre-determined stops, you’ll need to plan ahead. Pre-arranged camping or hotel reservations are imperative. Otherwise you risk “no vacancy” or “campground full” signs. And nothing, especially if you’re with kids, stains a vacation more than concluding a long day of travel with a lodging goose chase.
Don’t think, but know your vehicle will make it. The consequences are severe:
- You’ll be at the mercy of the first car mechanic you find, giving little recourse against possible jacked-up prices.
- Instead of seeing the countryside, experiencing Kodak moments, you’ll be sitting on a grey vinyl chair, next to a stained coffee machine, thumbing through yellowed back issues of Field & Stream.
- Unexpected expenses could mean cutting your road trip short.
- Car doubts stunt your sense of adventure, restricting travel to main, ho-hum thoroughfares, where service stations are many but attractions few.
Consider subscribing with a road service club. They provide invaluable peace of mind, especially for recommending mechanics.
Plus, depending on your club, you can get maps, lodging discounts and up-to-the-minute road construction updates.
If you visit a destination spot―national park, historic site, amusement park―on a holiday weekend or during the height of summer, expect biblical-size crowds. Otherwise, in Yellowstone, for instance, instead of looking for wildlife, your attention will focus only on finding a passing lane.
If you harbor zero patience for crowds, consider visiting during off-peak times. Early spring or late fall are rarely crowded. Amenities in parks, like gift shops, may not be open, but you’ll avoid the people crush.
Keep your cell phone charged. It’s the ultimate aid for vehicle breakdowns, directions, finding last-minute lodging and reminding the person in charge of watering your houseplants to not forget about the Boston fern in the backroom.
Writer Jim Harrison penned a bulls eye when he wrote, “It takes a specific amount of optimism to be on the road, and anything less means misery. A nominal Buddhist who knows that the 'goal is the path' is at an advantage.”
In other words, don’t fret if you take a wrong turn and wander three hours in the opposite direction. Or camp in a campground that’s only slightly more rustic than a Wal-Mart parking lot. In the end, it’s the good and bad moments combined that color a road trip and stamp it as memorable.Other Topics in This Section
- Tent or RV Camping
- How To Pull A Trailer
- Pre-trip Maintenance
- How To Map Your Route
- Planning Your Getaway
- RV Handling & Driving Tips
- Finding a Place to Park Your RV
- Getting Off the Beaten Path
- Roadside Attractions: Stopping Along the Way
- How To Reach Your Destination Safely
- How To Buy a Sailboat
- How To Buy a Power Boat
- Vintage Cars and Rallies
- Should You Join a Car Club?
- Fun with ATVs
- Saving Money on the Road
- How to Plan a Road Trip
- Stocking Your RV
- Top Ten Seasonal Scenic Drives
- Traveling With Your Pet
- National Parks
- Hitting the Slopes
- Preparing An Emergency Kit
- Preparing A First-aid Kit
- Crossing the Border
- Gambling Getaways
- Paper Maps and Online Guides
- Guide to GPS
- Wireless Maps on Cell Phones
- Beach Excursion
- Avoiding Road Construction
- Sample Trip Itineraries