PLAN YOUR STOPS & TIMING:
First and foremost, start with figuring out the time of year you want to go & how it relates to the route and spots you want to hit! We wanted an East Coast Beach trip, so we planned for Summer! Start narrowing down some major cities or areas. If you’re having a hard time narrowing it down (like I was-I wanted to see ALL OF THE PLACES!) then look to step 3 to help you narrow your list down! Figuring out your starting point and ending point first will help start filling in the route the in between!
*Side note & big tip: once I knew some of our stops and times, I printed out a handful of monthly calendar’s for July and filled in the days with our trips. This helped SO much with the timing of everything and overlaps. I just googled “July 2018 Monthly Calendar” and printed a few copies of that out. I’m a visual person so it seriously helped SO much! Once I had that pretty much down, I started to put stuff info my Day Designer Planner & used TUL’s travel planner inserts from Office Max-they are AMAZING!
Start looking early! Especially if it’s a “peak” season for a place. This will help you get a feel for what prices to expect, assists with budgeting, etc. It doesn’t mean you have to book right away, but it gets your feelers out for prices then you can go from there. For example: North Carolina out in the outer banks is busier in the summer so prices were higher than in the winter time. & if you have friends in any area you’re planning on stopping out, reach out to them & see if you can crash on their couch a few nights! Just remember to be an amazing houseguest, aka…bring wine! Consider comparing Airbnb’s and hotel to see which one you can get a better deal for. Lastly, consider looking into getting AAA-discounts galore, especially when it comes to accommodations!
WHAT TO SEE & DO:
Make a list of things/attractions/activities you want to see and do at the places you’ve put on your route. Are some more activities important than others to you and who you’re traveling with? Any world famous spots you just HAVE to see? Figure all of that out! Don’t shy away from weighing everything out and that will definitely help you determine how long you want to consider staying at each place. I’m a big planner & created a spread sheet to start keeping track of the major things we want to do that helped calculate the number of days we want to stay in certain cities.
Break up your driving times reasonably with what works for your body & whoever else you’re going with. If you can handle longer drives between cities, then go for it. For us personally, we wanted to keep each route under 5-ish hours (preferably) and that helped guide us to some different rout options and what not. For example: We thought about stopping in Charleston for a night instead of Wilmington, but then that drive from Charleston to Kitty Hawk, NC ended up being WAY too long of a drive for us to have enough energy after. So we went back to the drawing board for a different stop. Consider scenic routes vs. quicker routes. There were a few spots along the coast that were a bit longer of a drive by about 30-45 minutes but it took us right along the coast. To us, those scenic views and route were worth the extra 30 or so minutes! GoogleMaps literally became my web browser home page it feels like-I was constantly plugging in different routes to see what worked. It’s not as painful as it sounds-ha!
SPLURGE VS. SAVE:
Figure out if there are places you are fine skimping out on when it comes to accommodations/attractions/things to do and cities you are more than okay with to splurge on. Are there a bunch of free things to do in that city that can make up for the splurge? Again, weigh your options! Look at the experiences you want to have while you’re there and what you value when going on vacation. Are you the type of traveler who is barely in the room because you are exploring so much? Then go cheaper on your accommodations! And vice versa! (We splurged on two places when it came to accommodations and in turn, made up for the extra spending in two other cities with our accommodations because we wanted a certain type of experience while we were in those cities!)
TRAVEL CREDIT CARDS:
A big one! If you are able to/aren’t afraid of taking on another credit card, look into different credit cards that have a heavy focus on travel benefits. This can pay off big time. I used this credit card and have booked our ENITRE 16 day trip on this bad boy. This also made it easier to track all of our expenses so it was all in one place. I booked our hotels, car rental, flights, everything. Those points will pay off big time post-road trip and go to future adventures. If you’re interested, here is a link to the Chase Southwest Credit Card. You can earn 50,000 points in the first three months-which is incredible! I booked two round trip flights from Phoenix to New York City, and an additional round trip flight to Chicago (ALL WITH MY POINTS!) after I opened and began using this credit card. & continue to earn points along the way for other flights, too. Seriously, it’s my favorite travel credit card out there!
PLAN BUT DON’T OVER PLAN:
Sounds weird, right? I’m a MAJOR planner but also had to get myself to take a step back a few times and realize I can’t plan every second of every day for our trip. Sometimes we will want to just go with the flow. So loosely planning out your days with some major things you want to do and see, but avoiding over planning will help the overall experience of your road trip, or any vacation for that matter. If not, you’ll end up overwhelming yourself! It’s definitely nice to have a general outline of ideas so you aren’t sitting there each day asking “What do you feel like doing” to everyone, but avoiding over booking your days allows you to live in the moment more! This is one I’m constantly working on!
USE BOOKING SITES & APPS:
Look into at ALL of them-yes I really mean ALL of them. I went back and forth between so many dang sites comparing everything aspect of our trip. Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity, everything. Even the sites of the actual hotels because sometimes the AAA discounts were better than Expedia deals. Even if they weren’t, it didn’t hurt to check. I also looked at different apps to download, too. I installed “Hopper” to watch flights when I was still playing around with our arrival and departure dates/times. I was watching four different flights on Hopper. Then, when I would get a notification from Hopper, I would go to a my laptop to those sites mentioned above and compare. Hopper also predicts when flights will decrease and increase in price-so I went off of that as well and made sure to book before the “surge” periods Hopper predicted.
PREP YOUR PHONE:
This may seem like sort of a silly one, but trust me, it’s an IMPORTANT ONE! Haha. First, most times we won’t know the major/popular radio stations of the cities where we going, so having your phone loaded up will help. Second, even if you know or are aware of the popular radio stations, driving four to five hours, you might go in and out of those service areas. Nothing is worse than a staticky radio where the songs keep cutting out! So, load your phone with playlists, podcasts, audio books, everything! I’ll be making some major playlists for all of our drive times from all of the different cities-also creating playlists for the beach & flights too. A small detail but it has a big impact-the power of music is amazing!
Packing! Either you love it or you hate it & I happen to love it! Maybe because I love planning all of my outfits and accessories. But I always always always overpack. Without fair. Weekend trip? Pack 10 outfits. Week trip? Pack 20 outfits. Ha! Again, something I’m working on. I’ve incorporated my packing list into my spread sheet of all my other travel information so it’s all in one place but also have used the TUL travel inserts to help, too. I’m thinking of posting that for all of you to utilize if you are in the need of it for your next trip(hint hint, it’s pretty universal I’ve just tweaked it for the road trip aspect of a vacation). So let me know if any of you all would like to have that!
& that’s a wrap! I hope you found these ten tips on how to plan your road trip, big or small, like a pro helpful! Remember that everyone is different and these are just what works best for me, how I travel, and the people that I travel most with! Most of all, enjoy yourself. Being able to treat yourself to a vacation you’ve worked hard for is such an amazing gift & I try to never take it for granted!
I promise all of the time planning, researching, booking, etc. will be worth it in the end after you’ve created amazing memories! Keep an eye out for more fun travel content soon & don’t forget to subscribe to follow along for more tips & tricks!