Road Trips: How to Plan an Awesome Adventure (Part 1)

The weather is warm, the road is calling, and adventure awaits. Why not take a road trip?!

They have to be fun, right? I mean, look at all the movies that have centered around a road trip:

  • Vacation (Chevy Chase — a classic!)
  • Tommy Boy (Chris Farley & David Spade)
  • Planes, Trains & Automobiles (Steve Martin & John Candy)
  • Identity Thief (Melissa McCarthy & Jason Bateman)
  • Due Date (Robert Downey Jr. & Zack Galifanakis)
  • Guilt Trip (Seth Rogan & Barbara Streisand)

What do these all of these movies have in common? The main characters encounter crazy people (sometimes the person they’re traveling with) and even crazier situations.

In reality, road trips can be a blast whether you travel alone or with other people.

Before you jump in your car and head out on the open road with the radio cranked up and the wind in your hair, you need to do some planning.

Start by asking yourself these questions:

1. HOW MUCH TIME DO I HAVE?

The answer to this question is very important, as it will have a big impact on your planning. If you are only going for a weekend, your destination will be much closer to your home than if you have a week or more.

Once you figure this out, ask yourself…

2. WHERE DO I WANT TO GO?

If you have an idea of where you want to go in mind, great! That’s half the battle.

If you don’t know where you want to go, don’t freak out. There are a few things you can do that will help you narrow down your destination(s).

  • Ask your friends/family — If you know anyone whose gone on a road trip or two, ask them where they went, how long they were gone, and if they enjoyed the trip
  • Google “road trip itineraries” and a geographic area you’d like to visit and see what comes up
  • Use a website or app to help you plan (*I’ll be covering these in my next post)

3. WHAT’S MY BUDGET?

Money is always a consideration when traveling (or doing anything else, for that matter).

Don’t have a budget limit? Lucky you! You may skip this section and go to #4.

If you do have a limited budget, be sure to take into consideration all trip-related expenses so you can estimate your budget and not be surprised at the cost of your trip. If the total is more than you have or are comfortable spending, you can make the necessary adjustments in advance.

Your trip budget should include an estimate of the following expenses:

  • Gas — How many tanks of gas will you need to travel round-trip?
  • Meals — Where will you eat? Fast food restaurants? Chain restaurants such as Ruby Tuesday, etc.? Or will you buy groceries?
  • Lodging — Where will you stay while you’re away? The home of a friend/family member? Campground? Hotel? Airbnb? Hostel? Or will you couch surf?
  • Incidentals — Will you need money for tolls? Parking? Admission fees for sights you want to see?
  • Spending Money — Do you plan on shopping? Buying gifts? Etc.?

4. WHAT’S THE PURPOSE OF MY TRIP?

Do you want some R&R? Do you want to see and/or do as much as possible? Or a combination of the two?

5. ARE THERE SPECIFIC THINGS I WANT TO SEE AND/OR DO ON MY TRIP?

If you’re like me, you enjoy doing some of the touristy things. You may want to check out one or more of these weird roadside attractions. If you just want to go with the flow, that’s fine, too. It’s your trip. You can do whatever you want!

Once you answer these questions and come up with your budget, you can plan your route.

ROAD TRIP ROUTE EXAMPLE: MY TRIP TO NC & TN

I took a road trip through North Carolina and Tennessee. The total trip ended up being 1,462 miles.

To plan, I started out by asking myself and answering the 5 questions mentioned above:

  1. How much time do I have? — I had 9–10 days
  2. Where do I want to go? — South to at least North Carolina
  3. What’s my budget? — The less money, the better! (Luckily, I split the cost with my boyfriend, so it was very affordable)
  4. What’s the purpose of my trip? — To see lots of stuff and relax a little
  5. Are there any specific things I want to see and/or do on my trip? — Yes! The main thing I wanted to do was tour The Biltmore in Asheville, NC. The rest of the trip would center around that.

Next, I looked on the map to see where things were in relation to each other. Then, I added a few stops to fill out my trip: I was going to visit and stay with a girlfriend in Raleigh, NC, Nashville, TN, and Knoxville, TN.

Its important to figure out how much time you want to spend in the car each day, then start plotting your course. This may take a little bit of tweaking, but it is doable.

I planned my route specifically (1) so I wouldn’t be driving a huge amount of time each day, and (2) so I had 2 days in (almost) each place, giving me some time to recover from lots of sitting. Here’s what my route looked like:

PLANNED ITINERARY

Day 1 — McLean, VA => Raleigh, NC (4 hours)

Day 2 — Stayed in Raleigh

Day 3 — Stayed in Raleigh

Day 4 — Raleigh, NC => Asheville, NC (4 hours)

Day 5 — Stayed in Asheville

Day 6 — Asheville, NC => Nashville, TN (4–1/2 hours)

Day 7 — Stayed in Nashville

Day 8 — Nashville, TN => Knoxville, TN (2–2/3 hours) => Abingdon, VA (2 hours)

Day 9 — Abingdon, VA => McLean, VA (5–1/4 hours)

The only diversion from how I planned the trip occurred in the last 2 days. We ended up leaving Nashville after dinner and driving as far as Knoxville, where we spent the night. The next day, we spent the afternoon exploring Knoxville, then drove all the way home.

ACTUAL ITINERARY

Day 1 — McLean, VA => Raleigh, NC (4 hours)

Day 2 — Stayed in Raleigh

Day 3 — Stayed in Raleigh

Day 4 — Raleigh, NC => Asheville, NC (4 hours)

Day 5 — Stayed in Asheville

Day 6 — Asheville, NC => Nashville, TN (4–1/2 hours)

Day 7 — Stayed in Nashville

Day 8 — Nashville, TN => Knoxville, TN (2–2/3 hours)

Day 9 — Knoxville, TN => McLean, VA (7+ hours)
 

Due to our change in itinerary, the ride home was way longer than I wanted it to be (7+ hours), but we got home safely at about 1am (* yawn * ).
________

I hope this post gave you some things to consider when you start to think about going on your first (or next) road trip.

Until next time, wishing you awesome travels!

Amy
A Traveling Broad

* P.S. — Don’t miss my post next week when I’ll be sharing some of favorite trip planning websites and apps.


Originally published at www.travelingbroad.com on February 24, 2017.