How to Start Planning

Planning depends a lot on what you want from your roadtrip. The first question you should ask is: what’s your destination?

For example, if you’re roadtripping TO Nashville, your planning process is going to be different than someone who’s roadtripping to see the best hiking trails in the United States.

If you’re roadtripping with a specific destination in mind, you’ll want to figure out 2 things right off the bat.

  1. The quickest route there & back.

  2. The main attractions between your starting & ending points.

Main attractions? What does that even mean?

I’m glad you asked. A main attraction means whatever you want it to mean, honestly. If you’re big into nature and hiking, then you’ll be looking for any hiking trails along the way. If you’re a thrill seeker, maybe you find some amusement parks. If you’re into museums, search for that.

Keep in mind that you might come across stops along the way that you want to make time for. For example, on one of my 5-day roadtrips, we saw a sign that said “foot high pie”. We had enough time that we could pull over, eat some great pie, get back on the road and still be on schedule. Take into consideration if you want time for these things, so you can either plan a strict or loose schedule and stick to it.

Some of the attractions you choose will stray you from your path a bit. Be realistic about how much time they’re going to add. If there’s an art museum directly off the highway, it’ll probably add around 4 hours to your travel time. That includes time for parking, waiting in lines, seeing the museum, bathroom break, maybe a snack, and getting back on the road. On the other hand, if you’re driving two hours out of your way for a National Park, it could add up to an entire day.

Roadtripping simply for the sake of taking a roadtrip- meaning no real “destination”- is considerably different. Your route won’t be the first thing you look at. Instead, you’ll need to decide what exactly you’re looking for. Are you looking to spend some time on the countryside? Or maybe you want to experience a few insane nights out on the town? Do you want to see the greatest views the country has to offer? Or maybe you want to see the most unique monuments?

It’s okay if you don’t know yet. Spend some time doing some research on attractions across the country and hopefully that will help. A website I’ve found that really helps is Atlas Obscura allows you to search for a state and it’ll come up with a long list of unique things to do there. This might be a good place for you to start.

Give yourself a heap of options to choose from. Once you’ve found a good amount (a “good amount” completely depends on the length of your roadtrip, but I like to go with approximately 14 per week), you can begin to make decisions and find your route.

This part of the process can be a little messy and weird, so keep good track of what you’re considering, what you’ve taken out of the trip, what you’ve added, etc. It may help to keep a detailed journal.

I say that it can be messy because sometimes you choose a route and one stop doesn’t fit so you end up changing your entire route and then missing out on other stops. You’ll have to make many decisions but it WILL come together- just keep picking at it!

Overall, planning a roadtrip can be stressful. But it doesn’t have to be. Start early and stay detailed!