Free Road Tripping Guide: Ask the right questions before you start that dream road trip you have been thinking about.
Planning a road trip really is the first step of your road trip adventure. Your focus is on the journey ahead. But start the adventure before you depart. This road trip planning guide starts you down the right road.
Road trip planning is an art. Our philosophy on planning a road trip is a simple one. Use a road trip planning guide, develop a vision for your road trip, do some research on it, and allow for serendipity.
The 30000 ft view of the Road Trip
Road Trip Timing
The timing of your road trip matters in so many ways.
- What is the seasonal climate for your road trip?
- What times of day or night will you travel?
- How often will you simply wander?
- How often will you stop to eat food or rest?
Consider timing while planning a road trip. Remember during your road trip. . . if you’re in the flow, then good timing happens naturally.
Road Trip Food and Road Trip Rest
Eating and sleeping are survival essentials, so planning a road trip must include them. If you’ll be driving more than a few hours, then you should consider your road trip food during your road trip planning. If you’ll be driving more than a day, then you should consider how you’ll sleep during your road trip.
Road Trip Map
This is the part of the road trip planning guide that gives us the ‘big picture perspective’. Whatever I do in life, it seems that having a big picture view of things. . . from say, fifty thousand feet high (15km), really helps. A road trip map is a great tool for keeping that perspective. It is also an essential tool for planning a road trip. Keep it handy while you’re driving, and make it a pleasure to look at.
Checklist for a Road Trip
Packing is a smooth process if you have a road trip check-list.
Of course road trips are as unique as our personalities. If you’d like to make your own check-list for a road trip, you can. Here, I’ll ask you a lot of questions that are designed to get your brain-juice flowing.
Things to carry for the Road Trip
Even skilled road trippers forget important things sometimes. A road trip checklist helps by stirring the mind. Occasionally I have thought to pack something important; after I was well into my journey (I should have used a checklist for a road trip).
This vacation packing checklist isn’t meant to be followed perfectly, while packing for a road trip. I could not detail every item we’ll need, because every road trip is different and every traveler’s needs are different. This page will, however, provide some creative juice to help you reach a prepared state… prepared for your particular journey. And remember to pack light enough that you’ll feel comfortable in your road trip car.
Road Trip Essentials
- Water and food
- Everything under “Safety”
- The right state of mind. . . be in the flow
- Do an attentive walk-through of your home before you leave.
- Road atlas with compass or a GPS
- Spare key. . . use hide-a-key or give it to a travel companion
- A little spare cash hidden away
- Remember to check your car’s fluids frequently (including the fluid in your fuel tank)
Road Trip Safety
- Water and food
- First-aid kit and fire extinguisher
- Emergency contact list including important medical conditions of all those on board
- Roadside assistance membership card
- Cell phone
- Flashlight kept accessible
Road Trip Vehicle
- Up-to-date oil change and maintenance
- Spare fluids (oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid, coolant, power steering fluid, etc.)
- Automotive tool kit with gloves
- Spare bulbs and fuses
- Good tire-tread
- Spare tire and tools to change it out
- Tire chains for snow-driving
- Good wiper blades
- Tow strap
Comfort and Convenience
- Water and food
- Automotive comfort accessories
- Small blankets and pillows
- Loose-fitting clothes for long rides in the car
- Clothing suitable for the other climates you’ll be driving through
- Spare socks
- Raingear and/or umbrella
- On-board entertainment
- Hot-packs for winter traveling
- Toilet paper and small shovel. . . for when the next rest area is just too far away
- Motion sickness pills
- Water and food
- Road Trip Journal
- Wet wipes
- Small bags for trash
Planning the Road Trip
Step 1 – Name your road trip.
Naming your road trip gives it an identity. It identifies something to be immersed in. What is the purpose of your road trip? The answer may contain a suitable name. Label your notebook or folder with the name in BIG letters.
Step 2 – Name your origin and destination, and describe an approximate route.
This gives you the big picture perspective, which really helps you manage all the smaller parts of the planning process. It is time to gaze at your road trip map. You could use an online map. Good to trace your route with a colored pencil so it stands out. Later in step 4, mark possible stops and detours along the way. And if you wander from the planned route, now you’ll have a reference point, and you won’t be wandering aimlessly.
Step 3 – Break your road trip into segments.
This is helpful for longer road trips (more than a day long, create segments a few hours long.
Show for each segment –
- Approximate time and distance traveled – Online maps help with this. Visit Google Maps or Bing Maps and ‘get directions’. Enter your origin and destination to see distance and time traveled.
- Major roads traveled
- Cities and towns traveled between
This step helps you while you’re on the road. It helps you regain focus, if you’ve wandered from your plan.
Step 4 – Find stops and detours along the way.
Make the following three lists. Keep each of the lists in sequential order (when they will happen on your road trip).
- Scheduled and essential stops
- Optional stops
- Optional detours
Find the map you made of your road trip route. Mark it with these stops and detours.
Step 5 – Make a timeline for your road trip.
Lay out a timeline for your journey. Try not to be precise. Start with the beginning and end of your road trip. Look back at the estimated time for each segment in Step 4. Add the times up. Do they fit? Decide how long you’d like to drive each day. Will you make it to your destination on time? This is when to make adjustments, and make it all fit together.
Be flexible if you can. You’ll always have more fun going at a leisurely pace, than being in a hurry. And if you stray from your schedule, don’t panic. Just relax, take a moment, and make some adjustments to your timeline.
Step 6 – Research your route.
To get this far in your road trip plan, you’ve already done some, but it very useful to research again.
Follow your road trip route on your road trip map. Do you notice things along the way? You may feel a tug when you see certain things… Pay special attention to those things. Do a little research on those things that grab your attention. You may find:
- Interesting places for your optional stops list in Step 4
- Special places to eat and sleep
- Scenic detours for your optional detours list in Step 4. Try to mix up the types of roads you drive on. If you don’t get off the major highways, then you’ll likely feel that something’s missing. You could look for detours that keep you moving the right direction and rejoin the road trip route later.
Step 7 – Revisit your plan again later.
It’s always better the second time around. Given some time, our brains work away in the background, processing all the details. You might be surprised at all the new ideas springing up when you least expect them. So, a week or two from now, revisit your road trip plan. Open your notebook or folder, and see what happens.
Step 8 – Protect Yourself
Sign up for roadside assistance.