How to plan a road trip

Last year, John and I went on an absolutely epic road trip around the USA, starting in California and ending in El Paso, where we flew to Florida for the last few days. We’ve already recapped the whole thing (in a lot of detail) so I won’t bore you with our holiday pics yet again, but I thought I’d let you know how we planned our trip, for anyone else who might want to do something similar. So here are my top tips for planning a road trip:

Death Valley oasis - Darling Lovely Life blog - How to plan a road trip

An oasis in Death Valley – choose somewhere with an interesting landscape

Figure out where you want to go

The world is your oyster! I would choose somewhere you’re going to feel comfortable driving and where it’s safe to be out on the road all the time. Also choose somewhere with interesting things to see and do along the way and beautiful driving routes (imagine a road trip down the M25 – not so glamorous).

Go with someone you like

Imagine being stuck in a car for several weeks with somebody you don’t get along with. Even if you’re in a relationship with someone, the ride can start to feel claustrophobic if your dynamic just isn’t up to it. When John and I embarked on our US road trip, I knew it would test our very new marriage. Luckily for us, we discovered that we like each other’s company and I now look back on that time as the holiday that really made our marriage.

Sara Gibbs and John Gibbs snacks - Darling Lovely Life blog - How to plan a road trip

We stopped for ice cream. A lot.

Work out your budget

We put quite a bit aside for our trip, but not all road trips need to be expensive. You can start from a less expensive destination, stay in motels or even camp out, depending on how much you have to spend and what kind of experience you’re looking for. Once you know how much you have to play with, start doing your research. Make allowances for:

♥ Flights
♥ Accommodation
♥ Food (and remember, you don’t need to eat in restaurants every day. We bought a cooler and kept food with us a lot of the time).
♥ Car rental and petrol
♥ Days out / tickets to things (once you have a better idea of your route, this will become clearer)
♥ Spending money
♥ Extras – are you going to need to buy a tent, or a cooler, or anything else while you’re out there? Little things add up.

Landmark your route

Whether you have a week or a month, make the most of your trip by printing off a map and marking all the landmarks, big or small, that you’d like to see. Write down everything at first, you can narrow it all down later. Then try to put those landmarks in geographical order. Not everything will tally up in a straight line, so it’s up to you to decide which things you want to deviate from your route for.

For me, finding cool and unique places to sleep was all part of the fun. We stayed everywhere from a fifties-style motel to a teepee in the middle of the desert. If you’re having trouble finding somewhere quirky to stay, sites like Unique Sleeps and Airbnb are gold mines for cool, interesting places to kip.

The shortest route is not always the prettiest

Do your research when it comes to the roads you take. Would you rather see two hours of grey highway or four hours of incredible ocean views, for example. Are you comfortable driving in difficult terrain, or up mountains, or do you feel more comfortable with four wheels on the ground. Plan a route that’s right for you, journey time should be the last of your priorities.

world's largest thermometer - Darling Lovely Life blog - How to plan a road trip

Yeah, the world’s largest thermometer was one of our stops…

Preparation is key

Before we left, I had a master document of everywhere we were staying, our booking numbers, contact names and numbers and written confirmations all saved on the computer and printed into a folder, as well as details of the emergency and breakdown services. I also had lists of what we needed to buy when we arrived, our daily budgets and I had planned what to pack (but that’s an article for another time). Being out on the road in another country can be a bit daunting, but if you do your research and keep on top of things, you’ll be just fine.

Are you planning a road trip any time soon? We’d love to hear about your holiday plans in the comment box below!

2 Comments on How to plan a road trip

    • Sara - Darling Lovely Life editor
      May 30, 2014 at 8:38 am (5 years ago)

      Ohh you’ll have a blast – thanks so much for the post, looking forward to a read and a cuppa this afternoon xx


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