In 2015 I planned the most awesome road trip of the southeastern part of the United States. My husband was going to be submitting his application for Officer Candidate School soon, and we knew flight school is held in Florida, so I wanted to meander our way down there to scope out the area, and also take advantage of touring other parts of the U.S. along the way and back. Never having been on a road trip before I picked some popular and random cities in states along the way and did some research thanks to my ole pal google. To the seasoned roadtripper, they may be able to plan a road trip in a few days or hours, I don’t really know what would be customary; I however, spent a few weeks picking locations, planning our route, figuring out the budget, and trying to jam pack 12 states in 10 days of traveling. I definitely overplanned, had tons of fun (planning and doing), and learned so much for our next time road tripping. Here are some tips and how-to’s on how I did it (with my lessons learned built in):
- Destination Picks
- Since we would be starting from our home in Delaware and trekking our way down to Florida, I picked at least one stop in each state along the way for us to experience some sort of activity or adventure. I picked locations based off of what I knew was popular, some I already had my heart set on (Orlando) and some I did a little googling or trip advisor-ing to identify spots. Trip advisor-ing.. hmmm, pretty sure I just made that verb up. It’s pretty handy though. Just download the app, or go to the website: www.tripadvisor.com, plug in your destination, you can be as vague as a country, state or narrow it down to a city if you have one picked out. You can search for things to do, restaurants, accommodations, the works.
- Planning your route can be a bit tricky. How far should we travel in a day? Which route should we take? There were some days we only had to drive 3-5 hours total and some days we drove 8-10 hours. The 10 hour drives were a bit much. So I’d recommend keeping it between 5-8 hours if you have a lot of distance to cover, but if you have the time and can fit in stops with cool things to do and see, plan to do so.
- In my research some road tripping enthusiasts recommend bringing two GPS options on your trip. This is because not all GPS know the same routes. We had a TomTom GPS in addition to our phones, so we thought we had this covered. However, it had been a few years since we needed to use the TomTom, so we discovered the hard way that the charging cord was no longer functional. We discovered this because in the mountains of West Virginia, if your cell phone carrier is Verizon, you will get ZERO service. So cell phone GPSs weren’t an option and the TomTom wasn’t an option either. What did we do? We stopped at a library and begged them for a map of the area to get us along our route. In my mind map reading was this immensely difficult task that only navigators knew how to do; turns out, it isn’t that hard. But yes, I also advocate for double GPS options, just make sure they are both functional before hitting the road! In addition to having the GPS options I also printed map quest directions because it’s 2006 and that’s what we do here, K? It was a waste though, I don’t recommend doing it, and won’t be doing it again. It didn’t help us when the TomTom died, the TomTom had taken us a different route than mapquest and there is NO redirecting on paper mapquest. So I recommend two GPS options and a map. Maps are handy even if your GPS and cell phone doesn’t crap out like ours did because if you plan on following any scenic drives, it’s a challenge to get your GPS to follow that route. GPSes tend to take you the fastest or shortest distance, not the prettiest. So unless you want to have it direct you to a pinpoint of the scenic drive and then wing it to your stopping point, a map will be handy. Better to be over prepared.
- Busy Bees along the way–
- Sightseeing, scenic drives, and quirky stops. There is so much the U.S. of A. has to offer and many of these treasures are a little hidden. So if you’re interested in seeing what there is along the way of your already pre-determined route check out www.roadtrippers.com and/or download their app. This nifty little do-dad will give you lots of info on places within a certain mile radius of your route so you can be sure not to miss all those giant rubber band balls, dinosaur parks, and dives your heart desires. There are even pre-planned trip guides you can peruse for free if you want to let someone do all the work for you! Work smarter, not harder my friends.
- Car games, audiobooks, and playlists. You spend a lot of time in the car when on a road trip, so be prepared with ways to help the time go by more pleasantly. You can find tons of car games like license plate bingo, yellow car, I spy, the list goes on and on. Here’s an infographic with some ideas:I also recommend creating a playlist on your phone, or making a cd of music you’d like to hear on your travels. Audiobooks are also a great way to pass the time and you can get them for free from the library if you’re looking for budget friendly options. Lastly, we killed time in the car by pulling up Netflix. Now before you start blasting me about it being dangerous, we didn’t watch movies or TV shows, we pulled up stand up comics so we could listen to a little bit of comedy on some of the long stretches of travel. Some favorites are Mike Birbiglia, Jim Gaffigan, and Aziz Ansari.
- Food- My favorite subject. Now to save money on our budget I made sure all of our hotels offered a complimentary hot breakfast to get our day started. This saved us from having to make an extra stop which is time, and it saved us money. The first couple days I was able to pack sandwiches to get us through for lunches. I couldn’t do this the whole trip because I didn’t want to keep having to refill our cooler with ice. So after the sandwiches ran out we either did lunch by stopping along the drive at fast food, or eating at an already pre-planned destination, or sometimes we were still full from breakfast and snacks which held us over until dinner. I think every day is different, so just do what works for you for lunch. Dinners were fairly similar, we’d either grab something along the drive at fast food, or eat at an already pre-planned destination. I found our pre-planned spots using Trip Advisor. Love Trip Advisor.
- Budget– When planning this trip I knew there were some more expensive items on the itinerary we would be doing. I had to spend the day at Universal Studios in Harry Potter World, which was going to be more pricey than kayaking in Charleston, SC or taking a hop on hop off bus in Savannah, GA. So there were some days that I budgeted more expensive excursions and balanced out with days of free adventures or fairly low cost. I also tried to find hotel accommodations for between $50-$90 bucks a night, making an exception for Nashville, TN because I knew I wanted to stay downtown to avoid driving around in city traffic. Again Roadtrippers and Trip Advisor are great tools to use to find things to do within your budget. But make sure you figure this all out so you can make adjustments to your plans ahead of time to avoid breaking the bank. This goes for excursions, restaurants, and gas stations. Many restaurants share their menus online or on trip advisor so you can see their prices prior to going. I also recommend the app gasbuddy to help you find gas stations near you with the lowest price. This will definitely help you save some bucks.
So there you have it. Five tips to help you plan your next road trip. But where did we go on our trip and what did we do? Allow me to show you:
Have you been to any of these destinations? What did you think?