Road Trip Planner

I believe you will agree, once you’ve used this road trip planner to create a simple and perfectly free road trip plan, that there is no other way that gets you in the flow so well. This 7 step process allows you to be in the flow right from the very beginning. Your road trip will be entirely a product of your creativity.

Road trip plannerPlanning a road trip is much more than making a schedule to follow. Road trip vacation planning gives you tangible evidence of the coming journey. Road trip vacation planning gets your head into it. You don’t need to follow this plan with precision once you’re on the road. The point is that you’ve given it substance. You’ve made it more than just an idea in your head.
There are other free online road trip planners (Mapquest road trip planner, AAA road trip planner, Rand McNally road trip planner, etc). This road trip planner is not intended to replace them. Actually, they are still useful when doing steps 4 and 6 (the research phases) of your plan. And for more research information, see Planning a Road Trip .

NOTE: Keep a notebook or folder for your plan. As you go through these steps, write the information down. Writing things down helps our brains process information that would otherwise just float around in there. As you research your trip, store collected information in your notebook or folder for reference later.

I use my road trip planner too. Please take a peek at my example and use it for reference.

Quote - Kurt Vonnegut


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, but I prefer a Rand McNally road atlas. I trace my route with a colored pencil so it stands out. Later in step 4, I 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). I like to 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. I’ve always had 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.

If you book lodging ahead of time, you might pay more attention to your schedule. I’ve been known to fall behind and still check in at midnight. Which works fine for me, but my travel-mates…not so much.


Step 6 – Research your route.

To get this far in your road trip plan, you’ve already done some research (mostly in step 4). But, I’ve found 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 (see road trip food and road trip rest )
  • 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.


Protect Yourself

Sign up for roadside assistance. I didn’t have it when I was younger, but now that I have a family, it is essential to me. Check out Better World Club, they have a rock solid reputation and appeal to those of us wanting to do well for the world.

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