Road trips are a pain to plan for one simple reason: there’s so much to plan.
Planning a great road trip requires you to be thoroughly strategic and painfully organized.
Who has time for that?
I definitely don’t.
And since you’re still reading this, I can assume that you don’t either.
So how can we plan a fantastic road trip that’s budget-friendly and still remain sane?
I have developed a Totally Awesome Road Trip Planner to help you plan the ultimate road trip in 3 hours or less!
Yeah, you read that right; you can plan an entire road trip in 3 hours or less!
Forget slaving away over your computer for days while you try to plan the perfect road trip because those days are gone!
So enough talking about it; let me show you how.
Download Your Free, Totally Awesome Road Trip Planner Now!
To plan the ultimate road trip in such little time, you'll want an excellent road trip planner!
This Road Trip Planner will help keep you organized and save you time!
Plus, it's super cute, which makes planning process more fun and exciting!
You don't have to download it if you don't want to, but it will make planning a lot easier and more fun!
So, go ahead and download the planner now (it’s totally FREE)! Once you’ve downloaded it, we’ll get to work!
Planning Your Road Trip
Decide How Many Days You'll Be Gone For
Before we can even begin planning you're road trip, you have to decide how long you want it to be.
This could be incredibly simple for you, if you already know exactly how much time you can take off from work.
If you have more flexible vacation days, you may find this to be a bit more difficult.
Once you've picked a length for the trip, go ahead and write it in your Totally Awesome Road Trip Planner.
You can always change the length of the trip later on, if you change your mind!
Step #1: Pick Your Destinations
Time: About 40 minutes
This parts of planning a road trip can be tough because the possibilities seem endless, and they technically are...
So, how can we make choosing destinations easier?
Pick a Theme
Come up with a theme for your road trip!
This theme can be literally anything you want.
You can be incredibly specific: Haunted Lighthouses on the East Coast.
Or, you can be super general: Lighthouses. You will obviously have more destinations to choose from "Lighthouses" than "Haunted Lighthouses on the East Coast."
Okay, it's time to brainstorm! Here are a few more examples to help you out: Towns of Route 66, Cities in Virginia, National Parks, Mountain Towns, etc..
If you already have one destination in mind, try to think about what that place might have in common with other destinations you would enjoy to get your theme.
Once, you have your theme, write it in your Totally Awesome Road Trip Planner!
When you picked your theme, you may have already had a destination in mind.
Go ahead and write that down in your Totally Awesome Road Trip Planner before you forget it.
Then, open Google (or your favorite search engine) in your web browser, and let's get to work!
The goal is find some destinations for your road trip. You'll need a maximum of one per day of your trip.
The distance between destinations will greatly affect how many destinations you can see during your road trip.
For right now, pick one destination for each day, and you can refine it later.
Use your theme to search for some awesome destinations in Google (i.e. Lighthouses on the East Coast, Best Lighthouses, Prettiest Lighthouses, Small Towns with Lighthouses, etc.).
You will likely get some list posts from some awesome travel bloggers that have done most of the leg work for you.
Once you see a destination you might like to visit, open a new tab and search for some more information and pictures.
If you like what you see, write it down in your Totally Awesome Road Trip Planner! Repeat this until you have all of the destinations you need.
Rate Each Destination
In your Totally Awesome Road Trip Planner, beside each destination rate (on a scale of 1-10) how excited you are to visit the destination (1 being eh and 10 being OMG, I CAN'T FREAKING WAIT).
This seems silly, but it might help you out in just a bit!
Map It Out
Let's take a look at what the road trip is starting to look like. In a new tab, go to mymaps.google.com. Sign in to your Google account, if you're not already signed in. Click "add new map." See where it says "Untitled Layer" on the left side of the screen? Click that and rename it "Destinations."
Now in the search bar at the top of the page, type in your first location. Once you hit enter, it's going to take you to that destination. In the white box right above the dropped pin, click "+ Add to Map."
This will add it to your "Destination" layer (more on layers in a bit). Go ahead and add the rest of your destinations the same way. Once you're done, it should look something like this:
Step #2: Find Fun Activities
Time: About 30 minutes
Obviously, you'll want to do more than just drive through the fun destinations you chose! This is your chance to pick some fun activities to do while you're visiting!
Research Activities at the Destinations
Go ahead and open up Google again, and start searching for "Fun thing to do in (insert destination)."
Unless you're searching for stuff to do in an incredibly obscure place (like really obscure), you will get plenty of results.
If you'd like to get some various results, you should also try searching on Pinterest. You'll probably find pins that lead to great resources that you never would have found on Google.
When you find something that interests you, make sure you write it down in your Totally Awesome Road Trip Planner!
While looking for fun activities, make sure you make a note a hours of operation (if applicable).
You don't need to write down the address because Google maps is usually pretty good at pulling up what you want; however, if it has a name that might be common, make note of the address in your planner!
Try to choose no more than 3 activities for each destination. After all, if you decide to spend more time there, you can always add more later!
Mark Your Can't-Miss Activities
Pick one activity for each destination that you absolutely cannot miss.
This will help you quickly prioritize your activities if you get behind schedule on the road trip or just have to cut something out during the planning process.
To make the activity easily identifiable as a favorite, put a start next to it!
Map It Out
Return to that beautiful map you created. On the left side of the page, you should see a button that says "Add Layer." Click this. The new layer will be titled "Untitled Layer." Click on that and change it to
"Activities." Next, click the check mark next to the "Destinations" layer to deselect it. Your map should now look like this:
Your pins that identified the destinations should not currently be visible.
Now, go ahead and type in your activities (the name of company or building/place you want to see) and add them to your map.
Once you add an activity, click on the bucket of paint icon to change the color of the pin marking the activity.
You can even change the look of your pin if you'd like. All activities should have the same pin color.
You're map should look something like this:
Step #3: Identify Great Places to Eat
Time: About 20 minutes
You'll definitely want to try some awesome, local food on your road trip, right?!
In order to make that happen, you should pick some great restaurants you'd like to try before you hit the road.
If you're only stay for a day in each destination, I would recommend picking only one or two.
At this point, you might be thinking, Holy crap, this lady wants me to plan every little thing!
Here's the deal: Spontaneity is one of the great things about road trips, so you don't have to plan out every single place you're going to eat or every thing you're going to do.
However, with a little bit of planning (i.e. picking one restaurant per destination and a couple activities), you hopefully won't miss out on the best things each destination has to offer.
Okay, sorry, I just felt like now was the right time to say that. Back to planning you road trip!
Research Restaurants at Each Destination
Pull up Google (and Pinterest, if you'd like) and start searching for "best restaurants in (insert destination)" and "best food to eat in (insert destination)." If you don't know what kind of cuisine the destination is famous for, try googling that first.
Then, you can search for "best (insert cuisine) restaurants in (insert destination)."
You'll get a lot of varying results. Once you find a place that sounds good, look up "(insert restaurant) reviews."
Just because a blogger or periodical featured it doesn't mean it's good. So, get some other opinions.
If you're satisfied with the reviews, go ahead and add it to your list in the Totally Awesome Road Trip Planner.
Identify Your Can't-Miss Restuarants
There has to be one restaurant for each destination that you feel you absolutely must try.
So, go ahead and star one restaurant for each destination (if you have multiple for each) that you absolutely cannot miss!
Now, if you have a change of plans down the road, you'll know exactly what to prioritize.
Map It Out
Yep, you're adding the restaurants to the map! So, just like you did before, add a new layer.
Then, click the check box next to the Activities layer so that those pins disappear for now.
Just as you did before, type the names of the restaurants into the search box.
Then, just add it to the map. Finally, change the pin color to a new, unique color. (All restaurants should have the same pin color.)
Once you're done, it should look something like this (once you select all of your layers):
Step #4: Create a Tentative Schedule
Time: About 30 minutes
Before you can even think about booking Hotels, you'll need to know where you're going to be and when.
This is an incredibly important step, so definitely do not skip it! You need to create a tentative schedule for you road trip.
This will ensure that you have enough time to do everything on your list and you know when and where to book your hotels.
Figure Out How the Amount of Driving Time Between Destinations
Since you took the time to add destinations to your fancy map, this part is a total breeze!
Make sure that the check box next to the destination layer has a check in it.
If it doesn't, click on the check box. Now, below the layer title, you should see a list of your destinations.
Click on the destination you'd like to visit first (typically one that is relatively close to your house).
A white box should pop up on the map. On the lower right side of the box, you should see an arrow icon. Click it.
On the left side of the page, you will see that a new layer was added.
In it, you will see the letter "B" next to the name of the destination you just clicked and an "A" right above it.
Go ahead and enter your home address into the empty space next to the "A" and hit enter.
Then, click add a destination and start typing you're next destination!
Once you've finished adding all of the destinations finish off by adding your home address once more at the end.
Then, click on the 3 dots next to the direction layer and select "step by step directions." This will give you a time estimate for each journey.
This is what you should see:
Now that you know about how long each drive is going to be, starting scheduling every aspect of your trip!
This means that you should include scheduling in time for your activities and restaurants.
Don't forget to schedule time for every meal whether you're on the road or not!
This all might seem a little silly, but trust me, it's better to figure out if something just isn't working now than to start your road trip and figure it out a few days in.
Your schedule should look something like this:
Make Any Necessary Adjustments
This is the time you might have to prioritize certain destinations, activities, or restaurants.
In the last step, you may have found that you just don't have time to do everything you'd like.
So, go ahead and refer back to your lists and start prioritizing!
Then, start a new tentative schedule. You'll get it!
Step #5: Find Hotels
Time: About 1 hour
This is most certainly the worst part about planning a road trip.
When you go on vacation, you only have to pick one hotel.
On a road trip, you have to pick multiple. But don't worry!
Just buckle down and get it done!
Before you even begin, make a list of sites that you absolutely must check.
(Disclaimer: I am an affiliate of Booking.com, which means if you book a hotel using the link I provided, I will be compensated at no cost to you. Please keep in mind that I only recommend, products, services, and sites that I love and trust!)
If you typically like renting Airbnbs, definitely check to see what's available, but keep in mind that many of them require you to stay more than one night.
Want some help finding great hotels at cheap prices? Read my top 10 tips here!
Okay, open a tab for each of your favorite sites to check, and let's get started.
If you need to, you can refer to your list of destinations in your Totally Awesome Road Trip Planner.
Also, check your tentative schedule and make sure that you won't need a hotel between destinations at some point to break up a long drive.
Search for one destination at a time. Make sure you take full advantage of the filters on each site.
This can save you tons of time! Once you think you've found a hotel for a destination, bookmark it but don't book it yet!
(Bonus: Having trouble choosing between hotels? See your Totally Awesome Road Trip Planner for a quick and easy to use outline for a Pros and Cons list! It's on page 8.)
Map It Out
Before you book anything, let's make sure the hotels are in a convenient location.
Just as you did before, open your beautiful map and add a layer.
Title the layer "Hotels." Make sure that the "Hotels" layer is the only one with a checked box next to it.
Search for the hotels in the search bar and add them. Make sure you change the color of the pins to a unique color. (All hotel pins should be the same color.)
Now, see how close the hotel locations are to your desired activities by checking the box next to the layer "Activities."
If you are satisfied with it, you can book the hotels whenever you're ready. Just make sure that the plans are final!
However, if you're not happy with it, go ahead and remove the hotel from the map and find a replacement.
You're Freakin' Done!!!
Yes, that's right. You're done! How does it feel to have planned that road trip in less that 3 hours? I hope it feels freakin' awesome!
If you read through this guide but didn't print out your free Totally Awesome Road Trip Planner, it's not too late!
Get it now!
I promise, it will make this process 10x easier!
Decide the Length of Your Road Trip
You’ll want to go ahead and choose how many days you’re willing to spend on the road.
Choose Your Destinations
Pick a theme for your road trip. This will help you pick awesome destinations you’re sure to love!
Choose Fun Activities in Each Destination
You should be prepared. Pick a few activities that you’d love to do in each destination! These can be simple, but they should be specific!
Choose Must Try Restaurants in Each Destination
Food is often one of the best parts of a road trip! Don’t wing it! Pick some awesome restaurants to try!
Create a Tentative Schedule
It’s important that you make sure you have enough time to do everything! If you don’t, get rid of some stuff and try again!
You’re gonna need a few places to sleep! So, make sure you can book some great hotels at awesome prices on the correct dates.
Where are you going on a road trip this year?
Let me know in the comments below!
I hope you guys enjoyed this guide to quickly planning a road trip!
Make sure you print out the Totally Awesome Road Trip Planner.
And, if you found this guide helpful, please share it on Pinterest or your favorite social media site!
Until next time,