Some people hate to plan a road trip, but planning an adventure is half the fun.
Who doesn’t love to browse through websites and photo galleries trying to find new places for adventures
With a number of long distance road trips behind me and numerous shorter ‘mini’ trips I love a little bit of a road trip plan. I always have an idea bubbling away and many are formulated on the journey home from the previous adventure.
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READ MORE: WHY A ROAD TRIP IS AN AMAZING ADVENTURE
Stages of Planning a Road Trip
Planning a road trip takes time to evolve and research is key. You may discover places that are essential to your plan as you develop your ideas and other places that are definitely off the list.
Some decisions will be down to logistics; is there enough time between ferries, flights or booked commitments to squeeze in one more landmark?
Giving yourself time is essential for any of this to work and fall into place.
How Long Can You Escape For?
Before anything else you need to work out how long you can be away for. Whether this is work commitments, school holidays or animal care, it needs to be factored into your plan from the start.
Don’t forget the return as well. It’s all very well going on an amazing road trip but you have to get home again and this can add a few days if not more onto your time away.
Research and Inspiration
Before you can start planning any road trip you need to think about where you want to go. This is more than just Asia or Europe. Pin it down to a country or a region.
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Look at Instagram, 500px, Flickr and Pinterest for ideas of where you want to go or browse the travel agents websites and brochures. People are posting their holiday snaps and writing blog posts every day.
Then start to look at Google maps, find iconic locations and from there start to look in more detail at what is around these iconic landmarks.
READ MORE: HOW TO FIND SPOTS OFF THE BEATEN TRACK
Once you have worked out a number of place to visit it is time to get looking at distances and getting to the start and finish points of your road trip.
Questions to Ask Yourself
- How far from home do I want to be?
- Do I want to go somewhere I know or somewhere new?
- How will I get to the start and finish points – drive, flight, ferry?
- Will language be an issue when I am there?
- How expensive is the country I am thinking about?
Work Out How Long Your Road Trip Will Take
Once you have worked out where you want to go it is time to work out how long you need to spend on the adventure.
Google will tell you how long it takes to drive from once place to another and from this you can work out how long you need for the road trip. Once you have done this you can adjust your start and finish points to fit the time you have free from commitments.
As a rough guide, we manage about 3 hours driving with stops in a day or 7 hours without stops. Anything more than this becomes a marathon without much fun.
When planning times, don’t forget that rough roads and ferry time tables will influence your planning significantly.
Plan Your Routes, Stops and Accommodation
Once you have figured out where you will start your road trip it is time to fill your days. This is something that I really struggle with and now have a definite list, a maybe list and an ‘if desperate’ list.
During your planning look out for National Parks, places of interest, historical landmarks or beauty spots. Some areas will have tourist driving routes which are the perfect starting point for a road trip, however I would definitely recommend you add your own stops and detours into the main route.
READ MORE: HOW TO USE GOOGLE MAPS TO PLAN A ROAD TRIP
Add in time to allow you to explore places that don’t show on the maps and alternative stops if the weather will be a factor.
A road trip doesn’t have the need for a deposit and final balance payment as most things are booked individually. This has advantages and disadvantages.
- You can spread payments out and avoid having to find a huge sum of money in one go.
- It is easier to budget as you can keep a running total of the trip costs and adjust your plans accordingly
- Some places may not require payment until arrival so you can budget for these and have the cash ready
- Prices can spiral if you are not careful
- You need to be really good at tracking your spending
- Refunds and insurance coverage can be complicated
- If one element is cancelled it is up to you to find an alternative at your own expense
Putting a small amount away each month will soon build up into a healthy holiday pot.
When you are planning your budget decide whether you are going to cook for yourself or eat out and the type of accommodation you will be staying in. Road coffee and boutique hotels soon add up.
Organise Your Transport
This needs to be sorted fairly early on in your planning. There are only so many places on a ferry for your car and only so many hire cars.
If you plan to hire a car make sure you book it well in advance so you get the size and specification that you want.
Make sure that it will fit all your luggage and people in. From experience you always need more space in your car for a road trip than you think.
READ MORE: HOW TO CHOOSE AND BOOK A HIRE CAR
If you are taking your own car, make sure it is ready to go and fully serviced. Get it checked by your garage and ensure all your insurance and driving documents are organised.
READ MORE: HOW TO PREPARE YOUR CAR FOR A ROAD TRIP
If you are flying or using a ferry, now is the time to book flights or look at timetables. Some routes sell out well in advance so it is best to book early when spaces are available and prices are lower.
Book A Few Nights Accommodation
Whilst the beauty of a road trip is the freedom it gives you, it is also worth having some fixed points in your trip.
This is especially important if you are camping along the way. A booked night somewhere will give you a chance to get a night in a warm, dry bed, get laundry done and cook ahead for a few meals.
It also gives you a chance to clear the debris from your vehicle and reset ready for the next leg.
I suggest using bookings.com or AirBnB as a starter. These give you a wide range of options at a variety of price points.
Google and TripAdvisor can also be useful to help find more obscure places to stay if you want to get away from the tourist trail.
READ MORE: HOW TO CHOOSE AN AMAZING AIRBNB PROPERTY
Organise your Documents
A road trip does not have the security of a holiday rep to help you if things go wrong. You are on your own if you have a breakdown, theft or illness and for this reason insurance is essential.
A few documents that you must have before travelling:
- Travel insurance which covers the time you are away and any activities you may be considering
- Car insurance either your own or as part of your car hire
- Full driving licence and any other documents that may be need for driving overseas
- European Health Insurance Card if you are travelling from the UK to Europe
- Breakdown and Emergency Insurance Assistance Numbers
- Roadside Service Insurance if you are planning a road trip in the US
Make sure your documents are kept safe. I have found that having a robust and brightly coloured wallet for all your documents helps. If they dissapear under a seat you are more likely to find them if they are brightly coloured.
I always make sure that I have copies of all my documents saved on my phone and in the cloud just in case there is a big problem and I am separated from my document files. This just means that so long as you have internet access you can get to your documents.
So, you are getting ready, the excitement is rising but there is also this doubt of having forgotten something. For any road trip a packing list is essential.
A packing list will help in both the planning phase as you start to get everything ready as well as when you come to load your vehicle or pack your bags.
During your trip your packing list may help you find what you are searching for or remind you that you did actually abandon that idea and leave the item at home.
So after months of planning it is time for your road trip. Make sure you shut up your home securely and with fresh sheets on the bed, an empty fridge and a home delivery of food booked for your return.
Enjoy every minute of it, but remember things will go wrong. Don’t panic, go with the flow and remember that you have plans for tomorrow that you can pick up and continue with after a good meal and some sleep.
Each evening look at the day ahead, check the route, the road conditions and how you are feeling before finalising the plan.
Most of all, enjoy this incredible adventure that is unique to you and your planning.
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