Road Trip Planning the Easy Way

     If you're taking a road trip, it's probably because you are trying to save money or because you want to do exactly what you want to do. You don't want to mess around with expensive tour groups or travel agents who will schedule locations and events that you don't even want to spend your money on. The thought of planning a road trip yourself might seem cumbersome or even risky, but it doesn't have to be. Here are some steps that I follow while planning.

Make a Google Doc

   If you have not had the pleasure of using Google Docs before, now's your chance. Make a free Google account if you don't have one already. Access Google Docs by clicking the apps menu at the top right on Google or just search for Docs. Using a Doc has many advantages, including automatic saving and easy access on other devices or offline. You can make a Google Doc and share it with someone you're planning with so that you both can edit it in real time. You can even use speech to text on your Doc if you aren't big on typing by just clicking a couple buttons. Google Docs works pretty similarly to Microsoft Word. It has many of the same features, so it is easy to switch over to Docs.
     After you form the document, you can start adding stuff into it. The way that I start these documents is by starting a list of places that I know I want to go to. After that, I add the order that each stop would be based on their location on the map and a vague idea of what kind of route to take. Then I decide on how many days that I would want to be at each stop. These are the very most basic parts to include.

Do Your Research

     Research is going to be a crucial part of effective trip planning. In this day and age, the internet will be your number one resource. There are countless websites to help you figure out where to go. View some Top 10 lists. Browse around on Google Maps for parks. Ask people in a forum for recommendations. is a great resource for National Park and other NPS site information. You can find camping information as well as fees, trails, and the whole lot. Look at some photography online and find out where your favorite pictures were taken. Simple Google searches will yield a plethora of information about locations you may want to visit.
     Apart from the internet, don't forget about resources like books and atlases. There are plenty of movies and documentaries highlighting attractions at many parks as well.

Add the Little Things

     Now you can start to get detailed on your Doc. I add mileage/hours of driving in between stops using Google Maps. This will help you figure out how long you might need to stay someplace, what time you need to leave, and how much time you'll have for having fun. Plenty of links to related websites, names of hikes to do, and nearby attractions will help make your document as meaningful as possible. Get crazy-- even add some YouTube links so you can live out your trip while you're waiting in agony for your date of departure. Include information for where you'll stay the night at each stop. Call it a bit excessive, but I even include parking information when I visit cities.
     Whenever you can, add prices. At the end of all my planning, I calculate an approximate cost of gas, food, and accommodations. If there are any activities that you know will cost money or places that require fees, add them in.
     Find the cost of gas by adding up the number of miles in between every stop and add about 10% to account for driving around within parks, getting lost, and so on. Divide your total mileage by the miles per gallon that your vehicle gets. This gives you the number of gallons of gas that you will use. My 2013 Equinox gets 32 mpg highway and 22 city, so I would use about 28 mpg for my calculation because I will be on the highway most of the time but not always. Multiply that number by the price of gas per gallon. When planning months ahead of time, I even look up price projections on this website.
     You will probably find that you are changing your trip around, adjusting places to visit, and adjusting the length of your trip all the time for a while. I never like to entirely delete plans that I have changed. If I change my mind about going somewhere, often times I copy and paste it into the end of the document or a new document. Maybe I'll want to visit that place in the future sometime. Also, you never know when you might end up with an extra day during your trip due to a closure or something... Having some backup plans could help.

Other Google Perks

     In addition to using a Google Doc for planning, you can take it a step farther with other Google apps and features. Google Drive, where all of your Google Docs are stored, can be used even more. For example, my boyfriend and I have a shared folder on Google Drive where we can easily send and edit all sorts of things with each other. You can also upload files into the folder such as park maps.
     An app called Google MyMaps can be used to place your road trip stops on a map. I'll be the first to say I'm not a huge fan of MyMaps mostly because it doesn't easily create a route for you with mileage and such. It is very helpful for visual people though who would like to see more of a pictorial representation of their trip.

Get Out There

     The method I've outlined here is what I've used to plan out multiple road trips, including some pretty lengthy ones. It's become my go-to for laying out a timeline for even a weekend camping trip. I've found that keeping my thoughts and ideas in one spot time after time has helped me plan each trip more easily. Here is a link to the document my boyfriend and I made for our Northeastern trip last year. Here's a shorter trip example.
     If you try a similar method to this one, please let me know how it goes. Everybody will have a slightly different style of planning even when using a Doc like this. Some spots in my documents might not make complete sense to you, being on the outside of the planning. My boyfriend and I know exactly how to read it though since we're the ones who made the plan. It will go the same for you as long as you discuss with your travel partners and attempt to stay organized. Of course, as always, have a wonderful time planning and going out on your next adventure!


  1. Glad to find a great travel blog using Blogger as mine.
    Best regards from Argentina


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