How to Plan a Road Trip

Road trips can be very exciting to plan and also slightly daunting. Even taking a last minute spontaneous trip can benefit from planning ahead slightly. Are you ready to hit the road but not quite sure where to start? Follow these steps for how to plan a road trip.

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Pick your destination

The best way to start planning your road trip is to actually work backwards and think about where you want to end. Perhaps you are doing an entire cross country road trip or doing a long drive along the coast. Planning out your final destination will help you determine the path you will take to get there and potential areas you might want to visit along the way.

How to plan a road trip: Chimney Rock, NC

Length of trip

Once you know where you want to go, do a basic search on Google Maps to see generally what the drive is going to look like. It will determine what the bare minimum driving time will be with no stops.

Next, break up the drive and consider how many days you want to take to make your trip. Perhaps you want to drive only 8 hours per day or maybe you will split the drive with a friend and drive through the night.

How to plan a road trip: map cross country

When mapping out your route, look at what major cities you will be going through. Will you plan to stop in certain cities and explore? Or, do you have a certain deadline for when you need to be at your final destination? Consider all of these factors when determining how many days your road trip will be.

Hot Tip: It is not recommended to drive more than 8 hours per day (especially if by yourself). Also, plan to make a pitstop every 2-3 hours.

Sightseeing spots

Road trips are only really fun if you take the time to stop and smell the roses. Otherwise, they can get long and tedious pretty quickly.

When planning your road trip, use an app like Roadtrippers to help map out what to do along the way. You can plan to see major landmarks like the Grand Canyon or the St. Louis Arch. Also, if you have the time, consider going slightly out of your way to see something off the beaten path.

How to Plan a Road Trip: Sightseeing Spots


If you are making a road trip that stretches over a couple of days, make advance reservations at hotels along the way. After a long day of driving, the last thing you want to do is drive around looking for someplace to sleep.

It is best to set your destination ahead of time, so you don’t have to worry about figuring out plans last minute. Sure, it can get rid of some spontaneity; but planning ahead helps minimize any potential hiccups.

Most hotels allow you to cancel up until the day of your reservation, making it a good option if you need flexibility. You can also use Expedia or VRBO to help find cheaper, affordable options.


Road Trip Essentials

Make your road trip easier by remembering all the essentials for making yourself comfortable.

If you are the driver, be sure to stock up on your favorite music, podcasts, or audio books. I do most of the driving in my family on road trips and my family hates when I blast show tunes and Disney music, but it is what keeps me distracted from the long drive.

If you are a passenger, bring a blanket, travel pillow, and books/puzzles to keep you busy. Keep some road snacks close by to be able to help whoever is driving as well.

How to plan a road trip: road trip essentials

Explore More: Traveling with kids? Don’t miss my road trip essentials for making a road trip with kids much easier.

Car Inspection

When taking a long road trip, it is important to make sure that your car is in the best shape. Get your car inspected a few weeks prior to traveling.

Make sure you change the oil and your tires are filled with air. Double check that your spare tire is also in good working order.

Roadside Essentials Kit

When taking a road trip, always expect the unexpected. Prepare yourself for this by having an emergency roadside essentials kit.

You can piece one together by yourself or you can buy a premade kit. At the bare minimum, I would make sure you have jumper cables, spare tire and tools, first aid kit, flashlight, space blanket, hand warmers, and water.

roadside emergency kit

Hot Tip: If traveling in the winter, prepare for your trip by winterizing your car. Make sure you have gloves, an ice scraper, chains, and kitty litter to gain traction in the event your car gets stuck in the snow.

AAA Membership

Consider investing in AAA roadside assistance prior to your trip. Their most basic membership only costs $65/year.

If your car breaks down, they will come tow you for no extra cost. If you run out of gas on the side of the road, they will bring you fuel. Having their membership can help bring some peace of mind while making a long road trip.

Not only will they provide roadside assistance, but having a AAA membership can also get you discounts at most hotels.

tire repair kit

Hot Tip: Even with AAA, make sure you know how to change your tire. AAA can take a while to get to you if you are stuck on the side of the road. Knowing how to change a tire allows you to move into a safer location or to your closest auto repair shop.

Print Map Directions

I’m sure people remember the good days before GPS of having printed MapQuest directions in their car. When I first got my license my parents insisted on having maps in my car just in case. This is something I still live by today.

Even though having Google Maps is pretty reliable, you never know when you are going get caught without service. Therefore, make sure you have printed directions for where you are going or a map in your car at all times.

road atlas


This pretty much goes without saying, but document your road trip! Take along a nice camera or your phone (with charger!).

If you are seeing any major landmarks during a long road trip, chances are that you might only ever see it once in a lifetime. Be sure you have enough space on your phone to capture that moment!

Canon Rebel T7 Camera

Even though moments like your car breaking down or a three-hour standstill on the highway seem miserable in the moment, they are what make road trips memorable. Remember to take pictures of the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Taking a road trip alone?

Many people love the solidarity of taking a relaxing road trip by themselves. I used to love the long drive home by myself to Pittsburgh during college breaks. It can be extremely freeing in a way.

The most important thing when traveling alone is to tell someone else your plans. Let them know where you intend to stop each night and generally what time you will be arriving. Then, remember to check in with them when you arrive.

Having someone else know your plans allows them to help should any issues arise on your trip.

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Ultimate Packing List
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  1. Joanna

    Hey, do you talk about school things on here? I was wondering what you do for schooling with your kids. My daughter is going into highschool next year and my son is currently in highschool. My son is in a magnet school but I’m not too sure how I feel about it. I’m not sure of the best options of schooling for my kiddos. What are you doing with your kids? Any advice?

    1. makeaplanblog

      High school is a tough age! My daughter is in a public high school. For me, at this age, I try to let her discover her passions to figure out what she wants to do in life. She loves art so we found an art school where she can explore that more in depth. If your child is still figuring out what they are interested in, then I think it is important to find a school that has a number of different extracurriculars or clubs offered so they can try out a variety of activities.

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