How to Create the Perfect Road Trip Itinerary

Create a perfect road trip itinerary, and you set yourself up for an unforgettable experience.

How to Create the Perfect Road Trip Itinerary

We often wonder how some travelers seem to know every beautiful spot in the area they visited just once. Are they natural at being on the road? Is taking a road trip a gift that sadly not everybody inherits? How in the whole world do they create the most perfect road trip itinerary that you want to borrow.

The answers to these questions are very simple. It takes time and lots of research to create that ultimate road trip itinerary. There is no way around it especially if you decide to do it yourself rather than relying of pre-planned guided tours.

So, now you know that you need to put some effort before you even get on the road. What’s next? Here are 10 simple steps I usually follow in order to create my perfect road trip itinerary.

3 of the Best Cross-State California Road Trips, create itinerary,


1. Get a grasp on the big picture 

First thing first, you need to pick a place where you want to go on a road trip. Be it a state, region, or even a small country, you need to get at least a vague idea of what you want to see and do. You can talk about going on a road trip for ages and never succeed unless you put actions behind your words. Yes, I get it. A perfect road trip itinerary takes time to create. Moreover, the whole process might seem overwhelming and confusing. What helps me is to break it down into a few steps and start with identifying the area I want to explore in depth.

2. Set aside time for your road trip

Once I decided on the area for my future road trip, the next step is to choose the right time for it. First, you need to be specific on how many days to devote to your adventure. Somebody can spend  from seven to ten days and even a few months on the road. Due to their work schedule and other responsibilities, others can afford only a few days to go on a road trip. Even if all you have is one day, don’t let it discourage you from a mini road adventure.

Second issue to consider here is the time of the year. Create a road trip itinerary that suits your interests and activities. Clearly, you can’t go on a trip to see cherry blossom in winter. Same thing goes to hiking. This activity can easily suit all seasons. But going up the hill in spring or fall is much easier than conquering the same distance when it’s covered with snow.

Fast and Slow Travel for Beginners, create road trip itinerary,

3. Choose where to start and end your road trip

Road trips itineraries to explore your so-called backyard are easier to create due to the fact that you can jump in the car and go. If your travel adventure includes a faraway place, you need to choose the right destination to start and end your road trip. Do you need to take a bus or fly to another state or country? Can you fly to a city a few hours away from your initial destination? Since you plan to drive anyway, a few additional hours won’t make a huge difference to your road trip itinerary. But changing where you start and end your road trip can have a massive impact on your budget.

4. Pick places you want to visit

After you come up with the right time and area, it’s time to be more specific. I usually create a list of all places I want to see and things to do in order to add them to my road trip itinerary. At this time I don’t worry neither about the distances between these places nor what parts of the country or state they are. I just jot down all the destinations I’ve ever heard or dreamed of visiting. Inspiration for visiting these places can come from books, magazines, or other travel blogs. It’s probably the most creative part of the whole process. 

Inspirational Quotes that Ignite Your Travel Bug, create road trip itinerary,

5. Mark your intermediary destinations on the map

And only now you get to the core of creating your perfect road trip itinerary. Enter all the destinations from your list to Google Map. An old-fashioned map or globe can work, too. I personally prefer Google Map. On top of giving you estimated time to get from point A to point B, it provides the best routes to get there.

Looking at your map, you can draw invisible lines to connect your intermediary destinations. If you’re using your computer, Google already lined up the best routes for your road trip. The only thing you have to do is to rearrange the items on your road trip itinerary. Make sure you won’t need to drive back and forth and proceed only forward to your next destination.

Also keep in mind, that not all destinations on your narrowed-down list will work perfectly to create your road trip itinerary. As you’ll notice some of the places are far away form the others and simply don’t fit your travel plans. Just drop them from your itinerary at this time. It’ll give you a good reason to come back with another road trip itinerary.

6. Check the status and open roads to the places on your list

If you’re happy with your current road trip itinerary, do another research and create a short list of thing to know about places you plan to visit. Find out if there are any road closures, what is the best time to visit, and look for other travel and safety tips. Don’t skip or rush through this step. Some of the national parks and lakes are closed in winter. So you rather check it before hitting the road.

Visiting Mount Rainier National Park in One Day, create road trip itinerary -

7. Choose where to spend the night

By this time your road trip itinerary should look pretty set. To complete it you need to pick destinations where to spend your nights on the road. Assess how much time you want to spend on the road in one day. Then find the nearest city on the map and check it they have available accommodations that you can call home for the night.

8. Be realistic

The biggest advantage of a road trip is ability to be spontaneous and flexible. Moreover, being in charge of your own road trip itinerary and time creates an illusion that you can explore the whole country in a few day. (I’m definitely guilty of it.) Be realistic and don’t exhaust yourself. Moreover, what seems like just an hour here and two hours there end up being a ten- or even twelve-hour day on the road. Take it easy, travel slower and deeper for greater pleasure and memorable experiences. Even now you might want to looks at your road trip itinerary one more time and create it anew, removing one or two destinations from it.

Visiting Doolin,

9. Book flights, cars, and hotels

Does your road trip itinerary look good now? Do you feel comfortable with it? If yes, then it’s time to book your flights to and from the places you want to start and end your road trip. And don’t forget to rent a car and book hotels.

10. Create your own perfect road trip itinerary and have fun with it

Be honest with yourself. Be original if you feel like it. Create your perfect road trip itinerary based on somebody else’s recommendations. Do what it feels right for you. Don’t be afraid to include in your road trip itinerary places that others usually avoid. On the other hand, feel free to skip the most popular destinations in the area. If it doesn’t feel right for you, don’t do it. If rediscovering hidden gems is your primary focus, then create your road trip itinerary around less visited places in the area. Have fun experimenting, creating, and adjusting your road trip plans to suit your interests. It’s your road trip, and it’s all what matters. In the end, your experiences on the road will always be perfect even in the most imperfect way. 

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