So you want to head out on a road trip but have no idea where to begin? Don't worry, you're not alone! There are a lot of people out there that hear that call to adventure but just aren't sure how to go about it. Here is a great guide to get you started when you know you want to go somewhere, but you just don't know where!
Time and Distance
The first thing you want to decide on is how long you want to be gone for and how far you want to venture out! Now these aren't necessarily synonymous but they do tend to go hand in hand most of the time. What we mean by that is, you could go only a few miles away and stay for weeks, or go pretty far driving non stop and stay for only a night. However, usually the farther you go, the longer you tend to be gone. Knowing how long you want to be gone for or how far away from home you want to venture out will give you a good jumping-off point for planning your trip.
What To See
Think about what you want to see on your trip. If you're into history, then you may want to plan a route with plenty of historical sites and museums. If you want to see as many waterfalls as possible, you would want to plan accordingly. Whatever it is you want to see, a Google search of the area you're thinking you want to stay within will help you locate some key places to stop! Your road trip route is most likely already starting to take shape!
Where to Stay
Are you looking to stay in parking lots along the way, in campgrounds, or in the backcountry? Now that you have somewhat of a trip taking shape you can more clearly define your route based on where you want to stay! If you're looking for a dry camping trip in parking lots, you can find places that allow this, such as Walmart. Just make sure you call and ask first. You don't want to get a 5am wake-up call telling you to move it along. If you're thinking of staying in a campground, you'll want to figure out what type of campground you're looking for. Something simply accommodating, or something with a hot tub and five-star amenities? This will also help shape your trip and determine which way you're going to go. If you want to hit the backcountry, you can usually find free rustic camping spots on the BLM's website (Bureau of Land Management). Just ensure you follow all the rules of Leave No Trace, especially when it comes to dumping your tanks! Illegally dumping your tanks pollutes the environment and can get you a hefty fine! For dump stations near your location, check out SaniDumps.
If you have a smart phone or tablet, you can use some of the great road trip planner apps that are out there. They work much better than standard map apps or programs as they tend to allow you to put in multiple destinations. They then create a route for you. There are also a lot of other helpful travel apps that will assist you with things like knowing the crime rate in an area, finding campsites, and scoring the least expensive gas on the road! Here are a few we recommend:
iTunes | Google Play This free app is great for finding things to do along your trip. If you're headed down a particularly boring part of the highway, check out this app for roadside attractions, national forests and parks, and even great places to eat! Best of all, you can share your route with friends, who can then suggest places to stop along the way!
iTunes | Google Play Waze is great for keeping you out of those annoying traffic jams! This app is actually a community of people who update traffic information in real time. You'll have time to take that next exit before getting stuck in a traffic jam while everyone rubbernecks at the person with the flat tire. It'll also help you avoid areas of construction so you can keep moving.
iTunes | Google Play GasBuddy has become a popular app of road warriors! Use it to search for the cheapest gas in the area based on either your current location or a location you select. This one is also updated by users, which gets you the most up-to-date info on what to expect. It will even alert you of upcoming price hikes so you can stop and top off your tank while the price is still low!
RV Parks & Campgrounds
iTunes | Google Play RV Parks & Campgrounds helps you find just that! Not only does it show you the RV options along your route, but you can also check out how others have rated each place. Read their reviews to avoid the campgrounds we all fear! You know the ones--dirty, over priced, and no one around when you need help.
Crime and Place
iTunes Wherever you go you want to make sure you and your family are safe, especially if you're dry camping in the city. Crime and Place allows you to see the crime rate around you and can even alert you when you're getting into an area of high crime. You don't want to find yourself in a harmful or life threatening situation. This app will help keep you safe. Its only downfall is that it's only available for iOS devices.
iTunes | Google Play Following the laws for dumping your holding tanks is very important. Not only is it important for the environment, but it can effect your wallet and possibly even your freedom. The penalty for dumping waste on the ground varies, but it usually imposes a hefty fine and it can possibly result in a felony and possible jail time as well, depending on the area. Check out the SaniDumps app to find a dumping station along your route so you can leave all that yuck in the sewer where it belongs.
iTunes | Google Play What's around the next bend? You can find out what's at each exit with iExit. It will give you up-to-date information on fuel, shopping, food, and more! This way you don't have to make a hasty decision as each exit comes up, and then wish you'd waited when you see what's at the next one!
iTunes | Google Play Looking for a free spot to park for the night? RV Overnight informs you of tons of places for free parking, such as parking lots, free campgrounds, and government land. This way you won't have to pay to stay, especially when you just need a place to crash for the night.
What to Bring
What you pack will vary greatly depending on what type of experience you're looking for and who's going with you. If you like to hit restaurants, then you won't need to pack much food. If you like to cook for yourself in your RV's kitchen, you'll want to load up your fridge and pantry. If you're rocking a fifth wheel or travel trailer, you may even want a cooler in your tow vehicle with drinks and snacks for those times when you don't want to stop. If you're traveling with kids, you'll need a host of other things to keep them occupied. We can't promise that they won't say it at all, but ensuring you keep them busy will reduce the amount of times you'll have to hear "are we there yet?" Things like coloring books and card games are easy to put together and pretty inexpensive. If you want the kids to get the full experience of a road trip, put together a bingo game or roadside scavenger hunt with important landmarks you plan to pass along the way. This way they'll keep their eyes out the window instead of on a device that may cause motion sickness and crankiness. No matter where your road trip takes you, preparation will make all the difference. The trip will be more enjoyable when you're set up with a plan and all the supplies needed to get where you're going in comfort. What is the main thing you like to do before a road trip to help ensure it goes smoothly?