Oh my gosh you guys! I am so excited to bring you today’s post!! If you have followed my blog for a little while, you may remember how my daughters’ and I have gone on two epic summer road trips. Our first was 5,400 miles and last year was 7,000 miles. Woot, woot! I’ve learned a bit about planning a road trip from my experience and I’ve taken what I’ve learned and with the help of my bestie/graphic designer, I’ve created a road trip planner that you are going to LOVE! I can’t wait to share it with you and to use it this summer on our next trip…oh yeah, we are already planning!
Speaking of planning, the planning for our 2016 road trip is underway, but I’m worried I’m not going to have quite the funds we need. If you happen to have connections with businesses that would be a great fit for this blog and my girls and I on our road trip, like if you happen to know the CEO of Marriott…lol!, we are looking for a few sponsors for our trip this summer. Please Contact Me because I would love to chat with you or your friend about any sponsorship to make our trip this summer happen.
On to today’s post…let’s talk about the actual planning of a road trip. In my real life, I get asked questions about how we did it and what works and what doesn’t. I also hear from a lot of women that they would love to do what I’ve done as well, but for one reason or another, they don’t think they can because their husband isn’t interested or won’t come. You and your spouse have to make your own call, but this isn’t 1900 and we can be independent and we can head out on our own and have fun on the road without a spouse. Trust me, I’ve done it….twice. I’ve never been in a situation that I was scared or worried. I also plan well and stay at hotels that I know are not going to be in sketchy areas of town, etc. So, if you really want to make a road trip…you can do it! AND you can have fun! Ok..my little soap box over, let me show you the new road trip planner that I’m super proud of and give you my tips and tricks for planning your road trip as well.
Not only is there tons of great stuff packed into my road trip planner, it is super cute too! Can’t have something that isn’t cute as well. 🙂
First and foremost, the road trip planner is customizable. You can fill in the road trip for which you are planning, we are planning for Prince Edward Island this summer. My phone and my favorite apps for road trips are always involved in the planning as well.
The road trip planner will print off just fine without a customized title as well.
First up in my planning and therefore in the planner is a trip overview. This is kind of like command center for your road trip.
Here I list off where we plan to go, the dates, days on the road, number of miles, our budget, and our main attractions we want to visit on our trip. We also added a place to figure out what the weather will most likely be so you can pack accordingly.
Tons of great info. on this sheet.
I’m often asked about how I figure out our budget. The last two years, I have taken the amount I had in savings and between that and hotel points for free nights stays, just made it work. (Our first summer, we had so many points, I didn’t even pay for one night at a hotel!!) That is what I will do again this year. In general, I budget $100 a day for lodging. Sometimes I can find something less expensive, but often that is a good dollar amount to be able to stay in a clean and safe area of town. I’d rather pay a little extra and feel safe than worry about a few dollars.
From there, I use the Roadtrippers app I told you about in my post about my favorite apps for a road trip. It will tell me how much gas should cost for our trip. I use that for my gas budget.
My girls and I can usually eat lunch or dinner for around $20. Usually, the hotel we are staying at will have breakfast included, so by adding $10 to our usual lunch/dinner, I’m giving myself some cushion in our budget. For me, the budget is something that is relatively easy to figure out. This summer, it looks like my $100 a day for lodging may not work out because I can’t seem to find as much in that range, but by being smart and staying mostly within one chain of hotels, which we are reward members with, I will be able to stretch my money and get a few nights of free hotel stays which will help overall and may keep me on budget.
Next up is the sheet in the planner to help you map out your route as well as where you will stop along the way.
I ALWAYS do this in pencil (except when I am photographing it because pencil doesn’t photograph well). It usually gets changed at least once as I get to planning.
I figure out our route by figuring out the places I know we want to stay a little longer and working our route that way. What I know I can tell you for sure, if you are traveling with children and/or just don’t want to kill it on the road, DO NOT plan to drive more than 500 miles in a day. Our first day of our first road trip, we did 600 miles. It was NOT fun and I will NEVER do that many miles again…EVER. I quickly revamped that road trip that night because it was supposed to be fun, not torture. Being flexible is a must to have a fun road trip.
Our favorite days are less than 400 miles. We like to stop and smell the roses or rather look at offbeat roadside attractions as we go. Doing more than 400 miles just doesn’t work for us for that. You will find your sweet spot, but you will only find it through trial and error, so be flexible even though you have planned. The plans are not set in stone.
As to how I figure out what cities to stop in along the way. I just pull up Google Maps and map the start to end point of our trip. Then I start picking cities that are on the route that I think will be the correct mileage for one day. Sometimes it is easy, like what you can see above. Last summer going through North Dakota, Montana, South Dakota, etc., it was a little more challenging at certain times to find cities that were big enough to have a hotel I was willing to stay at. That is where having these notes is really handy because you can research cities and hotels at the same time and have all that info in one place.
As I am getting the route figured out, sometimes I’m researching hotels at the same time. That is where the daily planner comes in. I can jot down hotels that I think will work in the possible places to stay area. That way I won’t forget that random hotel in North Dakota that I thought would work. I may also jot down other alternatives in the nearest cities so that if the day doesn’t work out like I hope it will I’m not left scrambling for where to stay.
This daily sheet also has a spot for you to list your final hotel and whether or not you have booked that hotel. I’ve done trips both ways. Booking my hotels well in advance and not booking until the night before or day of. It just comes down to your comfort level and the busyness of the places you are visiting. I kind of prefer not having it planned out. There is more freedom to change things, which usually means we have more freedom to have more fun.
The Daily planner is also where I am going to list any must see or bucket list items that we really want to make sure to see while on this portion of our trip. Then it has a place that you can put every idea or neat thing you found that you might want to do in that city. Great way to dump a bunch of ideas and decide what sounds the most fun on the date you are there or which activity will work best with the weather, etc.
I couldn’t make a road trip planner and not include a place to mark down what Starbucks mugs are available on that portion of your trip, but since my girls(who talked me into starting my Starbucks mug collection in the first place) thought it was weird to list only mugs, there is a spot to list any souvenirs you want to get.
Finally, there is a spot for you to journal about your time at this location on your road trip. I usually start off our road trips doing a great job being detailed at journaling and by about day 10 I stop all together. I thought having a smaller box on my planner would be great to bullet point some of the fun versus trying to write about every detail.
Once you have your route mostly mapped out, you can fill in the At-A-Glance form. It just makes it so nice to have a good overview that is easy to see and figure out what is next on your journey without having to leaf through the more detailed info. The At-A-Glance keeps me excited to keep going on our journey. It makes it fun on a longer day or a more boring driving day to see what is to come. 🙂
Once you have done all of your planning, it is time to pack. I’ve got two posts that can help you with this aspect of your road trip. One is on how to pack the car for a road trip and the other is how to entertain the kids in the car. I’ve taken all that info. and put it onto this packing list.
The first page of the packing list is mostly the things you are going to need to pack for any trip.
Page two of the packing list has a lot of specific information on packing for a road trip. It is all based on my experience of what has worked well for us and what will keep you prepared for most anything while on the road.
I’m a total list maker, so I couldn’t make a road trip planner without a place to keep my running to-do list and my things I need to buy for this trip list. Super handy to have them together!
Finally, when you head out on your road trip, you will most likely have someone checking on your house or taking care of your pets. I’ve got a very detailed sheet that you can leave for whomever is looking in on things. That way if a pipe starts leaking or some other type of home or pet emergency happens, they have all the information they need to take care of things. It will still be stressful if stuff like that happens while you are on the road, but at least you left things as prepared as you could.
Now, you are ready to hit the road, well once you get your road trip planner and do the planning! Yay!
My daughters have not stopped talking about either of our road trips nor have they let up on planning for our trip this summer…despite my telling them I don’t know if the budget will work this year…they just can’t imagine a world where we don’t go.
A lot of that has to do with the planning that goes into the road trips we have done. Another big portion has to do with my being flexible when we are on the road. If something isn’t working, don’t keep doing it just because that is the way you planned it. There is no fun in that for anyone!
My favorite thing I have ever done in the 33 states we have visited on our road trips was an accident. Yep! We had to change our plans at Yellowstone and left the park at a different exit than I had planned. We ended up on Beartooth Highway. My youngest daughter had read about it in her Kid’s Road Trip Atlas (affiliate link) and knew immediately where we were. She had asked to do the drive, to which I had said, “No way. It will take too long.” It was one of those moments when I had to surrender to the road and just sit back and enjoy because there was no other way to go. I’m so incredibly glad that we changed our plans and left Yellowstone at that exit. The drive, while long, was so unbelievably gorgeous. It soothed me and spoke to my soul…I know it may seem weird, but it is true. It was one of those moments of chillaxing and remembering why I was on the road trip in the first place and things like Beartooth Highway are exactly why we love road trips. My girls and I had so much fun that day. Never mind that we had to cancel our hotel plans for the night and find somewhere else to stay. Never mind that we didn’t eat dinner until 10pm. Never mind that we had no cell service for hours. It was an adventure. It was gorgeous. It was fantastic memories of my girls wrapped in blankets in August and seeing snow on the mountains in August. It was fun! What more can you ask for? Nothing in my book. My girls are only young for a short time and this is just the kind of thing I want to do with them and the time I want to invest in them. Perfection…so you can see why I love road trips and why I’m so excited about this planner!
I hope you will have the courage to take your kids(or yourself) on a road trip. It doesn’t have to be a month-long like ours. It could be a weekend or a week long. It really doesn’t matter. It is the fun and the places you go and most importantly the people you are with that matter. Start with a great a plan and go from there….have the courage to change plans and go with the fun and the road.
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