How to Plan a Road Trip with Friends: Your Quick 10-Minute Guide

Learn how to plan a road trip in just 10 minutes! Our expert tips on everything from what to pack and where to find discounts will make your journey a breeze.

How to Plan a Road Trip with Friends: Your Quick 10-Minute Guide

Question: How to plan a road trip?

Answer: Gahhhhhhhh.

Indeed, they can be the most fun way to travel—just ask Ted & Marshall!

But the numerous details that go into planning road trips can make it into a huge headache! Or, that was the case before you stumbled onto this blog!

The memories you make with friends or loved ones during such trips will remain evergreen. They can help bring you closer to each other, understand your mates better, and make you realize you can depend on one another.

But what if you could save those memories forever? Capture amazing pictures with your lifelong friends and relive them years later? We’re sure you realize how powerful nostalgia can be. That’s why we’ll help you do both—immortalize your memories & plan your road trip in under ten minutes.

Ready? Let’s start tripping!

TLDR

  • Road trips can strengthen the foundations of relationships & friendships.
  • You should have a record of the time spent on such journeys.
  • Planning trips can be a hassle unless you keep reading!

What to look forward to in this blog

  • Planning Your Road Trip
  • The Day of Travel
  • During the Trip
  • Tips on How to Plan a Road Trip

Planning Your Road Trip

Plan now and enjoy later! The pre-planning phase is essential for every trip, no matter how big or small. That’s because trip planning helps reduce anxiety, fuel wastage, driving time, and loss of time spent looking for suitable options. It’s also eco-friendly!

Don’t want to sweat the details? No worries, we share sample road trips planned below:

#1 Destination Exploration

  • Research potential destinations based on interests and distance.
  • Consider factors like attractions, outdoor activities, and local cuisine.

We’ve created several samples below to make learning how to plan a road trip even easier for you:

1. West Coast Explorer: Seattle, Washington, to San Diego, California

  • Route: Start in Seattle, WA, and drive south along the scenic Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 101) to San Diego, CA.
  • Best Time to Take the Trip: Late spring to early fall for pleasant weather.
  • Attractions:
    • Space Needle (Seattle)
    • Oregon Coast (Astoria, Cannon Beach)
    • San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge
    • Los Angeles' Hollywood Walk of Fame
    • San Diego Zoo

Fancy a trip to the beach? Turn it into a photoshoot with our beach photography tips!

2. Historic Route 66: Chicago, Illinois, to Santa Monica, California

  • Route: Follow the iconic Route 66 from Chicago, IL, to Santa Monica, CA.
  • Best Time to Take the Trip: Late spring to early fall for comfortable weather.
  • Attractions:
    • Chicago's Millennium Park
    • Gateway Arch (St. Louis)
    • Cadillac Ranch (Amarillo, TX)
    • Grand Canyon (AZ)
    • Santa Monica Pier

Look your best and rocking self if you’ll be springing by Coachella with these useful tips!

3. Great Lakes Adventure: Chicago, Illinois, to Acadia National Park, Maine

  • Route: Start in Chicago, IL, and follow the Great Lakes coastline east to Acadia National Park, ME.
  • Best Time to Take the Trip: Summer or early fall for mild weather.
  • Attractions:
    • Great Lakes museums and lighthouses
    • Niagara Falls (New York)
    • Adirondack Mountains (New York)
    • White Mountains (New Hampshire)
    • Acadia National Park

4. Desert Southwest Wonders: Las Vegas, Nevada, to Santa Fe, New Mexico

  • Route: Begin in Las Vegas, NV, and drive through the stunning desert landscapes to Santa Fe, NM.
  • Best Time to Take the Trip: Late spring to early fall for comfortable weather.
  • Attractions:
    • The Las Vegas Strip
    • Grand Canyon National Park (AZ)
    • Antelope Canyon (AZ)
    • Petrified Forest National Park (AZ)
    • Santa Fe's historic plaza

5. Southern Charm and History: Charleston, South Carolina, to New Orleans, Louisiana

  • Route: Start in Charleston, SC, and travel through the historic South to New Orleans, LA.
  • Best Time to Take the Trip: Spring or fall for pleasant weather and festivals.
  • Attractions:
    • Historic district of Charleston
    • Savannah's Forsyth Park (Georgia)
    • Natchez Trace Parkway (Mississippi)
    • French Quarter (New Orleans)
    • Plantation tours along the Mississippi River

You may have noticed, fall can be the best time for a road trip in many parts of the US. Don’t forget to check out our expert photography tips on how to fully capture its colorful majesty!

#2 Itinerary Sketch

  • Roughly outline a daily itinerary to avoid overplanning. Use road trip planners to define itineraries into full-fledged plans.
  • Besides drive time, allocate time for sightseeing, short breaks, and rest stops.

For instance, your list of things to do on a road trip centered on Southern Charm and History may look something like this:

  • Day 1: Begin in Charleston, explore the historic district, and dine on Lowcountry cuisine.
  • Day 2: Drive to Savannah, Georgia, visit Forsyth Park, and enjoy pralines.
  • Day 3: Head to Jekyll Island, Georgia, for beachcombing and relaxation.
  • Day 4: Drive through the Natchez Trace Parkway in Mississippi, stopping at historic sites.
  • Day 5: Arrive in New Orleans, Louisiana, explore the French Quarter, and savor Creole and Cajun dishes.
  • Day 6: Take a steamboat cruise on the Mississippi River and visit nearby plantations.

#3 Accommodation Selection

  • Choose accommodations according to preferences and budget.
  • Book in advance for better deals and availability, especially in peak seasons.

Focus on the following factors when picking a place to stay:

  1. Location: Pick spots near your route or attractions.
  2. Amenities: Check for must-haves like Wi-Fi, parking, or breakfast.
  3. Reviews: Read traveler reviews online for insights.
  4. Cancellation: Know the cancellation policies.
  5. Size: Ensure it suits your group's needs.
  6. Accessibility: Check for accessibility features.
  7. Local Charm: Consider unique, local options.
  8. Dining: Check for nearby dining options.
  9. Pet Policies: Traveling with pets? Find pet-friendly places!
  10. Check-In/Out: Align with your travel schedule.
  11. Rewards Programs: Join hotel rewards programs for benefits.
  12. Safety: Choose places in safe neighborhoods.

On your own? Your safety is of paramount importance. Use our guide to ensure that!

For instance, here are some good places to stay for those on a Las Vegas, Nevada, to Santa Fe, New Mexico trip:

  • The Venetian Resort, Las Vegas: A great choice for experiencing the Las Vegas Strip without breaking the bank. It has a beautiful Venetian-style hotel with a casino, a spa, and several restaurants.
  • Grand Canyon Railway Hotel, Williams: A more affordable option that’s also near the park, so you can take the train to the Grand Canyon.
  • Miraval Resort & Spa, Sedona: Stunning views of the red rocks with amenities, like spas, golf courses, and hiking trails.
  • View Hotel, Kayenta: The Monument Valley itself doesn’t have hotels or lodges, but there are several campgrounds. That said, if you stay at the View Hotel, you’ll still be close to the park.
  • Inn of the Five Graces, Santa Fe: A charming inn that’s located in the historic downtown area. You’ll also be able to enjoy a variety of amenities, including spas, restaurants, and art galleries.

#4 Route Mapping

  • Plan the route using GPS navigation tools or map apps.
  • Identify alternative routes in case of road closures or unexpected detours.

So for instance, you can use Google Maps for your Historic Route 66 road trip planning:

  • Open Google Maps
  • Type "Historic Route 66: Chicago, Illinois, to Santa Monica, California" in the search bar and select the route from Chicago to Santa Monica.
  • The map will show the entire route of Historic Route 66, along with the major towns and cities along the way.
  • You can zoom in and out of the map to see more detail.
  • To add stops to your itinerary, click on the "+" button and select "Places".
  • You can search for specific places, or browse through the list of suggested places.
  • Once you have added all of your stops, click on the "Plan" button to generate a route.
  • Google Maps will calculate the distance and estimated driving time for your route.
  • You can also view the elevation profile of your route.

#5 Packing Essentials

  • Create a checklist for clothing, toiletries, and personal items.
  • Pack versatile outfits suitable for various activities and weather conditions.

The Day of Travel

#1 Vehicle Check

  • Perform a final vehicle inspection, including fluid levels and tire pressure.
  • Fill up the gas tank and ensure all necessary documents are on hand.

#2 Last-Minute Packing

  • Pack perishable snacks and drinks for the journey.
  • Double-check that all essentials are loaded into the vehicle.

Pro tip: Having a pre-made list will make this a lot easier!

#3 Navigation Setup

  • Set up the GPS or navigation app before departure. Download the itinerary on Maps so it works even without signals.
  • Familiarize yourself with the planned route and any possible detours.

#4 Emergency Kit

  • Pack your routine meds
  • Have contact information for roadside assistance and emergency services.

Your emergency kit should have:

  • A first-aid kit: Bandages, antibiotic ointment, pain relievers, and anti-diarrhea and motion sickness medication.
  • Basic tools: Screwdrivers, pliers, and wrenches.
  • Flashlight
  • Jumper cables
  • Road flares or reflective triangles
  • Warning vest
  • Water: A gallon of water per person is recommended to keep in your car in case you get stranded.
  • Food: Non-perishable food, such as granola bars and trail mix
  • Sunscreen
  • Insect repellent
  • Basic car maintenance items: Such as a tire pressure gauge, a spare tire, and a jack.
  • Map and compass
  • Phone charger

During the Trip

You’re off to your destination! Great — just a few pointers for when you’re on the road.

#1 Scheduled Breaks

  • Take regular breaks to stretch, rest, and enjoy the scenery.
  • Utilize rest stops for quick meals and bathroom breaks.

#2 Exploration Opportunities

  • Be open to spontaneous detours to explore intriguing sights.
  • Engage with locals to discover hidden gems and local culture.
  • Start snapping pictures & creating wonderful memories.
  • Prevent losing spur-of-the-moment pictures by bulk uploading them to DropEvent.

#3 Snacks and Hydration

  • Keep a supply of healthy snacks and stay hydrated throughout the trip.
  • Limit caffeine intake to avoid disrupting sleep patterns.

Tips on How to Plan a Road Trip

#1 Flexibility Matters

  • Embrace changes and adapt to unexpected circumstances.
  • Allow for extra time in the itinerary for impromptu stops.
  • Switch drivers if traveling long distances to prevent fatigue.

Another suggestion from our collection of useful road trip tips: Engage in car games to make the journey more interactive:

  • I Spy: Pick an object, give a clue, and let others guess.
  • 20 Questions: Guess an object with yes/no questions.
  • License Plate Game: Spot different state plates.
  • Road Trip Bingo: Mark off items on bingo cards.
  • Alphabet Game: Find words for each letter in order.

These games make road trips a lot more enjoyable!

#2 Local Cuisine Experience

Indulge in regional foods and specialties along the route:

1. West Coast Explorer: Seattle, Washington, to San Diego, California

  • Pacific Northwest seafood (e.g., salmon, Dungeness crab)
  • San Francisco sourdough bread and clam chowder
  • California's farm-to-table cuisine
  • Fish tacos in San Diego

2. Historic Route 66: Chicago, Illinois, to Santa Monica, California

  • Chicago-style deep-dish pizza
  • Barbecue in Texas and Oklahoma
  • New Mexican cuisine (e.g., green chile stew)
  • Santa Monica Seafood

3. Great Lakes Adventure: Chicago, Illinois, to Acadia National Park, Maine

  • Chicago-style hot dogs and deep-dish pizza
  • Buffalo Wings (New York)
  • Vermont maple syrup
  • Maine lobster rolls and blueberry pie

4. Desert Southwest Wonders: Las Vegas, Nevada, to Santa Fe, New Mexico

  • Las Vegas buffets and gourmet dining
  • Southwestern cuisine (e.g., tamales, green chile stew)
  • Navajo tacos (Arizona/Utah)
  • Santa Fe's New Mexican cuisine

5. Southern Charm and History: Charleston, South Carolina, to New Orleans, Louisiana

  • Lowcountry cuisine (e.g., shrimp and grits)
  • Savannah's pralines
  • Mississippi catfish and hushpuppies
  • New Orleans' Creole and Cajun dishes (e.g., gumbo, jambalaya)

#3 Document Memories

Capture photos and videos to document the trip's highlights using DropEvent because:

  • It keeps your uploads organized.
  • You can use it to set up slideshows for friends later.
  • Sharing is easy as pie with QR codes & links.
  • You can pluck photos for post-editing from your DE album quickly.

Summing it Up

It’s time you stopped letting the hard work of how to plan a road trip make you forget how memorable they can be. Instead, imagine how awesome you’ll feel when revisiting those moments by going through family pictures from the trip.

Our advice? Use this guide to set up one in under ten minutes. Then embark on a joyous journey and come back with loads of pictures for your DE Road Trips Album. You can create one here before you get on the road!

FAQs

1. How to plan a road trip on a budget?

Plan a road trip on a budget by choosing affordable destinations, minimizing dining out, and considering camping or budget accommodations.

You can also use apps to seek discounts and plan a fuel-efficient route, such as:

  • GasBuddy: Crowdsourced gas prices, so you can find the cheapest gas near you. It also has a fuel-efficient routing.
  • Roadtrippers: Calculate gas mileage and fuel-efficient routing.
  • Waze: Navigate with real-time traffic data, avoid traffic jams, and find the fastest and most fuel-efficient routes.
  • AAA TripTik: AAA members can enjoy fuel-efficient routing and cashbacks at participating gas stations.

2. How to plan hotel stops on a road trip?

Figuring out how to plan stops on a road trip gets easier when you research the hotels in advance, read reviews, and book the best rates. Consider loyalty programs and discounts, and aim for hotels with parking and breakfast.

3. How do I prepare for a perfect road trip?

Plan the perfect road trip by focusing on:

  • The route
  • Packing essentials (clothing, snacks, maps, first aid)
  • Performing car maintenance
  • Bringing your own entertainment (music, games)
  • Planning for emergencies (tools, chargers)

4. How do you plan a trip step by step?

Plan a trip step by step in this way:

  • Choose a destination and anchor dates
  • Research the 3 A’s, i.e., attractions, accommodations, and activities
  • Create a budget and itinerary
  • Book accommodations and activities
  • Pack essentials
  • Prepare your vehicle

5. How to plan a cross-country road trip?

When planning a cross-country road trip, do this:

  • Select the route and destinations.
  • Plan stops for rest, food, and attractions.
  • Research accommodations in advance.
  • Pack for various climates
  • Ensure your vehicle is in perfect condition.
  • Have a flexible schedule for unexpected adventures.

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