Last week we spent a few days planning our next road trip. How much planning we do for any given road trip often depends on a handful of factors: time frame, budget and if we already have a set of places to go in mind.
This particular trip: we only have 7 days, a limited budget and at least three major stops already planned. We are also traveling to a part of the country that can have areas of no civilization / cell service. Because of all of these factors, we are planning a little more detailed than usual. We aren’t calling ahead for hotels or campsites, but are making lists with addresses and phone numbers for possible places to stay which means by the time we leave we should have a good idea of how far we will be driving each day and what our itinerary looks like.
The last time we went on a big road trip, I didn’t have a smart phone. We didn’t really use a lot of apps or even websites to plan, other than Google Maps. We just kind of drove and saw what we saw. Since then I’ve discovered a bunch of fun websites and apps to help us plan and so I decided to write this post letting you know about them!
Google Maps is a big one. With the website, you can put in multiple destinations and get a general idea of driving time (both total and between one location and the next), possible routes and a good far away look at what your route looks like.
Roadside America started to come into play for us after our first big trip. Once we saw how much craziness there is to be seen in America, we wanted to find more of it. This website is the ultimate list of World’s Largest and other awesome and nutty things/places you can see across this fine country. Choose a state and search by town, choose a map and trace your route, search for something specific – how you search is up to you. What’s also great about this site is that people chime in and update each listing so that others can know if an attraction has shut down or moved or expanded and enlarged.
RoadTrippers is fairly new (at least to us) and amazes me in so many ways. You can put in your route (with multiple destinations) then choose what you want to see on the map (attractions, places to stay, restaurants etc) and little dots will appear along your route telling you what of those locations is nearby. It also estimates distance and hours to be traveled as well as how much gas will cost (although our estimate for this trip seems a bit high). I love using this website in conjunction with others, but I don’t think I would use just it alone. The places to stay seem to be limited to quirky not chain and although that is nice sometimes, others you just need a Best Western. Overall, though, I found some fun unique places to see for our trip through this website!
TripAdvisor is great for hotel reviews. I always make sure to read some of the good ones and some of the bad to find the truth in reviews.
As for phone apps, I’m limited. RoadTrippers and Roadside America both have apps but they are unfortunately only available for Apple devices. Both Matt and I have Android phones. However, I will definitely be using GasBuddy and am on the search for any other handy apps. Will update if I find anything else great!
Books and Other Helpful Things
GPS – we will be using our Garmin GPS for most of our journey. We used it on our Honeymoon and it worked beautifully. Google Maps on our phones may also come in handy if we need to detour or something goes wrong. We will also have an actual paper road atlas in case we lose cell / GPS signal.
AAA – I always stop by AAA and pick up a couple maps and travel guides for the places we will be going. It’s free with your membership.
The Next Exit – this book is awesome. It’s so helpful and easy to use that I recommend anyone that ever travels by car have one in their back seat. Most times I find it easier to use this book than the GPS. It has all the restaurants, gas and hotels off of EVERY EXIT off of every major highway in the United States. It even tells you if something is only on one side of the highway (and what side). We have the 2012 edition and love it. If you are on the East Coast there is another similar book just for I-95 which is equally awesome.
What are your favorite tools for planning a road trip?