A Beginner’s Guide for How to Plan a Road Trip

There’s something magical about being on the road, especially with friends and loved ones. You get to see all kinds of amazing places without the hassle of plane rides, airports, rental cars, and other annoyances. 

However, to plan a road trip is easier said than done, and it can be a real bummer if you don't know how. For example, it's a good idea to know where you want to go, and what to pack for a road trip.

Luckily, we've got you covered!

This article will go over everything and anything you need to know about how to plan a road trip. Then, you can make the most out of your four-wheel getaway. Let's get started.

What are the Steps to Plan a Road Trip?

If you want to know how to plan a road trip, you have to start with the basics. Here are the steps we recommend for planning a trip:

  • Pick a destination. This should always be your first step, because where you want to go determines what you’re going to do along the way. After all, if you’re heading to Yellowstone it doesn’t make a lot of sense to add a stop in Florida (unless you’re from Florida of course). 
  • Design a route. It’s easy enough to plan a road trip with google maps once you know your destination. First, see what the normal route from start to finish would be, and then look along your route for activities and places you want to visit. 
  • Give more time than you need. If you need days off work, take more than you need. Plan that extra time into your trip. You never know when your car might need an emergency stop, or when you’ll spend time on a spontaneous activity. 
  • Prepare your car. Make sure your car is in tip-top shape before you set off. Plus, do you have an SUV or a hatchback? While the type of car you have should never prevent you from going on a road trip, it does play a role in how you can pack or travel. An SUV or truck will allow you to pack more, but your gas will be more expensive. The opposite is true for hatchbacks and sedans. Also, remember that there are always ways to make more space in your car!
  • Pack, Pack, Pack. Of course, you don’t want to overpack, but there are some important things you’ll need besides the obvious clothes and bathroom supplies. Bring healthy snacks so you can avoid eating so much junk food on your trip. Also, remember to bring entertainment. Portable DVD players with headphones, MP3 players, books, etc. can make long drives more bearable. Knowing how to pack a backpack goes a long way. 


  • What is the best road trip planner?

    You can’t effectively know how to plan a road trip without a few road trip planner apps and websites. Fortunately, When it comes to road trip planners, there are plenty of options to choose from. Of course, you can always write down your steps and plants in a journal, but we also recommend these helpful apps and websites:

  • Furkot. This website lets you map out a road trip anywhere in the world. Also shows campsites, hotels, and more. 
  • Roadtrippers. This app also lets you plan your journey with several specific stops. 
  • Google maps. A great and simple tool for seeing what activities, hotels, and food is around. It even tells you about traffic. 
  • GasBuddy. Truly a lifesaver, this app helps you locate the cheapest gas stations on your route.
  • Waze. A helpful app that shows you how to avoid traffic, construction and more. 

  • How to Plan a Road Trip on Google Maps - How to Plan Out a Road Trip

    What to Pack For a Road Trip

    What to bring on a road trip is one of the first questions that comes to mind when planning. After all, you can’t know how to plan for a road trip if you don’t know what to pack for one. Luckily, we’ve compiled a detailed list of anything and everything you’ll need.

    How to Plan a Cross Country Road Trip - How to Plan a Road Trip - Long Road Trip Planning

    But first, you’ll need a road-trip backpack:

    The Sunny 16 Voyager

    Sunny 16 - The Voyager - Best Camera Backpack - Best Camera and Lens Backpack

    Before you hit the road, you’ll want to gear up with this amazing midsize backpack. It's super versatile for any kind of hiking, camping, or photography. By far, it's the best camera backpack for travel.

    This backpack packs a serious amount of gear for its size, fitting two DSLR cameras, up to seven lenses, a laptop, a tablet, and other accessories. It’s also made of a waterproof material, making it perfect for any of your travels, rain or shine.

    For comfort, this backpack features both padded shoulder straps and padding on the back made of light, breathable material. You’ll have comfort during extended periods of time wearing it, and keep cool when it’s hot out.

    Road Trip Packing Checklist

    How to Plan a Road Trip - How do you Plan a Road Trip - Long Road Trip Planning

    Like a camping checklist, you can use this list to check off all of the essentials you need so you don’t forget anything important! It’s a vital part of how to plan a road trip.

    Here’s our list:

    ☐ Driver’s License

    ☐ Car Registration and Insurance Information

    ☐ Spare tire

    ☐ Quart of Oil

    ☐ Jug of Coolant or Water

    ☐ Wiper Fluid

    ☐ First Aid Kit and Prescriptions

    ☐ Swiss army knife

    ☐ Car Charger and Portable Power Bank

    ☐ Garbage Bags

    ☐ Hand Sanitizer

    ☐ Napkins

    ☐ Umbrella

    ☐ Bug Spray

    ☐ Paper Money and Coins (For meters and tolls)

    ☐ Sweatshirt or sweater

    ☐ Rain Coat

    ☐ Blankets and travel pillow

    ☐ Sunglasses

    ☐ Travel Cup

    ☐ Jugs or bottles of water

    ☐ Towels

    ☐ Toothbrush and Toothpaste

    ☐ Rain Coat

    ☐ Cooler 

    ☐ Tupperware or ziplock bags

    ☐ Utensils


    How to Plan a Road Trip: Food

    How to Plan a Road Trip - How to Plan a Trip on Google Maps - What to Plan for a Road Trip

    If you want to know a few healthy snacks you can bring with you on your road trip don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Here’s how to plan a road trip, food edition:

    ☐ Granola Bars

    ☐ Cereal

    ☐ Protein/Energy Bars

    ☐ Dried Fruit

    ☐ Nuts

    ☐ Cheese Sticks

    ☐ Chocolate

    ☐ Fresh Fruit & Veggies

    ☐ Hummus

    ☐ Sliced Bread

    ☐ Crackers

    ☐ Peanut/Almond/Sunflower Butter

    ☐ Jam

    How to Plan a Road Trip FAQ

  • How many hours a day should I drive on a road trip?
  • While it’s possible to drive up to 8-12 hours per day, you should stop once every 2 hours. Not only will this allow you to rest, eat and maintain your car, but it’ll also give you a chance to do more activities on your route. 

  • How much does a road trip usually cost?
  • This depends heavily on how far you’re going, what season it is, what activities you do and what kind of car you have. Gas prices are also generally cheaper in the winter. However, the average road trip across America costs a little over $2,000, and takes at least 16 days. 

    I want to Plan a Road Trip - How to Plan a Road Trip - How to Plan a Road Trip Across the US

    Up Next: How to Become a Travel Photographer

    Now that you know how to plan a road trip, you’re ready to hit the road! Let us know in the comments where you plan on trekking next.

    And, if you want to learn more about how to take professional photos on your trip, check out our article on how to become a travel photographer. 


    Up Next: How to Become a Travel Photographer →

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