How to Plan a Driving Trip

How to Plan a Driving Trip
According to an MSNBC story, even during the period of high gas prices in the summer of 2004, Americans still took road trips in record numbers. The driving trip is a part of many citizens' lives in this country. It can be a great way to explore other regions, national parks, distant towns or even local hideaways. If you are planning a driving trip, the keys to success are proper route preparations, accommodation bookings and car maintenance.

Instructions

Difficulty: Moderately Easy

Things You’ll Need:
  • U.S. road map
  • U.S. road map
Step 1
Choose a time frame for the trip. You may not want to spend the entirety of your vacation days on a road trip. It's always helpful to have a buffer on either side--a day of freedom from work to gather the final provisions for the trip and a day or so after the trip to relax and mentally prepare for a return to work. The desired length of your trip plays a role in all subsequent decisions, and choosing the time frame first prevents you from trying to cram too much into the trip.
Step 2
Choose the final destination. A region, such as the Midwest, is too wide an area to be adequate as a destination. You do not want to end the journey just anywhere. The final stop may not be the most important or exciting part of the trip, but it should be somewhat interesting and rewarding.
Step 3
Pick intermediate checkpoints. Once you have the beginning and end points, you can look at a U.S. map and find interesting stops between them. You may not want to choose every stopping point, as some spontaneity along the way can be fun, but if you have a rough estimate of some hot spots--maybe the White House, Graceland, or Disney World--it will assist you in the next step.
Step 4
Plan the route. This will be relatively easy once you have chosen a destination and some intermediate points. AAA offers a mapping service called TripTik that gives you a series of smaller maps for each day of travel, and AAA representatives will often help you find good stopping points and accommodations. There are also sites, such as FreeTrip.com, that map the entire trip for you free of charge, even offering lodging suggestions and local attractions.
Step 5
Map the return route. Follow steps 3 and 4 to accomplish this. Do not go back the same way you came, as the drive home can be a journey in itself. You may want to front-load the trip with more activities and take a somewhat more direct route home, as fatigue and the desire to return home will likely increase on the back half of the trip.
Step 6
Book accommodations. Especially in bigger cities and on weekends, it is important to reserve the hotels or campsites beforehand. For small towns, particularly during the week, it might be okay to wing it, but you are more likely to suffer price gouging in bigger cities if you didn't price shop from the comfort of your home.
Step 7
Pack clothes and provisions. If you do not plan on doing laundry, be sure to bring enough changes of clothes, especially underwear and socks.
Step 8
Tune up the car. This is one of the most important steps, because dealing with a broken-down car in the wrong part of the country is expensive, not to mention the cost of plane tickets if it cannot be repaired. Have your mechanic give your vehicle a full tune-up.

Tips & Warnings

 
You should have a credit card with at least a couple thousand dollars of available credit for emergencies. An auto club membership, such as through AAA, is relatively inexpensive and certainly worth it if you run into any car trouble along the way. Bring activities for the car to help pass the driving time. There will not always be spectacular sights to see as you travel, so car games, music and audiobooks can be welcome distractions.
 
You should have a credit card with at least a couple thousand dollars of available credit for emergencies.
 
An auto club membership, such as through AAA, is relatively inexpensive and certainly worth it if you run into any car trouble along the way.
 
Bring activities for the car to help pass the driving time. There will not always be spectacular sights to see as you travel, so car games, music and audiobooks can be welcome distractions.

Article Written By Ray Dallas

Ray Dallas graduated with majors in journalism and English. While in Florida, he wrote freelance articles for "The Alligator" and was the copy editor and a writer for "Orange & Blue." Since moving to California, Dallas has worked as a script reader and for a talent manager, as well as taking numerous industry odd jobs.

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