Hi Everyone! I’m really excited to bring this post to you all today because, I’m not sure if you know this, but next month I’m heading out to California with my boyfriend Scott and two of our best friends. We are doing a road trip from San Francisco to Las Vegas and it will officially be not only the longest road trip that I’ve ever done, but it will be completely different to anything that I’ve ever done before as we’re stretching the road trip across two weeks, and almost every single night we will be stopping in a different city.
This is something that I’ve been excited for so long, when I got back from Florida in March we were already knees deep in planning this, and I’ve definitely taken on a lot of responsibility when it came to figuring out our schedules, trips and plans for getting from point A to point B, C and D. It had all pretty much been left to me, so I thought that I would summarise the experience of planning a road trip like this in a blog post, to go over what I’ve learnt, what I’ve done right (and wrong!), and what I’d prioritise in the future.
If you have never planned a road trip, this is sort of like a crash course into how I planned mine, as a resource online as I never really found one when I started the process for next month’s trip. (And it would have not only been quite useful, but it would’ve saved a chunk of time for me!)
Road Trip Research
Research, when it comes to anything, is always the most important step. You need to get deep into figuring out where you’re going, what you’re doing: read blog posts from people who have driven the same route, or people who are local to the area(s). Pinterest is an amazing resource for travel tips: there are so many incredible things on Pinterest that we take for granted and don’t utilise to its full potential. Get a sense of what you’re doing, where you’re going. Is there anything you need to be aware of on your route? Are there any road closures, any point during your road trip where you might face extreme traffic? Just so that you have a picture in your mind of where you’re going, from point A to point B.
Using resources like Pinterest to research tips, tricks and routes from people who have done the same journey is a great place to start.
Break Down the Trip
When it comes to any project big or small, personally I always find it easier to break it down into little chunks that I can digest a bit at a time. So, for a road trip, the best way to do that is by breaking it down into daily categories. Focus on a day at a time: what are you doing the first day? Are you doing any driving, how many miles? Where are you going, what are you up to? Where are you staying? Things like that. Take each day as it comes, figure out in a more segmented way rather than trying to deal with the entire process all at once. Take the information and organise it into whatever format works best for you. I always geek out a little bit when it comes to organisation: if you’ve seen my editorial calendar post, you’ll already know that I get a little excited when it comes to organising charts and stuff (oh dear). You can put it into a Word document, a spreadsheet or calendar: visually I’d say make it as engaging as you can. Something that you understand and can easily get the information you need from glancing at it. Nothing too overwhelming.
Use free online suites like Google’s Sheets or Documents or Apple’s Pages or Numbers to draft an itinerary and share it via the cloud with all trip members so you can work from one document together!
My third point is to be realistic over how much distance you can cover per day. Factor in your excursions, your activities and travel in place. I am definitely guilty of being one of those people who, when they plan a trip, for some reason think that time will stop when they’re at their destination and they can do everything that they want to do. The amount of things that is on my list to do in San Francisco is a little bit scary considering that we’re only in the city for 2-3 days maximum. Really be harsh with yourself here. Figure out worst case scenarios: how much time you can allot to each place per day. Are you doing an activity in the morning? How long will that take? Don’t forget travel time to get there, if it’s busy or there’s been an accident. So many things happen, so give yourself the allotted time so that you’re not stressed on the trip. After all your holiday, especially road trip holidays, should be enjoyable and an experience that you remember for the right reasons – not because you were stressing out that you couldn’t fit your schedule into your day.
Toggle Google Map’s ‘Leave Later’ function to work out average journey times throughout the day, and calculate the length of time altogether for travel, activities and eating!
Pick Your Accommodation
I have actually done a post that I’ll link right here about finding cheap accommodation while you’re travelling, which has some really good pointers for you. For this trip, my friends and I decided to strictly stay in AirBnB’s (click here for FREE £25/$30 travel credit using my referral!). For us, they were cheaper, we wanted to feel more local and we wanted to see a side of California that we didn’t think we’d have been able to experience from the hotels. Once I start publishing the travel guides, I will be linking every AirBnB that we visited so that you guys can check them out and see if you like them too. But, that was just our personal preference and you might prefer hotels, or you might want to mix it up between hotels and AirBnBs. Whatever it is, check the market. Make sure that you don’t just go to one resource and then call it a day: check Expedia, Trivago, Monmodo, Google. Check all the resources you can get your hands on and compare prices as they’re changing constantly. Especially if you’re using a website like Booking.com where, once you’ve booked five places in a row, you’ll be offered numerous discounts and additional extras for free as part of their Genius programme. That’s fantastic if you’re booking a road trip, since you’ll probably easily book five places and then you’re eligible for loads of free stuff like excursions and shuttles and things that could come very handy in your trip.
Use sites like Booking.com that offer loyalty scheme discounts after booking 5 places to quickly save money while booking accommodation, excursions and flights!
Bring All the Information Together
I use Google My Maps for this, which I didn’t even know was a thing until I planned this road trip. It’s essentially another version of Google Maps, that you can doodle on. You can set points, plan routes and then it will show you how long it will take you to get from pinpoint A to B, C and D – and then you can save the route to access or edit again later. It gives you the ability to plan a route that you can literally see, and you can make sure that you’re not doubling back on yourself or going out the way of where you want to be.
Use Google My Maps to plan out a visual route, with each point marked on the map. Share that between trip members so you all have a clear visual of the journey.
These are the key pillars that I used while planning this road trip. And although there was a lot of back and forth between planning activities, itineraries and travel days – it’s ultimately been such a fun experience that I can’t wait to live out next month. Officially, we’re driving from San Francisco to Los Angeles and then to Las Vegas, and we’re then flying back to San Francisco from Las Vegas before our flight back home to Manchester at the beginning of October.
I can’t wait to share with you guys what the journey is like, and little travel diaries from each place we visit – you can check out my posts from travelling the USA right here, and can keep up to date with my journey over on my Instagram (also, I’d always appreciate a quick follow! Ha ha!)
As always, thank-you so much for reading. I’d love to know, if you could road trip anywhere in the world, where would you go?
What’s your dream road trip?
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