Kids these days have it SO easy.
When I was a young whipper snapper and we wanted to plan a road trip we had to use paper maps and physically go to the local AAA to pick up our TripTiks. We talked to travel agents – on a phone – that was plugged into a wall – and went to the bookstore and the library to learn about potential destinations. We had visitors’ guides mailed to us – in envelopes with stamps – and we had NO IDEA when they’d arrive.
Now the ease of planning a road trip is at your fingertips and it’s immediate. There are so many tools and apps that it’s almost harder to get lost than it is to find somewhere to go.
One of my favorites is Roadtrippers. Here’s everything you need to know to use this app to plan your road trip.
Related: How to choose road trip destinations
Using Roadtrippers to Plan a Road Trip
What is Roadtrippers.com?
Roadtrippers is a website and app that helps you plan road trips by allowing you to plot points on a map. It then calculates the best route between them and helps you find info about what’s along the route. With RoadTrippers you can:
- Quickly plan a route
- Calculate how much driving time your trip will take, both overall and between points of interest
- See how much gas will cost based on your vehicle and MPG
- Find nearby attractions, restaurants, and accommodations
- Map out gas stations and rest areas
- Find Tourist Information Centers, which are great for picking up paper maps and getting advice from locals
Roadtrippers launched in 2012, one year after my husband and I drove the Mother Road. It would have been incredible to have this resource available as a Route 66 itinerary planner, even with a route that was mapped out for us by definition.
Since then we’ve taken a few more cross-country road trips, and Roadtrippers has helped us plan them all.
How to use RoadTrippers to Plan Your Route
There are two main ways to use RoadTrippers to plan a route. The first is if you have no idea where you want to go; you just know that you want to take a road trip and you need inspiration. The second is when you have a starting point and a destination and you’re looking for the places in between.
1) As Inspiration
One of the coolest features of RoadTrippers is the existing trip guides. These are great for inspiration and include guides created by users as well as those posted by RoadTrippers.
There are Weird Guides, Scenic Drives, Outdoor Escapes, and Classic USA Road Trips. You can find America’s best tree house hotels, gems in the Pacific Northwest, and a road trip down the Atlantic coast.
Once you find one you like you can share it or add it to your account. While this is an easy way to find inspiration, there’s no way to filter the guides, so you have to browse based on general subject.
TLTip: Roadtrippers is expanding to countries besides the United States. You can now use it to plan itineraries in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
2) As a Vacation Trip Planner
This is how we use RoadTrippers to plan our cross-country road trips to research my books and it was an invaluable – and super cool – tool.
I began by adding our starting point, Elgin, and our destination, Oceanside, on the home page. This created a one-way trip with just two points.
Because we were going round trip, I added a second Elgin and moved it below Oceanside.
As you can see in the pictures below, it changed the length of time the trip would take, how much gas would cost, and how many miles we’d drive.
This was when it really got to be fun. I began adding destinations and points of interest that we knew we wanted to visit. Every time you add a spot, a little marker bounces on the map and then the route changes. It’s so cool!
You can also see how long it takes you to get from one point to the next. This feature becomes especially useful when planning a drive through the Southwest and through the mountains. That Texas panhandle looks deceivingly short in comparison to the rest of the state, but it takes a looooooooooooooooong time to drive through.
One of our big considerations was weather. We left in mid-February, and while the winter was mild, there was no telling what could happen so we headed south fairly quickly.
Our return trip took us through Utah and Colorado, but we stuck to the southern parts of those states for the same reason.
(Sometimes I’m realistic. Not often, but it happens. Sometimes.)
Adding a place you know you want to visit can open up possibilities you may not have considered until you see the route change on the map. For example, I knew I wanted to include the Salton Sea on our journey. When I added it, Roadtrippers took us through Yuma, so we spent some time there.
We also wanted to see several national parks, so we included them. Planning a road trip to Yellowstone became easier with this tool.
We continued to add and subtract as our plans finalized. With each plotted point, we could include a date and notes.
We used a good-old-fashioned bullet journal to keep track of confirmation numbers and contact info because we knew we’d be in places without any connection, but we could have used Roadtrippers as a repository and made it a full-fledged itinerary.
This was a good portion of our plan before we left. The return trip changed considerably, but we were able to modify it easily through the app.
Is Roadtrippers free?
Yes! You can create trips, save points of interest and book hotels and tours for free. The number of waypoints you can add to each trip has been reduced to eight in the free version.
This makes it useful for shorter hops, but if you plan on taking a longer trip, you’ll probably want to upgrade to Roadtrippers Plus.
What is Roadtrippers Plus?
Plus is a premium version that builds in a lot of functionality for a really low price. At $29.99 per year, you can add up to 150 waypoints, instead of being limited to sixty. There are no ads, and your maps are available offline, too.
It’s also more usable as a navigation tool, with live traffic on the map. One of the coolest upcoming features is their Points of Interest alerts. When you get close to a user-recommended location, the app will notify you.
When we take road trips, we want to go everywhere. Since that isn’t feasible, we use tools like the Roadtrippers app to help us narrow it down. It’s an amazing resource with a robust community, making planning a road trip easy, and can even introduce you to places you never would have considered before using it.
Thinking about taking an epic journey? Check out these free essential road trip apps before you go.