Ultimate Road Trip Planner

Experience the freedom of the open road with this Ultimate Road Trip Planner. Find out what to do before you go, your road trip essentials, the best road trip apps, and more.

The Ultimate Road Trip Planner is your all-in-one resource to help you plan a road trip and enjoy the journey.

Are road trips in your travel plans? Lucky you! Planning a road trip is exciting. The freedom. The anticipation. The lure of adventure. It’s all part of the experience.

When you’re thinking of going on a road trip, it can be tempting to think you can simply jump in the car and GO. There’s a romanticized vision: the windows are down, the radio’s up, and you shout “see ya’ when I see ya'” to the neighbors as you head off towards the horizon, not a care in the world.

But then you realize you don’t have any idea where you’re going, you’re thirsty with nothing to drink, the battery on your phone dies, the radio station is filled with static, all the hotels are booked everywhere and you’ve got piles of trash at your feet, so you turn around and head back home with your taillights between your legs.

When you’re planning a road trip, planning should be the operative word. Checking off all the boxes before you will mean that you can have an adventure you’ll enjoy and one you’ll remember – for the right reasons.

Road trips are one of my passions, and after traveling thousands of miles and writing a few books, I’ve learned a thing or two. I’ve even spoken about road trips at the Travel and Adventure Show, the Chicago Auto Show, and several libraries.

You might say I’m obsessed.

That’s why I am eminently qualified, if I do say so myself, to help you plan your own adventure with this collection of guides to planning, and enjoying, a road trip. We’ll cover everything, from choosing destinations, to saving money, to making sure you all still like each other when you return. Traveling solo? I’ve got tips for you, too. 

The most important thing is to have fun, and by the time you’re done with this road trip planner, you’ll be ready to explore like the carefree road tripper you’ve always envisioned yourself to be.

Road leading into Zion National Park, one of the trips that led to this road trip planner
Road leading into Zion National Park

Ultimate Road Trip Planner

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Road Trip Prep: Before You Go

When you’re getting ready to hit the road, there are a few things you should take care of before you leave. These simple steps will take any worry off your mind so you can truly enjoy your road trip. 

Let someone know you’ll be gone

Before you leave let someone know that you’ll be gone and for how long. Even better if he or she can check in on your home every now and then, just to make sure the place doesn’t seem like it’s empty, even if it is.

Get a timer for your lights

Whether you’ve got a smart home, a digital timer, or just an old fashioned dial timer (what we have), setting the lights to turn on and off according to your regular pattern also keeps your home from seeming empty. This is particularly important when the days grow shorter.

Put your mail / paper on hold

If you’re going to be gone longer than a few days be sure to put your regular deliveries on hold. For one thing, if your letter carrier has to jam in this week’s circulars on top of last week’s they’ll be none too happy.

Clean out your refrigerator

Unless you’re running a science experiment, cleaning out your refrigerator before a long trip is a really, really good idea.

Take out the trash


Take your auto in for a checkup

Getting the tires checked, the oil changed, testing the battery, etc., will give you some priceless peace of mind before you head out.

Download music, apps, and podcasts

Take advantage of your home wifi to download your playlist and podcasts before you go. That way when you run into static-land you’ve got something to keep you entertained besides the passing scenery.

TLTip: Before you go, download GasBuddy. This free app helps you find the cheapest gas, roadside restaurants, and even bathrooms! Check out our GasBuddy guide to learn how to use this awesome tool.

Check for tolls

If you’re going to be driving near or through some big cities, check for tolls in advance. Unfortunately, there’s no nationwide system.

If you’re traveling in the Northeastern part of the country and Central Florida, an E-ZPass will work with most toll systems. California uses FasTrak, Colorado uses a different system, and Oklahoma has an orphaned 13.3-mile two-lane stretch.

Know Where You’re Going

GPS is an awesome tool, but it is just a tool. Take some stress out of the directions by mapping out your route ahead of time.

This will make sure you won’t be surprised when the voice in the phone tries to take you down that one-lane dirt road (it’s happened to me a few times!).

Historic Downtown Galena
Historic Downtown Galena Illinois

Ready to get started? Here you go!

Planning Your Road Trip

Ready to start planning your road trip? You'll find everything you need to plan a road trip below.

You might want to bookmark this page because I’ll keep adding more road trip planning articles. I’ll also include links to some of my favorite road trip destinations, so you can find travel inspiration as well as the nuts and bolts of planning.

Happy Travels!