Planning a Road Trip

by | Road Trips

Where to Start!

Have you ever wanted to take a road trip but don’t really know where to start with planning? Where will you go? What will you do?

Sometimes it can be overwhelming to begin making your itinerary, but fear not! Here are a few things that may help:

1. First decide where your final destination of the road trip will be.

Is there a certain place you’re trying to get to? Start with that! Once you know the furthest place you will go, then you can start planning what you will do along the way. I have found this to be the best method because you can look up the fastest route to get to your final destination and what cool hikes, camping spots, etc are along that route. Then you can break up your trip and see other places along the way, too!

2. Create a Google Map

Creating a Google Map is amazing because you can mark your driving route, mark places you’d like to go and even share your map with other people so that they can add to it.

Screenshot of a google maps interface showing a road trip route marked with blue line and various waypoints from vancouver, canada, to san diego, usa.
Road Trip from San Diego to Monument Valley, Canada

The map above was for our most recent road trip from San Diego to our final destination: Monument Valley. As you can see, our fastest driving route is marked and there are quite a few outlier destinations marked along the way. This way, you can see how far from the general route these places will be and what places you will visit first.

There is also a legend on the side so that you can customize what you mark whether it’s a trail, campsite, place to eat, etc. This keeps your ideas organized and you can have a general idea of where you will be headed. Plus, you can pull up your map on your smartphone anytime you want to look at it!

Search for Hiking Trails, places to see, campsites etc.

Next comes the fun part: deciding where you will stop along the way! When we go on road trips, we spend most of our time hiking and camping instead of visiting museums or going to cool restaurants since we have Cosmo with us. There are two websites/apps that are very helpful in finding where to go.

First is Outbound Collective. This website allows you to search for different activities and adventures all around the globe. People write articles on their experiences, tips, what to bring etc. It is super helpful and often allows you to find places and trails that are not as well known.

Second is All Trails. I absolutely love this app to help find hiking trails. You can search for trails in specific areas and even filter your search to be more specific. I always select “dog-friendly” as one of the filters so I can make sure Barley will be allowed  You can select a trail and this type of page will appear. It gives you information about how long the hike is, if it is rated easy, moderate or hard, the amount of elevation gain, and even directions to help you get to the trailhead.

There are also reviews at the bottom from people who have been there as well as any pictures people have posted. One thing I REALLY love about this app is even if you are hiking in a place without cell phone reception, you can open the app if you’ve already searched for a trail and see your location on the trail (that map with the red line) and how much farther you have to go!

The last way you can get idea on where to go is by searching on social media. We find a lot of great places through friends that we follow on Instagram or by looking at geotags and asking people who have been and posted photos!

* A friendly reminder that most National Parks in the United States are not dog friendly or have very limited dog-friendly options (check their websites for specifics). Something you can do if you wanted to go to a NP is to look for hikes just outside of the parks because the scenery will look very similar, dogs are allowed and it will likely be less busy!

And now for my last very important piece of advice…

4. Keep your Plans loose and don’t set anything in stone.

As much as we want our plans to go perfectly and for everything to be smooth sailing, how often does this actually happen? Not very often. So have a loose plan to follow, but if things don’t go exactly how you expect, that’s okay! Make the best of it.

One thing I have learned from going on a few road trips is that sometimes the best adventures are the ones you don’t plan in advance. The first road trip we took was to Utah and Arizona. We had no places booked to stay; all we had was a list of dog-friendly hikes and places we wanted to see. For anyone who knows me, this sounds crazy because I love to have a plan and know exactly what we will do when. But you know what? It turned out to be the most AMAZING trip ever!

Vivid sunset reflecting on a calm lake with silhouetted mountains in the background.
Amazing Sunrise at Lake Powell

We met up with some friends the first day who recommended that we car camp at Lake Powell. So, you know what we did? We car camped at Lake Powell and woke up to the most beautiful sunrise we had ever witnessed. 

So, my advice for all of you is to have an idea of where to go and what to see, but leave your options open. Be willing to go somewhere someone recommends last minute, stop at that awesome place you see signs for but that wasn’t on your list, and enjoy every single minute of it!

– Michaela


If you have enjoyed reading this please check out another Blog – Hiking with your Dog or Camping in Alabama Hills