Road Trip Planning

We began planning our next trip not long after returning from the Pennsylvania, Virginia & North Carolina trip last October. Truth be told, I pull together an itinerary and seek approval from my wife- my travelling partner. Sometimes there are multiple versions involved.

Our trip planning has improved over the years. It’s as easy to plan too much as not enough, and finding the right balance can be elusive. The type of trip you’re planning is the first consideration, as trips involving airlines and other public conveyances require more rigor as travel times are out of your control.. Travelling by means and methods within your control are much more flexible.

I think this flexibility is why I prefer travelling by car- Road Trips. I love them, and always have. Any trip should include the experience of the travel itself. Boarding an aluminum tube at one airport and disembarking later at a similar terminal is a tedious, antiseptic and boring experience; the grit and grind (sometimes) of the road truly makes you feel that you’ve gone somewhere.

The journey needs to be part of the trip. Sometimes the journey is the best part of the trip. A few years ago we drove a rental from Denver on through New Mexico and Arizona on the way to the Grand Canyon. That trip was fun. More recently, we drove a loop in the Upper Midwest, exploring Duluth and northern Minnesota before travelling through Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, We then crossed Lake Michigan on the S.S Badger, which was a great way to break up the driving.

Another bonus to doing the driving yourself is a more flexible schedule. If you notice something en route that appears interesting, a diversion is possible. And with mobile technology being what it is, there is no shortage of restaurant and service station suggestions, or of other points of interest. Try it sometime: “Google, where’s the best barbeque within 20 miles?”.

For our road trips, we try to abide by a few basic rules:

  • Keep long-haul drives to a minimum. Usually the first day out and the last day home are the longest, and that’s okay. Other than that we try to keep travel efficient.
  • Try not to come back the way you went. Different routes as much as possible.
  • No fast food. We’ll hit up a supermarket for a picnic lunch before considering a drive-through. It’s better food and better for you.
  • Avoid chain hotels if possible. It’s easier to adhere to this rule in some areas, not so much in others. The best stays we’ve experienced have always been the one-off, sole proprietor type of establishments. Always different, and usually great times. 

The planning for a road trip considers the destinations, the time we want to spend at each, and the distance between them. We plan out the route, and the only anchor points are overnight accommodations, which we try to reserve ahead of time. Usually we make the reservations well before the trip begins, but there have been times where the situation was fluid enough where we booked something online a couple of hours before arriving at the property.

That’s pretty much it for road trip planning. We typically pull together lists of things we might be interested in seeing or doing at each of the destinations, but we don’t confine ourselves to them. Some of the best experiences come from the locals, so don’t hesitate to ask. I’ve found that the proprietors of the unique inns and hotels always have great local recommendations.

The last benefit of road tripping I’ll mention is the lack of baggage restrictions. If you need it and it’ll fit in the vehicle, it can go along without additional cost or hassle. I can’t play up this capability enough. We always have basic camping gear and a cooler along, and maybe a couple of camp chairs, like we did on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Instant picnic area wherever we might be at lunchtime! Fishing, camping or beach equipment- bring it if you need it. 

We still try to travel as lightly as possible. 

The next road trip will soon be upon us. “Warmer Climes” is the theme, gaining respite from the borderland winter the goal. We’ll be high-tailing it for the Southeastern US again, visiting Charleston and Savannah, both cities new to us, and also a few days in St. Augustine. We’ve been there before, and it’s a great city to visit. Version 3 of the itinerary has been approved, so we should be good to go!

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