How to Plan a Road Trip With Multiple Stops

Pick places you don't want to miss, but embrace spontaneity, too.
Pick places you don't want to miss, but embrace spontaneity, too. (Image: michaelquirk/iStock/Getty Images)

Hitting the road is more popular than flying the friendly skies. According to the U.S. Travel Association, 79 percent of leisure trips are made by car instead of by plane. A road trip doesn't require rigid itineraries and perfectly planned stops. Indeed, part of what makes taking to the open road so satisfying is that you can pull off the road as many times as you want, at any time that seems right. Just get input in advance from all your travel companions so you don't miss stops important to someone.

Plan Your Route

Start with your beginning and ending point, and then create a route between those two places. Choose a popular road trip route, such as Route 1 up the west coast, with California stops in San Diego, Malibu, Big Sur and Pebble Beach, or the famous Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles. Or, create your own route by pinpointing which cities, states and attractions you want to stop and see. Carve out a specific number of miles per day that you will drive. Don't attempt to do too much in one day, and leave yourself time for exploring.

Find a Map

A map or a road atlas will keep you on track and show you the multiple stops you plan to make. If you don't want to pack a paper map, all you need is a smart phone. There are a number of resources online including Google Maps and MapQuest that can show you where you are and where you're going. Download an app that can help you estimate mileage and timing between stops and even suggest a few roadside attractions. According to Conde Nast Traveler, Roadside America has one of the best apps for road trippers. The free RoadNinja app will tell you what's coming up at each exit, so you can easily find food, restrooms and gas from one stop to the next.

Anticipate Accommodations

Whether or not you book accommodations in advance or simply stop when you're ready depends on your travel personality. Making hotel reservations between your starting and ending point is a good idea when you know exactly where you'll be stopping every night. If you want to maintain a little flexibility and spontaneity, leave it open and pick a new place to sleep near each planned stop. There are plenty of roadside hotel chains off the major highways, or you can try local camp sites.

Pack Smart

Comfort and functionality are important when you're packing for a road trip with multiple stops, and it starts with your vehicle. Drive something that provides enough room for everyone traveling and gives you great gas mileage. Finding laundry services on your road trip might not be easy, so pack enough fresh clothing to get you through the trip. Remember that the climate may change when you're stopping in multiple places, so check the weather ahead of time and pack for all possible conditions. Pillows and blankets will come in handy when naps are needed, and packing a cooler full of snacks and drinks will keep down costs and convenience store stops.

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