January 03, 2022

Road Trip Planning 101

Aleksandrs Buraks
Head of Growth at DiscoverCars.com

Road Trip Planning 101

By Aleksandrs Buraks | Published January 03, 2022
The road trip is a time-honored tradition that many dream about for a long time. Cruising down a back road with the radio up and feet out the window is quite the vibe. And it only takes a little planning for the trip to be one you remember for the rest of your life.

There are many destinations around the world that are fertile ground for a road trip. The American west — think Highway 61— may be the quintessential place to take a road trip. But Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Chile, Canada, and many other locations across the world also can be stunning places to drive through.

So pick your location, book a flight, and then book a rental car with enough space for your family or group and plenty of luggage. After that, you can get to planning the road trip itself.

Route Planning

Your first order of business after deciding where you are going to take a road trip will be to roughly plan the route. The key here is to make sure not to over plan and leave plenty of time for spontaneity.

You can start planning the route by finding the sites and activities you absolutely don't want to miss along the way. From there you can roughly plan where you will spend nights, whether that be in hotels or at campgrounds. Make sure the drive between the places you will sleep is reasonable. One or two days (for example at the beginning or end of the trip) with long drives may be preferable, but on every other day, try to keep the driving to a minimum to be able to take in all that you want to see. Nothing will ruin your trip more than trying to drive too much every day leaving you exhausted.

Another reason you want to keep the driving to a minimum is to be able to make unplanned stops. You never know when you'll stumble upon a gem and want to stop and experience it.

Finally, it is a good idea to leave a day to spare just in case anything comes up along the way.

These days a paper map or atlas is not necessary. However, if seeking a nostalgic version of a road trip, you may want to use one just for fun.

To Book or Not

Should you book all of your accommodation ahead of time? Maybe.

It really depends on the time of year you are traveling as to whether you need to book ahead of time. If traveling during summer (the most common time to go on a road trip), you very may well have to book everything ahead of time, particularly when planning to visit popular national parks. For these, you may need to plan even months ahead of time.

At other times of the year, you may be able to get away with booking accommodation a day ahead or perhaps just showing up the night of. If you are flexible, this will give you more leeway to be spontaneous — which is a big part of what road trips should be.


Packing for a road trip doesn't need to be any more complicated than packing for any other trip. Just remember that even though you may have the space, you still should try not to pack too much.

It's best to take a suitcase and a smaller backpack for carrying things during the day ë for example, water when going for a hike. Having a suitcase that you can take into and out of your hotel rooms is much more convenient than having everything sprawled out in the car.

Some essentials that you should make sure to take:

  • Phone charger
  • Dashboard phone holder
  • Emergency kit
  • Water and snacks
  • A cooler
  • Driver's license, ID, credit card, and anything else you need to pick up your rental car
Also, don't forget to check out our complete packing checklist.

Tunes for your Trip

A road trip just isn't a road trip without the right music to listen to on the road. So make sure you're prepared with a soundtrack for your trip. You can find road trip song playlists everywhere. For example, just search for road trip on Spotify and you'll find many different lists.

Of course, to have the perfect soundtrack, you should make your own playlist. This would be time well spent. There are so many classic songs that it's impossible to list them all, but here are our top road trip songs:

Life is a Highway - Tom Cochrane (or the Rascal Flatts version)
On the Road Again - Willie Nelson
Listen to the Music - The Doobie Brothers
Take It Easy - The Eagles
Here I Go Again - Whitesnake
Free Bird - Lynyrd Skynyrd
I've Been Everywhere - Johny Cash
Friend of the Devil - Grateful Dead
Take Me Home, Country Roads - John Denver
Summer of '69 - Bryan Adams

Aleksandrs Buraks

Head of Growth at DiscoverCars.com
Aleksandrs has over 10 years of experience in marketing with a focus on creating stellar content that provides topical insights using data. Having taken five road trips across Europe and one in the U.S., he is passionate about traveling by car. His favorite countries to visit are Denmark and Thailand. You can find him on Linkedin, Facebook, and Twitter.

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