Road Trip Planning Tools

Two years ago we took a big trip West. We drove from Ontario, all the way to the coast. We were gone about three weeks, and drove through five provinces and six states. It took a lot of planning, but I honestly love planning trips. It is one of my favourite things to do.

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This summer we are planning another fairly big road trip. This one will be shorter, and cover much less geographic area. We are heading East, and will be gone for about two weeks. We will drive through Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, then take a ferry to Newfoundland. On the way back we might go through Maine, just to change things up.

This time around I have learned a few things and I thought I would detail my steps to planning a big trip.

The first thing is obviously to choose a destination. I don’t really have any strategies for this, since I don’t really know how we’ve chosen where to go for any of our trips. For Belize I think I searched something like ‘best places to see marine life’ and it was on the list. Random.

Anyways, once you know where you going, the next thing to do is check it out on a map (I used Google Maps). This is where I can see if there are any cool places along the way that I would like to build into the trip. I also plot all of the places I want to go to choose the smartest route.

At the same time I start researching the best things to see and do wherever I’m going. I used guide books from the library and internet searches for this. I find the TripAdvisor forums are great for this, because there are often people who provide there itineraries and what they loved or didn’t. Be sure to look off the beaten path as well. Some of the best places we’ve been to definitely weren’t common tourist attractions. We went to a National Park in Saskatchewan and I think we were the only people there, but it was stunning.

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On the same note, don’t be afraid to leave the highway (the literal beaten path). We drove up a twisty, narrow dirt road for about half and hour (and then back down) to get to this place:

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And it’s now one of our favourite places ever.

Before you get your heart set on a particular activity or location make sure to make it to make sure it isn’t too out of the way from your planned route.

Make sure to have lists of places to stay and eat, but also leave some room for flexibility.

Once you have your mapped out route, and a list (with addresses) of things to do, see and eat, the next step is budgeting.

On a road trip it is a lot harder to keep track of expenses, then if you were flying somewhere and staying in the same hotel the whole time.

I use a spreadsheet. Seriously. I have a column for accommodations, food, gas, and activities. A list would work fine too, but I like to be organized. Obviously it is just an educated guess. Having a strict budget would take some of the fun out of it, but at least this way you know the ball park cost. A really helpful website I recently found is Gasbuddy. You type in your car model and year, and then where you are going and it tells you how much it will cost for fuel. This is great if you are going somewhere where you may not know how much gas costs. Like this place, which was the only gas station in the boundaries of what is probably Canada’s most visited National Park, so they just charged whatever they wanted (which was A LOT!).

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So, that’s more or less what I do. It seems to have worked well so far. Kurt wants to drive to Alaska someday. I think that will be a true test of my trip planning abilities!

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