How to organize a road trip
Some tricks to better face a road trip
Among the trips I have made, the "on the road" mode is my favorite as you have the maximum freedom to stop when and where you want and, if necessary, you can always change the roadmap in favor of unscheduled stops that could turn out to be pleasant surprises or even the best stages of the journey.
The car allows you to cross paths between one stage and another which, during the organization of the trip, appear to be little more than lines on the map that connect different points, but in reality they can hide magnificent landscapes that can be admired from the windows.
It often happens that I drive to reach a certain destination and stumble upon some glimpse where I have to stop in order to enjoy the view and at the same time stretch my legs after so many kilometers.
I grew up with the myth of the Road Trip to the United States watching American films, cartoons, music videos and much more. A shot in the head since I was a child and that I saw as an impossible dream but in reality, with the growing age, the English that improved and a salary that allowed me, I realized.
My trip to the West Coast was amazing and has remained in my heart as it was the first of its kind organized entirely by me abroad. A memorable trip that, despite its complexity and length, fortunately did not run into a hitch and gave me the confidence to organize others, some of which you can find among my travel routes.
However, the journey by car is certainly not the most comfortable of journeys, especially if the driver is always the same person and there is no possibility of alternating driving. All the issues need to be pondered and figured out if it's really for you otherwise it risks turning into a stress.
I do not deny that for a trip of this kind you need flexibility and a spirit of adventure and the difficulty increases with the passing of the days. It is difficult to sleep in a hotel for more than one night and this may be poorly digested by some but it is also one of the strong points for optimizing a self-respecting road trip.
The car is the essential element of the journey, a real travel companion with whom you will establish a strong bond, and even if you have rented it, you will become attached to it despite its defects and the day you leave it, you'll be sorry!
Let's see what are the main steps for organizing a road trip and to help you design your itinerary I'll tell you exactly what I do, plus I'll give you some examples of my trip to the States.
The itinerary is the journey! A travel itinerary, albeit rough, must be there. Whether it is a tour of a nation or a region, the itinerary is fundamental and is the basis around which to fit all the elements of the road trip.
What is your goal? My destination was the American West Coast and more precisely the states of California, Nevada, Utah and Arizona where I already had in mind some fixed stops that I could never skip like Las Vegas, San Francisco, Grand Canyon and others.
This is already a good starting point. Having the destination in mind and some unmissable stops to write down in a sheet that you will update shortly.
The next step is to get informed on the internet by consulting the many articles on the web by entering phrases such as:
"West Coast travel route?"
"What to see on the West Coast?"
After consulting the first 10 sites, you will realize that the recommended stops for your search will always be roughly the same. Mark on your sheet all the stages that you did not know or had not taken into consideration and after a new research try to understand how much they may interest you in order to give each one a grade from 1 to 10 where your fixed stages will be 10.
In my journey, in addition to the fixed points of 10, there were other stops such as Monument Valley or Yosemite National Park that I knew but to which I gave lower priority ratings. Other destinations such as Antelope Canyon or Bryce Canyon I got to know thanks to the research and, despite having given them a vote just above sufficiency, they turned out to be pleasant surprises.
Once you have drawn up the list of potential stages of your road trip, you need to identify and connect them on a map in the best possible way. There are those who love to use the paper map but personally I think the well-tried Google Maps much more convenient which is very good at finding the best route from one point to another and all that remains is to optimize the route repositioning the stages chronologically to design an efficient itinerary.
During your research, in addition to assigning a grade to the various destinations, try to understand the average time it takes to visit each stop and write it down on your sheet.
One reason why I prefer technology to paper maps is the fact that you can fairly accurately understand the travel times of the routes that you will obviously transcribe on your precious sheet.
Now that you have all these numbers you can predict the program of every single day trying to be as realistic as possible considering that the more Km you do, the less inclined you will be to tackle grueling treks for example.
I recommend keep yourself wide with the times because, if there is more time during the day you can rest or see something else, but if you have an unexpected event or you calculate everything to the second you risk getting lost or not quite enjoy one of the stages.
You will probably have a number of days available for your trip and you cannot go beyond. If in planning your travel days you realize that you are overstepping you will inevitably be forced to give up one or more stages of your itinerary.
Start by sacrificing the stages you rated the lowest one and then recalculate the times. In my case I had to give up a couple of stages with a rated 5 and the Sequoia National Park to which I had attributed a good 7 but which, in addition to deviating my itinerary considerably, would have taken almost 2 days longer.
BOOK A FLIGHT:
If the journey you intend to undertake is far from reaching directly with your car then you will need to book a flight .
The flight in general, especially if the route is intercontinental, is one of the items that most affects the budget so it is advisable to be flexible with the days but above all with the destination in fact, in the flight search phase be aware that your itinerary as you planned may vary according to several aspects.
Let's go back to my trip to the USA .. my itinerary started from San Francisco and ended in Los Angeles so the arrival and departure destinations of the booked flights were different. Doing his I saved at least a day but the flight cost more than a return ticket in the same city.
In my case I also tried to look for flights assuming a reverse tour that is with arrival in Los Angeles and departure in San Francisco but the cost was very similar so I remained faithful to my itinerary. In the event that the savings had been significant, I would still have had to evaluate the feasibility of the tour in reverse because it is not as obvious as it might seem so, be careful!
The best thing is planning an itinerary that includes arrival and departure from the same destination (roundtrip) and in this case you can evaluate any stage with an airport within the journey. If my trip had been a roundtrip I would have considered Las Vegas as a starting and ending point.
If you travel with your car it is a good idea to do a general check before leaving but if you decide to rent a car because the destination is far away or because you want to save your car a long journey, then you have to consider a few things.
There are those who rent the car directly on site but I prefer to book it online through the various comparators to be sure of the price but above all of the availability of a specific car segment.
Choose a car suitable for your type of trip and based on the passengers, calculate well the size you need to make everyone feel comfortable and at the same time to carry all the luggage without having to be forced to put them on the legs of some unfortunate. Keep in mind that comfort in the car is essential in order not to risk turning the trip into an odyssey.
Try to rent a car and return it to the same agency where you picked it up, otherwise you risk to pay a drop-off. In my case, I did not pay the supplement because I returned the car to a place where the demand for a rental car was greater than the place where I picked it up. But be careful because not all rental agencies apply this policy.
Pay attention to the insurances included in the rental agreement and possibly add them to avoid unpleasant surprises while traveling. I remind you that, when you rent a car, your credit card is in the hands of the agency which could deduct money from you in case of even minor damage.
At the time of rental therefore, make sure that your car is in order and take pictures of any scratches or anomalies you find in order to have evidence in hand in case of disputes of the agency. If possible, check with the clerk who rented your car.
For many, the road trip means freedom and therefore not being bound to certain stages but stopping where it happens to stay overnight This almost utopian vision is possible for those who do not necessarily have to go back to work or for those who do not have a precise itinerary to follow.
If I could I would too but so far I have always had to follow a travel program with a very clear beginning and end. Since there are these fixed points, it makes little sense not book risking to find yourself wandering in search of a free hotel at an acceptable price.
In the States I booked hotels only in big cities and in national parks where I certainly would not have found a place. From the first day of researching the hotel, however, I realized that it was not so easy, especially during the high season, to find something free and cheap. Also for the following stages it was quite difficult to find a hotel and at that point, considering that I knew very well in which place I would be staying in the following days, I booked everything. After that experience I would like to suggest to you to book everything and possibly with the cancellation up to a few days before.
As with any trip, it is always better to try to limit the size of your luggage also considering the fact that it must fit in the trunk together with other suitcases.
The important thing in a road trip is not so much what to pack but how to better organize your suitcase ! You will hardly sleep for more than a day in a hotel so make sure you have easy access to what you need on a daily basis so you don't have to unpack every time.
TELEPHONE AND NAVIGATOR:
The telephone and technology often come to help us when traveling and on a road trip, especially if abroad, they can become important.
The first tip is to buy a local simcard to be sure to have a connection and a telephone line in case of need. Adventure is fine but being stranded in the middle of nowhere anywhere in the world is not pleasant.
The phone can also act as a navigator and often a simple Google Maps is more up-to-date and efficient than the navigators provided on cars, moreover modern smartphones reserve a lot of useful apps during your trip.
- Respect the laws because in case of large fine, if not paid, you may see you denied the return home.
- Don't challenge the tank because in some parts of the world you may not find distributors for hundreds of Km.
- Prepare a CD or USB stick with your favorite songs because in some deserted places the car radio may not work.