Planning a Summer Road Trip

By Angela Crampton

Summer is the time to get out of the house and explore the open road. You have a free weekend but don’t have a set itinerary, no problem. Adventures with little plans are sometimes the most memorable.

1. Get on the same page with your road trippers

Invite friends to join you. The more the merrier as long as you can all fit in the car.

It’s important to know what the goals of each individual is in your group, especially if you haven’t figured out the dynamics of each individual. I’ve traveled with others that like to spend more money than me. Do they want a frugal trip with lots of outdoor time or want to sample local cuisine and cultural experience?

What’s your budget? Do you want to camp or stay in a hotel? Will you prepare and cook your own food or eat out every meal? Some of these questions will help you decide the places to target.

2. Don’t book anything in advance

This is even hard for me! The best thing to do is start small and learn how you road trip. The more you do it, the more you’ll dial in your personal preferences to make future trips that much better.

As mentioned above, if you haven’t booked anything, you can pivot your plans. You had a tentative itinerary mapped out, but change is a good thing and so is dry weather. Put the plan you had in your back pocket and start a new itinerary. I like to use weather forecasts and do circles to see where the closest nice weather is to help make decisions. Find cities, state parks, national parks or forests, as points of interest along your drive.

On a recent long holiday weekend, I wanted to do a mountain road trip. The weather called for rain the whole weekend which meant more time in the van or in establishments versus sitting out under the stars. I had a rough itinerary planned but pivoted to a desert microclimate over the mountain crests.

3. Try dispersed camping

What is dispersed camping? It’s camping in non-designated campgrounds and campsites. National forests and public lands allow people to disperse camp to limit impact. Check with the local forest management land you plan to stop as some might require permits. A second option is finding trailheads because who doesn’t like having access to a bathroom in the morning?

4. Plan your route

You have an idea of where you can camp or stay for the night. The next step is filling the day with not only driving but also fun activities or stops—the more the better. Do you like to sample local microbreweries, become a local, find the best food, or go on a hike? Plan your trip by finding interesting towns, cities, or parks that are scattered every few hours on the route. I suggest using Google Maps and selecting a new category to save points of interest along your route. If you think of a road trip theme, like breweries, wineries, or state parks, it makes it easier to focus on where to stop.