The Great American Road Trip
Movies have been made, books have been written, and many a friendship has been tested on the great American road trip. With a country the size of a continent, the possibilities of destinations are endless. You’re only limited to what miles your car and sitting your backside can handle.
Want to see all of our road trip posts?
- The Ultimate Tennessee Road Trip
- Tennessee Waterfalls Road Trip
- Natchez Trace Parkway Road Trip
- The Cascade Mountain Road Trip
- San Juan Islands Road Trip
- 9 Epic USA Road Trips
- Olympic National Park Road Trip
- Texas Barbecue Road Trip
Planning the Perfect Road Trip
1. Plan your main destination.
So where do you begin? Start with where you generally want to go. There is the famous Route 66 made up of iconic roadside motels and larger than life attractions. Or maybe you’ve always wanted to drive down the California coast. Once you know the main travel area, then you have to decide if your road trip is going to start at your home or if you need to fly to the starting location, then rent a car.
Joe and I started planning our upcoming spring break road trip back in December. We knew we wanted to do a road trip, but where? Joe has an old army buddy who lives in Texas that he has been wanting to visit. That narrowed our planning down to Texas. We love food and are biased towards Memphis barbecue (it’s where we live, so it is kind of required), but we have neighbors who swear by Texas-style. This led to making our trip a sampling of Texas barbecue bests (read Texas Barbecue Road Trip) We knew we could drive from Memphis to Texas in about six hours. We also debated flying into Austin and renting a car.
We decided we could leave Friday right after work and spend the night with family in Little Rock. That would break up the six hour drive and get to see the folks, too. And wouldn’t you know it, Little Rock has award winning barbecue as well!
2. Look for must see stops.
Next divide your trip into major chunks. Chart out where the “must see” destinations are and how far the drive is between them. To map out our major stops, I looked to my favorite browsing site Pinterest. There I stumbled upon Texas Monthly’s Top 50 BBQ Joints, 14 Texas Towns That are Totally Worth the Trip, and 15 Unique Texas Hotels You’ve Got to See to Believe. Then I printed off a google road map of east Texas and started plotting different cities, big and small mentioned in these articles. Locations too far west or south were left off due to time constraints.
Then I looked at what else these towns had to offer besides barbecue. After all, we can’t just eat 24/7 (Joe begs to differ with me on this)! This included looking at town calendars for any festivals or special events. For example, Lockhart, Texas is famous for its numerous award winning barbecue restaurants, but the shopping and scenic drives were not highly rated. We’ll leave Lockhart for another time.
3. Plan the maximum miles per day.
To keep from dying from exhaustion and actually enjoy the different stops, I tried to keep travel time down to to around three hours a day. I know time can vary depending on traffic and how often I have to stop to potty. Google Maps gives me a ballpark figure. My little over-planning brain would like to plot out each minute of the travel day, but rough estimates will have to suffice.
4. What little travel “gems” are out there?
Does anyone else love Tripadvisor as much as I do? I started using TripAdvisor about seven years ago and the site just keeps on getting better. You can see our reviews under the packyourbagiuos username. I also love Roadside America for the quirky, odd, and unique. For this trip, I also checked out Roadtrippers for additional ideas.
5. Detail the “musts”.
Finally, we booked the accommodations that are important to us, especially the smaller, unique places. Several of the hotels I reserved ahead of time came from the “15 Unique Texas Hotels” article. Then looked up the hours of operation for our “must see” restaurants and attractions. I ran into a hiccup in Waco with many of the top rated restaurants not being open on Sunday. It would have been an aggravation to drive somewhere only to find the doors closed. A hungry Joe is an irritable Joe.
Our trip is now planned. The itinerary is typed up and printed off with directions, travel times, confirmation numbers, and business/restaurant information. Yee haw! Let’s go get some barbecue!
I’ve told you about our spring break plans. We’d love to hear your thoughts along with any tips of your own! Please leave a comment below. Never miss a post by signing up for our weekly newsletter (no spam, promise)! In between posts, keep up with our adventures by following us on social media.