Time to fill in the details and decide on daily activities when organizing your own road trip.
Last week, we looked at the big-ticket items such as budget and how that relates to when you want to travel, and with how many people. So far, you booked your flights, and rental car (if applicable) and your first night away.
Plus, you made sure to do this well in advance, depending on whether you travel with more than 4 people, and if your intended destination is very popular.
That’s what this second part of this series is about. To fill in the dates between hotel accommodation, excursions to take and/or reserve or planning for activities.
Did you decide on a route already? Whether you have a route in mind or not yet, start by listing those things you know you want to do or see. You’re bound to have some otherwise you wouldn’t have chosen the area you’ve booked flights for, right?
For instance, going to the south of the US (link), I knew I wanted to go visit a former plantation I hoped to be able to incorporate the Everglades, Clearwater Marine Park, and I decided to see if Disneyworld should be part of our plans.
So, open google.maps.com, bring out your fold-out actual map or any other version you like. Put a marker or pin at your starting destination, and at each point-of-interest.
Just this alone might already give you an idea of what your route could look like. If it doesn’t, that’s no problem.
Next step – multiple-day interests like festivals
Does or could one of your highlights take up more than one day? If it does, find additional information now.
- If you hope to visit a festival that lasts a couple of days, when are the exact dates of the festival? Is there something, in particular, you’d like to go experience and on which of those days will that be?
- This might be a very popular highlight, will it be busy, do you need accommodation and can you still get it?
The more you find out now, the better prepared you are to decide to take part and thus book tickets or accommodation, and therefore your road trip plans.
When I thought Disneyworld might be part of our road trip, I checked dates (always open) and admission pricing for our family of five (dependent on days and times of day with different price points).
Orlando was quite a long way from Atlanta, so it had to make sense. In our case, it simply didn’t. Make sense, that is.
Our family doesn’t care for Disney that much and tallying up the admission costs, and additional requirements like needing to buy additional passes to get quicker access to the rides. Also, needing to ‘book’ rides in advance but only up to three at a time and within a particular timeframe (administration stress on holiday, no thanks), plus limitations with regards to bringing in food. Disney quickly disappeared from the interest list.
Secure it now
In case the details to your multiple-day activity make sense to you, lock them down. Book the tickets, seats, accommodation, admission, especially if they’re disappearing soon.
Of course, if this immediately follows your arrival or precedes your departure, secure it and mark your travel plan with the details now.
With those plans secured (if at all), how many days do you have left to fill? What are the distances between the places you hope to visit?
Aim for average travel distances of 300-400 km/186-248 mi or 3-4 hours per day.
Divvy up the number of days you have to travel in conjunction with the things you hope to see. Where is the next stop on your road trip going to be?
Georgia – Florida road trip example
I’d booked my first night in Atlanta and wanted to go visit the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. As the distance between those two cities is 711 km /479 mi, dividing it made sense. Cutting it in half is close to the preferred 3-4 hours of travel each day.
Before you book hotels with that in mind though, do some research and find what fun, interesting or popular activities exist around the proposed stop.
Find websites for the area, the prospective place you think you’ll stay in, plus search for activities that have your interest. Of course, you can do this using books too!
- NPS gov (h)
- Atlas Obscura
- Best surfing, hiking, cycling, waterfalls… anything really
- Festivals in (your intended state or city) during (your travel dates) – start here for example
- Georgia State or Texas or South Dakota or…
Suppose you’re close to the beach and you’ve always wanted to do a surfing lesson, check it out. If there’s an opportunity to do so (with the family) on your way to your next stop, the cost and time investment is acceptable, do it.
What if, you’d rather go see that new exhibition in a museum or art studio on your way? You guessed it. This is your road trip! Do it.
In fact, if you want to you can organize your own themed road trip. Whether you have an interest in kites, knitting or kickboxing, find those locales and travel around to see them.
I needed a stop between Atlanta and Clearwater, so in terms of distance, I decided on Tallahassee. It added an hour travel time but would also allow a more scenic route along the coastline to Clearwater the next day.
Now, this is up to you but you can go on and book all of your accommodation this way. Remember, even if you go camping, you may have to secure a spot.
With the information I looked up at the earlier step, I’d found that Georgia has its own ‘Little Grand Canyon’. It’s located in Lumpkin, halfway to Tallahassee.
Slowly but surely my schedule is starting to take shape. We drive for a little over two hours, stretch our legs while visiting the Providence Canyon Park, taking about two to three hours, then drive another two hours. My first couple of days have been filled in and cater to everything: travel, exercise and highlights.
Keep track – Schedule details
By this stage my schedule looks something like this:
As you can see from this, there are a few highlights and wishes that I’d organized, booked and paid for already. Or, the cost had been taken into account.
That’s what it is all about.
- Where possible pay ahead so you know exactly what your budget looks like. If you can, book hotels that include breakfast. Where that’s not available, don’t have breakfast at your hotel. Instead, go to a diner nearby, it’ll cost half the price you’ll pay in your hotel.
- If you’re staying at a hotel, consider having a bigger lunch, then buy groceries for a simple sandwich that evening in your room AND to have a picnic breakfast the next day.
- Alternate free activities with those that cost money, while hiking a trail or the beach are free as is a visit to the local market.
- Change up the sitting on your behind – i.e. road travel – with that hike, visiting the local market, swimming in a lake, a self-guided sightseeing tour, visiting a street festival, etc. Are you bringing teenagers? Have them organize that tour for you.
- Try and do those things that are particular to your traveling surroundings (because trampoline parks are everywhere but mangroves are not).
- Don’t travel every day and switch up longer and shorter distances. Keep track of the details!
You did it!
Congratulations. You just organized your very own personally tailored road trip. You, therefore, should have a very good idea of what this trip has or will cost you. You’ve included those activities that mean something to you (did you do the themed version?), and soon it’ll be time to go and enjoy it.
Of course, I can’t see what you have planned and booked but remember our general breakdown of costs for holidays in part one of this series? I’ve added our actual costs below so, as you can see from the details, this model is a good indicator.
|Breaking up of costs||% of Budget||Budget $10.000||Budget $7312.03||Budget in %|
|Travel||40-50%||$4000-5000|| $ 2184.35 (flights)|
(car rental & gas)
|Accommodation||25-33%||$2500 – 3300||$ 2194.44||30%|
|Excursions/cultural visits/experiences||10-20%||$1000-2000||$ 558.39||8%|
|Contingency/emergency fund||5%||$500|| $ 0 |
(as it turned out)
Summary– 5 Steps to organize your road trip
1) Start early enough and consider:
- Where you’re going? Some states/cities/countries are more expensive than others
- When: high or low season, festivities in the area
- The number and age of travelers: couples – 4 people per party book easiest. Traveling alone or with more than 4 people becomes dearer and harder to organize
- Number of days to travel – a weekend, short break or vacation
- Transport: what transport will you use, how much will it cost, when do you need to organize it?
2) Book the big-ticket items first: flights, car rental, first & last night’s accommodation
3) List and research places and activities of interest. Where necessary and wanted; plan, book, and pay. This includes tickets but also accommodation where necessary. Weigh interest and cost too. Plot them on your (online) map.
4) Distance: break down the travel distances in conjunction with your wish-list (300-400 km/d or 3-4 hrs travel/day) to create a fun route.
5) Details per day: further break down what activity you’ll do each day. Alternate those that are active with inactive ones and balance those that cost money vs the ones that are free. Book accommodation along the way, and keep adding the information to your schedule and map.
6) Create a digital or physical folder with all information to keep track and/or use a diary along the way.
There you have it!
Do you feel prepared to organize your own trip now or do you feel you need more information? If so, what would you like to know? What details do you feel are missing?