Thursday, October 1, 2015

New Printable Road Trip Planner

I’m excited to announce that we’ve officially launched our printable road trip planner.

I love a spontaneous road trip as much as the next person, but there’s something about having a well thought out road trip plan that really helps make everything run smoothly while on the road.

We’ve been road tripping for the past 6 years, and during that time, I’ve learned to master the art of planning a great road trip.

Here are some tips to help you with using our road trip planner to plan your next road trip:

1. Start with choosing your destinations. 

Time is always an issue for us while road tripping. We often only have a short amount of time to make it to our intended destinations and back home before our vacation time is over. This means mapping out our destinations; how long it’s going to take to get there, and how much time we have to explore before having to head home again.

We generally road trip through multiple cities, and it always help to know certain things like how long it takes to get from Las Vegas, NV to Phoenix, AZ. Knowing the distance and time needed to make it from one city to another really helps lay out the foundation of your road trip. We often cut out certain cities from our road trip itinerary if they’re too far off course from the other destinations we want to visit, or we just don`t have time to get there.

2. Activities

Start by making a list of everything you want to see/do while in town. This essentially is your road trip bucket list. To give you an example, if you`re going to Arizona, you`d most likely write the Grand Canyon on that list, along with a few other places like Sedona, Antelope Canyon and maybe even the London Bridge in Lake Havasu. Use our road trip bucket list to write down everything you`d love to see while in town.

Road trip tip: I spend a lot of time in Google images, searching the names of the various towns we plan to visit. This gives me a visual of what each town looks like, what popular attractions are there; and this helps me formulate my list of must see attractions and activities while in town. I often find myself saying “what and where is that” while searching Google images (or even Pinterest).

Pre-planning activities also helps with building your road trip budget. We often pick things like riding the Maid of the Mist at Niagara Falls, then add that cost to our road trip budget. We also like to work in a lot of hikes in our road trips. Hiking is a great way to get out and enjoy the natural beauty of such places like national parks – ie Zion National Park, The Grand Canyon or even Yellowstone National Park. Often, activities like this don’t cost anything, other than a park entrance fee (and those can add up over time, so we often track those in our budget/expense tracker).

3. Plan your road trip style

We started road tripping several years ago while in university. This essentially means sleeping in the car, or camping whenever we can, eating pre-made meals (ie homemade spaghetti and pb & j sandwiches) that we kept in the cooler in our car, or buying food like bananas and cereal for the road to help save on costs.

There are 3 main questions to ask yourself to help determine what your road trip style is; 1) where do you plan to sleep, 2) where do you plan to eat  - ie restaurant, or keep food in a cooler in your car, and 3) what kind of activities do you like to do while road tripping.

Knowing these 3 factors helps lead into your road trip budget.

4. Set out your road trip budget

Making a road trip budget is something I’ve done since the start of our first road trip as a means of convincing friends to go on road trips with me, “It’s only going to cost around $300 each for this road trip, you should come.” This was also a way of knowing how much money I needed to save in advance to our road tip.

Setting a road trip budget helps give you a general overview of the costs associated with your road trip. Use our handy road trip budget planner to help map out the expenses of everything. Here`s an overview of what your budget should look like:

- Hotel cost/campsite fee
- rental car cost/insurance
- Activities/entertainment
- Gas cost
- Spending money/extra cash buffer

Hotel costs: in order to guestimate the cost of such things like hotels on your route, you can either pre-book them, or go on sites like Orbitz and work out a general budget, or price estimate for each of your hotel stays. Add that cost up and include it in your road trip budget.

Rental car cost: we generally always road trip in one of our own cars, with our own insurance. That saves us quite a bit of money, but often, people will fly down to their destination and then rent a car. Remember to keep things like insurance in mind for your budget.

Activities: If you`ve had the opportunity to map out your different destinations and activities, you should have a general idea of how much things like entrance fees, and tickets for various attractions/events cost. If you`re unsure of things like park entrance fees, this is generally listed on the parks website.

Gas: this generally equates to about 50% of our overall road trip budget. The best way to estimate your gas cost is to first, map out the various cities you`ll be stopping in. You can use Google Maps to show you what your total kms/miles are for your trip. Sites like actually gives you an estimated gas cost based on the distance of your road trip. Or you can do it the “old fashioned way,” which is the way I’ve always done it:

550kms/tank of gas, which costs around $35/tank to full up. Our road trip will be around 10,000 kms …
15,000 kms /550kms per tank = 18.5 tanks of gas, at around $35/tank = ~$650.00 for gas.

I generally like to add in 2 extra thanks of gas to our road trip budget for those moments where you get lost and spend time driving in circles. This extra budget also helps with the variation in gas prices from town to town.

From here, you can really break down your overall road trip plan into daily and weekly activities, especially if you have multiple activities in one day, or have a certain time frame of where you need to be when, ie the 11:30 ferry to the Statue of Liberty, in New York City – you can plan your morning and late afternoon activities out with this daily planner.

5. Track expenses while on the road

It`s extremely easy to get carried away with spending while on the road. Setting a road trip budget is one thing, but following that budget is a whole other story. The smart thing to do with your budget is to include a buffer of cash in your budget for unexpected instances, or overspending, then track your expenses while on the road so you don’t go grossly over budget.

Tracking your expenses also works the other way in terms of your budget, ie you find a hotel room cheaper than expecting. This means you have a bit more wiggle room in your budget for spending money.

6. Shopping list

Lastly, in this planner, I’ve also included a shopping list for those who purchase food/drinks/snacks for the road. This is a great money saving tip as well; even if you plan to eat at restaurants while on the road, it’s the little things like purchasing bottled water from gas stations while on the road that add up. We generally like to purchase a flat of water from somewhere like Costco, and keep that in our cooler for when we get thirsty. This is also done as a safety precaution for if we get stranded in the middle of nowhere and have to wait several days before help arrives. We do often travel in remote areas, between towns, and anything could happen. It’s better to be safe and travel with the essentials.

I’ve also included a notes and journal section for your road trip. This is great for tracking reminders, writing down notes about your road trip journey, and even handy for making a to do list of things while on the road.

You can find our full road trip planner here.

You may also like these printables: 

Vehicle Maintenance Log
Packing List
Travel Planner Kit
Undated Monthly Calendar

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