How to Plan the Perfect Road Trip

It’s that time of year again – time to plan your annual summer holiday! If you’re thinking about going on a road trip with your friends or family and haven’t got a clue where to begin, check out our guide on how to plan the perfect road trip. It covers all the basics – from picking the ideal stopping points which suit your needs to packing tips so you can be sure you’ve got absolutely everything you’ll need.

How to Plan the Perfect Road Trip: Hobbiton movie set in New Zealand
Hobbiton movie set in New Zealand: Photo Cat Burton / CC 2.0

How to Plan the Perfect Road Trip

1. Get everyone to help with the planning

Being stuck in a car with grouchy travellers for eight or more hours a day will not make for a happy holiday. And although some people will be in their element during a New Zealand self-drive Lord of the Rings tour, some people won’t be able to imagine anything worse. So to make sure everyone’s wishes are catered for, get all travellers involved in the planning process. That way you’ll end up with a car full of people which are happy at least some of the time.

How to Plan the Perfect Road Trip: Stopping point along Route 66
Stopping point along Route 66: Photo Elvin / CC 2.0

2. Map your route

Knowing exactly where you’re going to drive, for how long and where you’re going to stop in advance will take a huge weight off your shoulders when you’re on the road. You can find loads of pre-mapped itineraries for popular routes, such as the USA’s Route 66 and Australia’s Snowy Mountains, but if you’re going off-the-beaten-track, don’t be nervous about mapping your own route from scratch.

How to Plan the Perfect Road Trip: Be prepared for traffic jams
Be prepared for traffic jams: Photo buzrael / CC 2.0

3. But stay flexible

Accept that not everything will go to plan – some attractions will be closed, there will be traffic jams, some roads will be blocked off and adverse weather might force you to change plans. You can opt to either wing it and take these mishaps as they come when you’re on the road or do your best and write up various contingency plans just in case.

How to Plan the Perfect Road Trip: Motorhome in South Island, New Zealand
Motorhome in South Island, New Zealand: Photo studio tdes / CC 2.0

4. Pick the right vehicle

You’ve got two main vehicle choices when it comes to a road trips – you can rent a car and stay at hotels or hostels along the way or hire a motorhome and sleep in your vehicle whilst travelling. The latter will usually be your cheapest option, especially if you take advantage of motorhome rental special offers, and will give you the most flexibility.

How to Plan the Perfect Road Trip: Family packing for a road trip
Family packing for a road trip: Photo State Farm / CC BY 2.0

5. Pack lightly but comprehensively

The less weight in your vehicle, the less cash you’ll have to spend on fuel. But don’t skimp and leave things at home that you really need – otherwise you’ll just end up buying them when you’re on the road. In addition to your daily necessities like toiletries, go through your itinerary and work out what type of clothing and special extras you’ll need for each day according to the planned activities and attractions – i.e. swimming gear, fishing equipment, hiking books or extra warm clothing – so you’ve got every base covered.

An extra tip – if you’re taking a car, try and pack chronologically. Put everything you’ll need toward the end of your trip into the bottom of the vehicle and everything you’ll need during the first few days at the top. That way you’ll keep things tidy and compact for as long as possible, whilst also stopping you pulling your hair out when you realise your toothpaste is in the suitcase at the very bottom of the pile.

About Nicola Quinn


Nicola is a travel and food writer living in the Canary Islands who loves exploring far-off places, pushing herself to the limit and trying local eats wherever she goes.

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