road trip

Setting off on a road trip with friends is a quintessential summer experience: sweet tunes are blasting, snacks are passed around and new landscapes roll by as you chart your course to unknown places. Whether your sense of adventure is being called forth by the mountains, the desert, the beach or just the open road, planning a trip can be almost as fun as the journey itself. But you still may need a few tips from our road trip planner.

It doesn’t matter if your road trip has a definite focus (to Seattle or bust!) or if you just want to hit the pavement and see what happens – make a few plans before you go to have a fun and hassle-free experience. For best results, discuss all of your expectations prior to committing to the trip, so that everyone can be on the same page – or at least everyone knows where the page is (most likely somewhere in the trunk by the pool toys and map of the Grand Canyon).

There’s usually one person in the group taking on the road trip planner role; this is often the driver, but not always – and it’s usually easy to tell who this person is. While it’s best if one person handles the arrangements such as hotel reservations, campground bookings etc., it’s a good idea to make sure this person is okay with all that responsibility. Otherwise, split up the detail-oriented duties. Navigation falls to the person riding shotgun, and everyone in the car is responsible for bringing awesome road trip music. Before your departure, make sure everyone knows if this means CDs or MP3 players.

Once you decide the basics (where to go, when to go and which vehicle to take), there are still plenty of options to be decided, or at least discussed. Meet up for dinner or drinks and make sure that every traveler has his or her say in the following matters:

Which vehicle are you taking? Will it fit everyone along with all the luggage? Will driving duties fall to one person or will everyone split them? Remember that people often pack more than they think they will – and sometimes would-be drivers get tired and stick the vehicle owner with all the road duties, so be prepared!

What sort of pace will the trip have? Will you be stopping at every roadside attraction and lingering at restaurants, or do you prefer a quicker pace so you can cover more ground? Freeways or country roads?

What kind of budget will you have? Are you camping, staying in nice hotels or sleeping in the car by the side of the road? Will you be eating out three times a day or picnicking for lunch to save money? Create a budget that includes gas, parking, accommodations and activities so that everyone knows what they are getting into. Check hotel prices online (and don’t forget the taxes and fees) to ensure that you know what you are doing. Budgeting for road trips can be tricky, as its impossible to know exactly how many miles or how much gas you’ll use. Websites like AAA’s FuelCostCalculator.com as GasBuddy.com will help give you an idea. Decide if you will take turns filling the tank each time, or all contribute to a kitty whose remains are split at the end of the trip.

Do you need reservations? If you are arriving to a popular destination in a high season (like Big Sur in the summer), flying by the seat of your pants might leave you without anywhere to stay. Know when reservations are essential.

Why are you going on this trip? Do you want to see breathtaking natural scenery, explore little towns along the drive, experience new activities, meet new people or bond with your friends over a campfire? Figure out why every person is road tripping so that you can all have the trip you desire!

Image: x-ray delta one