As we’ve discussed, inspiration for a travel itinerary comes from many sources (see my post: Choosing Your Route Style), but I find that most start with a specific destination.
Before you really start digging in with the planning, review my blog called, “20 Questions Before You Plan”. You’ll find it in the HERE. This will help you keep in mind the things that you (and your partner) are most interested in seeing and doing.
Let’s Get Started!
*First: Determine your travel dates.
*Second: Take out your Rand McNally Road Atlas (if you don’t have one, they are available at most book stores and Well Worth the small investment), open it to the U.S. map located near the front and put a pin in your destination city.
*Third: Locate the Interstate that gives you the most direct route.
*Fourth: Go to Google Maps on any devise and get the travel time and miles from home to your destination.
*Fifth: Decide if you are driving straight through or how many days you’ll need to get to your destination. You’ll need the same number of days to get back, so that will leave you with the number of days that you’ll have at your destination.
*Sixth: Determine each day’s half-way point where you’ll stop for lunch. Try and find somewhere interesting to take a break at. Also, try and select different places to stop on the return leg. (If you are traveling through Colorado check out the category on my website called ‘20 min in Colorado‘ where you’ll find interesting stopping points along the major interstates that run through the state. ). Bear in mind that you might be traveling across time zones. Make sure to plan your time with time changes in mind. Also, make a note of any daylight savings time changes that might happen while you are on the road!
*Seventh: Pick your campgrounds for the route to and from your destination. You’ll probably want to use the same ones for getting there and back as those legs of the trip are the same, so make reservations accordingly. Stay near the Highway.
*Eighth: Plan and budget your meals to get to and from your destination city. Will you eat out? Take picnic lunches?
*First: Carefully choose your campground and look at reviews. You’ll spend most of your nights there, so make sure you do some research. I usually don’t worry too much about reports of staff being unfriendly/rude/not helpful etc.. as staff changes frequently and people have bad days. I concentrate on reports about things that don’t change. Things to consider are:
-Location and proximity to the majority of things you want to see. Check and see if there is easy access to subway stations, bus stops, etc.. if you are not taking your vehicle into a city.
-Cleanliness and appeal – especially the bathrooms.
-Amenities such as laundry rooms, indoor game/reading areas for rainy weather, WIFI, Ice machines, fire pits, etc.. You’ll need to consider your needs ahead of time.
-Proper hookups. We in Tiny Trailers can usually use the tent spots (and save $$!), but they don’t always have electric hookups.
-Check-in and after-hours policies.
-Look into Discount Cards from Good Sam’s and KOA. If you stay at those places (they are usually the best anyway), it’s well worth the small investment.
*Second: Develop the itinerary for what you’ll see and do during your time at your destination.
-Review the reasons you picked this destination, and schedule these things into your allotted time.
-On any devise Google, ‘Top Ten things to see in___’. Look at at least 3 or 4 websites and see which things all make the top of the lists. I always look for consistency as there are many opinions out there! Make a list of all the sites and activities that look interesting to you.
-On any devise, Look for reviews of all the things that sparked your interest. I like Trip Advisor, but again I look for consistency. I usually choose to include a site or activity into my schedule after I’ve seen about 85-90% positive comments or reviews. If you see something that has no poor reviews at all, you are probably looking at a site that filters out negative comments. Yep. Websites can be paid off…
-If you have a site or activity that is a bit of a distance from your central location, consider doing a day trip and don’t try and crowd too much into your day. I like to alternate busy days in town with relaxed days doing only one thing further away.
-Once you have your list of things you’d like to do or see, print a copy of a map and highlight the location of those things. Look up each site and make notes of opening/closing times and well as cost. Then pick the order in which you’ll do your list. Consider parking at the visitor’s center (always a great place to start and it’s usually FREE) and seeing the city by foot or by mass transit. I usually end up moving the car once or twice depending on the size of the city. Keep in mind the cost of parking and make sure to budget for all transportation expenses. Also, I generally schedule the site that is open the latest to be seen last.
-Create a daily timeline. I like to do this because it keeps us on track and helps us adjust along the way so that we don’t miss something that has closed. It also helps us make decisions if something needs to be dropped from that day’s activities. I create my daily schedule on the computer and then snap a picture that is stored in my phone. I also keep all other info such as tickets, prepaid tours etc.. on the Tripit App on my phone. I’m learning not to carry around so much paperwork!
-Think through your meal plans for each day. Will you eat breakfast before heading out for the day? Maybe you’ll need to pack a picnic lunch that you can eat in the car. Will you carry your lunch in a backpack to eat at a park? Will you be back at camp for supper or will you need to budget to eat out? Does your budget allow for eating out at a nice sit down restaurant or will you need fast food? Just make sure that food doesn’t throw off your budget altogether!
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