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.
Route Style: ‘A-the Oblong’ is my personal favorite and has a specific destination. It’s the biggest ‘bang-for-your-buck’ with the least amount of planning. If you were to draw out this route on a map it would look a little like a triangle (or an egg, or a pickle or maybe a banana).
The ‘Oblong’ is divided into 3 parts that don’t need to be an equal number of days:
1): Getting to your destination
2): Time at your destination
3): Returning home from your 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 ITINERARIES & PLANNING Category on my website. This will help you keep in mind the things that you (and your partner) are most interested in seeing and doing.
Okay! Let’s Get Started!
First: Determine your travel dates. That gives you the number of days you have to work with.
Second: Determine your destination or ‘end point before you turn around and start home’. Make a note about why you want to go there and what you really want to get out of a visit to your chosen destination.
Third: Decide how many days you want to spend at your destination. This will take a little research on what there is to do and what your reason was to go there.
Fourth: You need to get a large Rand McNally Road Atlas (I get a free one each year from State Farm – which is awesome!). If you have to purchase one, keep it in your vehicle when you travel – it’s WELL worth the tiny investment.
Fifth: Open your road atlas to the first page with the map of the U.S. Put a pin in your destination city and then look at the interstates that will get you there and back.
Sixth: Pick the interstate(s) that you’ll take to your end point and the one(s) that you’ll take back from your end point. These are two different routes.
Seventh: Take your total vacation days and subtract the days you’ve decided to spend at your destination. Decide then, how many days you want to spend on getting there and how many days you want to spend getting back.
Whew! That was already a lot of work! Remember that you can (and probably will) make lots of changes as you plan. You’ll discover things that you’ll want time to see or do, so plan to adjust your itinerary as you go along. 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!
Alright…Let’s break it down:
PART 1: GETTING TO YOUR DESTINATION:
First: Determine what the best things to see and places to visit are along your route from home to your destination. I like to Google ‘best things to see along interstate_____”. It’s amazing what you’ll find! Make some notes on what interests you and don’t be afraid to venture off the main road for a bit – as long as you budget the time.
Second: Decide how far you want to travel on the first day, and what your half way point is. I like to try and have lunch near the half-way-for-the-day point. Pick somewhere interesting that has something you’d like to see or do that won’t take much time. If you are traveling through Oklahoma or the Texas Panhandle, at least pick a pretty park or interesting spot. Google maps will tell you exactly how long each leg of your journey will take – which is an invaluable tool!
Third: Decide what you’ll see/do before the half-way point, where you’ll have lunch, and what you’ll see/do between lunch and your first night on the road. This will determine what time you need to start out for your day, and what time you’ll be arriving at your stop for the night. It will also help you plan whether or not you’ll need time the next day to see a few things at your first stop.
Fourth: Choose an RV Park (or other accommodations) for the first night.
Use these 4 steps for each day as you travel toward your destination. There may be places you’ll want to spend a half or full day exploring…just fit it into the number of days budgeted for Part 1 of your trip!
PART 2 BEING AT YOUR DESTINATION:
First: Remind yourself of the main reasons you wanted to travel here.
Second: Get online, order a free visitor’s guide, or talk with someone who has traveled there. Jot down some of the things that sound really interesting to you. I like to Google ‘top 10 things to see in _____’. As you explore different sites (I like TripAdvisor), make note of the things that tend to float to the top of everyone’s favorites list – those are usually the best picks.
Third: Print a copy of a map of your destination city and start highlighting your favorite picks. This will help you determine an itinerary order (I like to make a circle from and back to my campground).
Fourth: Narrow down your list of things to see/do and fit them into the days allotted for your stay.
Fifth: Make sure you are keeping track of the cost and hours of operation for each site so you can schedule accordingly and keep things in your budget. It’s handy to have this information with you, as plans often change throughout the day and you can then make changes ‘on the fly’.
Sixth: Decide how you are going to handle meals. I usually do breakfast and supper at camp and pack a picnic lunch. If you are planning to eat out, make sure you work that into the budget.
Seventh: Choose your RV Park carefully. You’ll probably be there for a few days, so you’ll want a camp that is clean, well accommodated and close to the things you’ll be wanting to do.
PART 3: GETTING HOME FROM YOUR DESTINATION:
Getting from your destination back to your home is planned basically by taking the same steps as you used in Part 1:
*Choose your spot for the night
*Determine the half way point
*See what there is to do along the way for each half of each day
Here is a sample of a Day-On-A-Oblong Route Style: Houston N.O. Day 4
Here are a couple of things to consider as you travel home:
*Most of your food will probably be gone or bad. I always budget to eat out for the last 2 or 3 days. You can always pick up some bread at a gas station and use the peanut butter you brought along. Also, try and use up all the non-perishables that you still have on hand.
*I usually take the shorter route home and try not to see & do as much. By the end of a trip we are usually tired and ready to be home.
*If you’re not sure how far you’ll decide to travel in a day, don’t make camp reservations ahead. As you get close you can always call to make arrangements (but call before 5pm when places generally close). We’ve learned, however, that just ‘wingin’ it completely doesn’t usually go well. Checking in after hours (which many places will let you do on the honor system) can mean camping without a code to get into the bathrooms!
*Plan to have some fun things to do in the vehicle that you’ve saved for last. Being ready to be home can leave you tired, cranky and easily annoyed with one another (remember, you just spent 24/7 with someone – which you normally don’t do!). We like to talk about what we’d like to see again or more of, and start planning the next trip…
Well…that’s the ‘Oblong’ route style! I hope you enjoy planning your adventure and I’d love to hear from you about what has worked or not worked for you with itinerary planning, and of course I’d love to hear your stories from the road!!