How to Plan a Cross Country Road Trip

by Lydia Smith

I’m a big dreamer with a wild sense of adventure.  I normally dream so big that people who don’t know me well think I’m kidding, when, in reality, I’m 100% serious.  That being said, I’ve always wanted to road trip from coast to coast of the US, stopping to see all the national parks along the way and visiting other sights spontaneously.  A good friend and I have talked and dreamed about it for years, but we decided that this is our summer to do it.  We’ve been spending hours on the Internet trying to plan out details for our road trip that hopefully will happen next month.

In the process of planning numerous road trips prior to this one (but certainly nowhere near the distance of a cross-country drive), I’ve collected dozens of helpful travel apps and websites.  I have found these certain websites are essential for planning the perfect road trip.

My planning/thought process generally starts with giggling over unrealistic destinations on Pinterest, but then starting to move towards more realistic goals and making note of them in a Google Doc.  Google Docs are THE BEST for planning anything in collaboration with other people – in my case, a wild cross-country road trip.  One person creates the document but then shares it with others involved and can choose to let others edit, comment, or view the document.  When using GoogleDocs for planning purposes, I always allow my friends to edit the document so we can all add information at the same time.  It’s like being able to read their minds and takes communication to a whole new level.

After I have precise destinations in mind, I move onto planning a more specific itinerary.  The website and app Roadtrippers is the most wonderful itinerary planner for spontaneous travelers like myself. or more organized travelers, allowing the user to plan in as much detail as they choose.  Roadtrippers helps organize destinations, allows you to enter your gas mileage and estimates your gas cost for the trip, has an extensive database of restaurants, campsites and activities, and can connect with most any map/GPS application to provide directions on the trip.

After planning your trip and saving up money, it’s time to travel!  Some of my favorite apps for actually being on the road are TripAdvisor for great deals on hotels and GasBuddy to find gas stations nearby for the best price.  Field Trip is great for finding exciting things to do wherever you are and National Geographic’s Park Guides provides great insight into any and every national park you may visit.

Do you have any essential websites or apps to help you plan for a road trip?  Share your story in the comments!  And to those of you planning your own road trip this summer: happy traveling!

Lydia-SmithABOUT LYDIA: I grew up in both North Carolina and Alabama and spent the majority of my time outdoors in both states — from the beautiful Appalachian Mountains to the coast of North Carolina, down the Appalachian foothills and the Gulf Coast. I’m a free spirit; I spend most of my time sailing, traveling, hiking, camping, and exploring. My happy place is on a sailboat — especially when I can sit in my DoubleNest ENO and gaze at the stars. I spent my entire spring semester sailing from the British Virgin Islands down to Grenada and used my hammock daily — on hikes in lush Caribbean mountain scenes, on the bow sprit of the 88′ schooner I called home, and between palm trees on uninhabited islands. I’m a people person and I love good conversations. My favorite things in life are my family and friends, the sunshine, Octane coffee, big sweatshirts, sunrises, quality music, mexican food, and taking pictures. There’s nothing I love more than simplicity. Feel free to reach out to me through social media @lydcsmith or my personal blog