Warning! This may be the most comprehensive article about how to plan a road trip on the entire internet. At least, that was my goal when beginning this project.
This article is over 4000 words long and you may need to return to it multiple times, using the clickable contents to navigate. There are links to in-depth pieces, downloadable content, planning apps, and resources on each of the topics discussed.
It’s full of extensive road trip planning tips and tricks you can implement on the road to save money, time, and find the best attractions en-route.
This step-by-step article will also cover how to plan a road trip on google maps so that you can focus on having fun with your friends.
This is the ultimate article, providing everything needed whilst planning a road trip with multiple stops. It draws on my experience of driving through over 30 countries during the last several years.
How to Plan a Road Trip Using This Guide
Get inspired and choose a destination/approximate route.
Plan your road trip route on google maps.
Create a road trip budget
Plan things to do, where you will stay and make appropriate bookings
Prepare your vehicle, documentation, and insurance.
Follow a road trip packing list, plan food, entertainment, and budgeting
Follow our road trip tips and driving rules for abroad (if required)
Work your way through the above to plan a road trip of a lifetime!
Use a pen and paper, or a laptop, and work your way through this guide, planning your road trip step-by-step.
Use the links throughout the article to return to the contents section and easily navigate around all the topics.
Bookmark this page so you can find it again easily and refer to the tips both before and whilst on the road.
Start your engines…
Plan a Road Trip on Google Maps (With Multiple Stops)
You can use Google Maps to plan a road trip with multiple stops and estimate the total driving time. Make sure you add 25% extra to the estimated time to account for traffic and frequent breaks.
I also recommend Waze for the actual navigation due to the other features regarding traffic enforcement and speed tracking.
Planning Your Road Trip Route
The first step is to research possible locations/countries for your road trip.
Set a time and budget for your road trip
Get inspired by exploring potential destinations on Instagram, Pinterest, Travel blogs and Reddit.
You can now use your budget to plan out where you will stay and what you will do. An important thing to get sorted early is your travel insurance. I use World Nomads.
A great alternative holiday is to rent a hire car in a new country at the airport and plan a road trip. Use the search box below to see what price is available at your location of choice.
Book Your Rental Car Using RentalCars.com
If you are finding this guide helpful then I would really appreciate it if you used my link to Rental Cars. That would really help me out. Remember you can drop off your vehicle in a different location if you like.
I’ve done this a few times when I want to fly out of a different airport in a country I’m taking a road trip in.
Book Your Accommodation
Here are some options for booking accommodation for your road trip journey! Booking in advance gives peace of mind, but sometimes it’s fun to be spontaneous and book as you go along.
Take some time to book any tickets required for the activities you are doing. You might be able to find some online discounts. Below is a search box for Get Your Guide, which allows you to book a variety of experiences all over the world.
Follow A Road Trip Packing List
After you have planned your route and booked all the required accommodation, parking, rental cars, and tours, it’s time to start packing!
But how do you pack smart? And what should you take?
Well, fortunately for you, we have created the complete road trip packing list. Ensure you don;t forget a thing and work your way through the list.
Plan and prepare meals in the morning before you are tired from a day of driving and having fun
If you are looking to eat out, try to find a restaurant in advance that serves healthy food
Drink plenty of water whilst on the road. I always have a 2L bottle filled when I start the day
Buy fruit and veg in local supermarkets and store in a cooler box. Find accommodation with kitchen facilities to prepare healthy meals.
I use HUEL as a healthy meal replacement drink whilst on the road.
I would also keep the cooler box in an easily accessible place so you can get to your road trip snacks.
Road Trip Itineraries From The Road Trip Expert
One of our primary aims for this site is to create high-quality, easy-to-follow, premade itineraries for you to consider. If you need help with inspiration, you can check out some of our route suggestions!
These itineraries are step by step guides including everything you need to know before you set off and all the things to do along the route. Head over to the itineraries section of our site to browse what we have to offer.
These are some essential points to consider when making a decision on the route as discussed above.
Pick a route length that is reasonable given the amount of time you have for the trip
You don’t want to spend the whole time driving. Choose a manageable distance so you can focus on enjoying the attractions along the way.
Plan accommodation and food in advance
When you drive a long way, it’s much more enjoyable if you have some tasty road trip food and a nice place to stay at the end of it. Stay flexible with the social things to keep it exciting but don’t leave everything until the last minute.
Find as many fun things to do en route as possible
It’s easy to focus on the big cities and major attractions when route planning. However, part of the fun of a road trip is the flexibility to stop off in smaller lesser-known attractions.
Not considering parking when you book accommodation
It’s easy to search for accommodation based simply on price, quality, and location and to completely forget about the cost and convenience of parking. When on a road trip make sure to search for parking and accommodation at the same time. Often you can face large parking costs, especially in major cities.
This article focus’ on the tricky topic of what car hire insurance is best
Booking Accommodation and Parking
When it comes to accommodation you have three main choices:
AirBnB – Often has free parking, often cheaper and many locations in or out of cities
Booking.com – Good selection of hotels, great for City Centre accommodation
Hostelworld – Best app for booking hostels, sometimes you can also get free parking
Before you book accommodation, it is crucial to consider parking. This is not always included.
Visiting a city?
My personal favorite hack is to stay in an AirBnB outside of the city center. This allows you to avoid the city center traffic and you can either drive in or take public transport to go in and visit the city.
When searching for cheap parking, use these sites/apps:
I use World Nomads for my travel insurance. You can buy online or whilst traveling and claim online from anywhere in the world.
Keep Track of All Your Booking Information
Download the apps of all the companies you use to make bookings and put them all in one folder on your smartphone. Alternatively, remember to print off all the booking information in advance of your trip, and keep it somewhere safe like the glove compartment of your car.
Road Trip Pre-Journey Checklist
In section A you completed most of the road trip planning process. Before you set off its important to check everything and make sure you are fully prepared.
That is what section B is all about. Use this road trip checklist to make sure everything is sorted before you head out on the open road.
Road Trip Vehicle Preparation
Before a long road trip, I would recommend getting a full service on your vehicle.
Check all lights and features on the car are functioning correctly
Check oil, water, and tire pressure/condition
Check the washer and brake fluid
Give the car a thorough clean
Ensure you have a spare key and the owner’s manual
Check the air filter, windscreen wipers, and spark plugs
Check the coolant
Check you have the spare tire and changing tools
European driving kit available from amazon (if driving in Europe)
Car Security on the trip
Whilst on the trip you want to ensure that you are parking in safe locations.
If possible, use a car with a shelf covering the contents of the boot from sight through the rear window.
A lot of SUVs don’t have a shelf covering so you can use a black bedsheet or something similar to cover your belongings when you need to leave the car unattended.
What to Have in the Car for Maintenance
If you are driving in Europe, there are several items you need in the car in case of breakdown. We used a European driving kit from Amazon. It’s one of my favorite road trip accessories. It’s against the law to drive around many countries in Europe without the items included in this kit.
You should also ensure you have a spare tire and the tools to change a flat.
I like to use a dashcam whilst on a road trip. This is mainly to protect myself legally if I am in an accident that isn’t my fault. Take a look at our post on the best dash cams on in the market.
Road Trip Insurance/ Documentation Checklist
This section will help you make sure you have all of your insurance and documentation in order.
Personal Travel Insurance
I use world nomads for my travel insurance. You can use the widget below to get a quote and get it booked.
Car Insurance and Car Documentation
Make sure you have copies of the car registration/ownership document, insurance, and your driving license.
Car registration/ownership documents
Details of breakdown cover
Green card (if required)
Personal Documentation and Visa’s
International driving permit (if required)
When driving abroad using your own car, always check with your insurance provider where you are covered.
If you’re driving abroad, take your time getting used to the roads, especially if driving on the opposite side to what you are used to!
Don’t drive when tired or under the influence of alcohol/drugs, and plan regular breaks.
Car Maintenance During the Trip
If you’re taking a longer trip you should continue to periodically check the condition of your vehicle.
You can follow the guide in the prepare your vehicle section of this article.
Avoid Traffic Penalties and Fines
Waze is a fantastic app for avoiding traffic penalties and fines because it provides traffic enforcement and speed warnings during your journey. It’s especially helpful for determining the speed limit on a given road in an unknown area.
When you complete European border crossings there’s usually a sign showing the changes in speed limits for different types of roads. In addition, watch out for average speed check areas that are frequent.
This website is fantastic as a complete reference point for traffic penalties and fines in Europe.
Always obey the law and instructions from police officers!
The UK Highway Code recommends taking a break of at least 15 minutes for every two hours of driving. Frequent breaks are not just important for driving safety but also to keep the trip fun and enjoyable.
Tips for Different Groups
Here are some simple tips for taking road trips for different groups.
Tips for Taking Pets
Check out the below article on road trip tips with a dog: