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How to Plan A Road Trip For The Family

Like this! But, you know, fun!
Like this! But, you know, fun!

Updated March 08th, 2020

My favorite thing, as spring nudges into summer, are the traditions that I have with my family. For one, I always make sure to plan a road trip somewhere amazing. I love everything about it. All around the area is the sound of vans being loaded full of suitcases, coolers, activity kits and happy families.

Of course, things change as families grow, but there are lots of tips and tricks I've learned on how to plan a road trip, no matter what size your tribe is. Vacation time is such a special time, but there are so many little things that can make it EVEN better. Believe me, the (modified) saying, "an ounce of preparation is worth a pound of cure", is very true here.

From when you're starting to plan your road trip, to keeping everybody entertained and in good spirits, it's time to use technology for good. Grab your smartphone and your tablet (and don't forget your chargers) because you're going to find that they can help you in ways you've never imagined.

Here are my favorite apps and websites that I love to consult with when I'm looking to plan a road trip for me and "the fam".

Starting to Plan a Road trip

The first app that I cannot recommend highly enough when it's time to plan a road trip is TripIt. This helps you build an itinerary and organize your reservations. This isn't even good as a road trip planner but can help you out no matter what kind of vacation you're planning. It's also super-easy to share with your loved ones or friends, so everyone knows where you're going to be.

Kayak is really good when it comes to planning a road trip. It consistently has the best rates for me in all categories, whether I'm looking to rent a car or book hotels. These things aren't ever cheap, and it's great to be able to rely on a site!

I'm one of those type-A personalities so organization is a must for me in all areas of my life. Springpad is my app of choice for this. Whether you want to plan a road trip or just keep your day-to-day tidy, you can create notebooks. It's such an organizational boost, no matter what you're planning!

Have you ever wondered how it is that people know to plan a road trip to the World's Largest Wheel of Cheese? Or the World's Smallest Horse? Roadside America helps you pick the fun, the weird and the downright kooky that you might want to visit when you're crossing the beautiful country. It's also great when you're on the road if you suddenly find yourself in unfamiliar territory and want to make the most of it!

If you like to plan a road trip with a destination in mind then you need DayZipping. All you have to do is put in your location and it will give you amazing ideas for what you can do. In fact, you can even use it when you're staying at home!

Once You're On The Road

This is another one of those that works for when you're at home too. Gas is expensive, right? That's why it's so frustrating when you've missed a great deal. GasBuddy will locate the cheapest gas near you based on your geolocation. Totally invaluable for when you want to plan a road trip.

If you're out on the road, you know that sometimes things come up that you weren't expecting. You can plan a road trip all you like, but you might need something else like a restaurant or a hotel deal. This is where AAA comes in with their up to date offerings (although I miss my spiral bound, TripTiks!).

The last time I had to plan a road trip, a girlfriend mentioned RoadAhead, and I have to say it's rapidly become one of my favorites. Need to know what restaurants or bathrooms are located at the next exit? This is the app for you. No more getting off the road to find out that McDonald's is actually 5 miles down the road.

I don't mean to be indelicate but one of the hardest parts when you plan a road trip is knowing what kind of bathroom facilities you might be exposed to. No more! Sit or Squat is from our friends at Charmin (and they KNOW bathrooms) and will come in handy whether you're on vacation or not!

Leave that old map book at home, and pick up Waze. Part GPS, part social game, part traffic, and police alert. When it comes to planning a road trip, it has real-time notifications of traffic conditions, speed traps or accidents thanks to other users logging the info in as they're coming up on it.

Apps to Help Keep Everyone Entertained During the Long Stretch of Highway

Obviously, the first to download and prepare as you plan a road trip is Spotify. No more fighting over what's on the radio – let everyone have their own Spotify account, create their own stations and then after earbudding up, everyone can ride in peace, except the driver – they still get the radio. Earbuds and driving are not a good mix.

Also worth getting before, while you're still trying to plan a road trip is Audible. It has literally millions of book titles to download. For a small, monthly fee you get credits that will let you download a pre-determined number of downloadable book titles. I like to do this in advance, as I'm usually the road trip planner in order to save on data.

Especially good when you're trying to plan a road trip with your lovable little monsters is Netflix. Watch your favorite movies, shows, and cartoons all on the road! The only issue that I have with Netflix on-the-go is that only one device can be logged in at a time.

I also have Hulu. I find that there are many more options for shows (especially) on Hulu. You can get the free version which has ads or pay a monthly fee where you'll still have ads, just not as many and a lot more options for shows and movies.

Welcome to town! Now that you're here, what will you do first?


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