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Deciding Where to Go

This is a photo showing a group of friends in a car while on a road trip to Las Vegas.

Planning the trip is half the fun!

How to plan your road trip, depending on the time you have and how far you want to drive.

If you’re going on a short trip of two weeks or less, you’ll probably have an itinerary. There are destinations to see and time constraints to deal with.

So how do you decide where to go? The three main deciding factors are length of vacation, budget, and how far you want to drive.

In that time, you could take in the BBQ festivals that you saw on TV. Explore along old Route 66 for nostalgic America. Or go through the Napa Valley on a winery tour.

Perhaps there’s a monument or two that you want to see. Maybe it’s something you studied as a kid, like Mount Rushmore, Montezuma’s Castle, or the Lincoln Memorial.

Maybe it’s a natural wonder that calls you. Something you’ve always wanted to see, like Old Faithful in Yellowstone Park, the peaks of the Rocky Mountains, the Berringer Meteor Crater, or the Grand Canyon.

You could go hunting for kitschy landmarks, or explore the remains of old gold rush towns. Maybe its America’s museums, gardens and theme parks that interest you.

If you’re a writer, designer, or consultant (like me) you can work anywhere in the world with an internet connection. You have the luxury of roaming around, staying where you want, for as long as you want.

If you find a town that resonates with your spirit, you can explore everything in it. You can get to know the people and get a feel for the area. You might like it so much, that you decide to move there one day.

Most people however, have regular jobs and set vacations. How far you travel depends on how much time you get off work. So the easiest thing to do is fire up your favorite maps app and calculate the distances.

After opening the maps app, tap on the get directions link. Enter your town as the starting point and the destination you plan on going to. The app will tell you how many hours of driving there are to get there.

For example, if you enter from Seattle to Yellowstone National Park, it says there’s 12.5 hours of driving. That trip would be a leisurely week long vacation, or very rushed one, if you only have a few days off work.

You can also use the maps app to calculate the driving distances between vacation destinations. It lets you decide in advance, how far that you want to drive each day.

The two biggest expenses on road trips are gas and accommodations. There is a section on saving gas, but if you’re on a tight budget, you might stay within a day’s drive, or two, from home. At least you’re getting the experience of a small road trip.

The one thing you must do though, is to make hotel reservations. If you’re driving in the off season, from autumn to spring, you can book a day or two in advance. Come summer and peak travel time, you will need to plan your driving days and book hotels, at least three to seven days in advance.

Not to worry though, we have a whole section devoted to choosing hotels and making reservations. But before we get into that, we’ll take a detailed look at what else you need to plan.

So get ready to head out for the weekend, the annual two week vacation, or a six month journey. No matter how long the trip, this planning guide, written from personal experience and dozens of road trips, will help you have a safe and happy vacation.

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