travel tips: how to plan your best road trip


this time of year is my “busy season” at work, which doesn’t leave me much time (read: no time) to travel. but i have one busy season tradition that carries me through the long hours and weekends of work: the planning of the post-busy season trip.

last weekend, dallas had the most perfect weather, so my husband and i spread out the blankets in the backyard, played some music, and brought out my atlas to plan our spring road trip.  i’ve been dying to take a road trip across the southern US, and to finally visit some friends and family who live along the way.  planning road trips is one of my most favorite things to do, so i thought i would share some of my tips for planning fantastic road trips:

a perfect saturday: blanket, pug, atlas, and wanderlust

a perfect saturday: blanket, pug, atlas, and wanderlust

1. start with an atlas – looking at an atlas gives me ideas for scenic detours and sites to see that i may have missed.  kate spade’s travel book, places to go, people to see, mentioned that the drive from memphis, tn to vicksburg, ms is stunning, so we looked it up on the atlas.  guess what’s nearby?  yazoo city, home of willie morris, my husband’s favorite author.  note to self: detour to yazoo city on day three.  atlases will also list approximate driving times between cities, which comes in handy while planning number of days on the road.

2. stalk pinterest – set up a board for your road trip locations, and pin away as you research places to see.  map traveled to nashville recently, and i pinned most of the places they went to my tennessee board.  a friend at work recently gave me a magazine article on memphis, so i pinned the places that looked cool to me.  pinterest provides a great way to store ideas from all over the web in one place so you don’t forget.  if you’re looking for ideas on locations, check out my pinterest boards (organized by state and country) and also my road trip board for inspiration.

pinning by state has helped me plan the road trip - so many cool places i've pinned in the past that i had forgotten about!

pinning by state has helped me plan the road trip – so many cool places i’ve pinned in the past that i had forgotten about!

3. create a list on your phone – as you’re planning, you’ll hear suggestions from friends or through media that you’ll want to remember.  keeping a list on your phone will help you remember those tips since you can jot them down when someone suggests a place (that’s how i remembered kate spade’s recommendation for the memphis to vicksburg drive).

4. start reading! – i love themed reading.  i think this started when i read cannery road while visiting monterey, california – it brought so much life and history to the places i was seeing, that i was hooked.  if you’re looking for ideas on what to read during your travels, check out book lust to go by nancy pearl – she recommends books based on your travel destinations (genius).  for our road trip, i’m adding to my list john steinbeck’s travels with charley and william least heat-moon’s roads to quoz: an american mosey.

upcoming road trip reads

upcoming road trip reads

5. check out what the new york times has to say from 36 hours – i wrote an entire post on my love for 36 hours.  check it out and then read it before every trip you ever take (including short business trips).

6. plan your nights – book your hotels, b&b’s, stays with friends, etc. in advance.  start with your budget to understand how much to spend per night, and then see if you have any friends or family along the way that you can stay with (don’t forget to pack hostess gifts, if so).  some of my favorite bookings sites are airbnb and jetsetter.  don’t forget about any hotel points you may have saved up that could give you a free night (or two!) at a national chain.

the stops on our summer road trip - most excited for yazoo city, mississippi and the blue ridge parkway in appalachia

the stops on our summer road trip – most excited for yazoo city, mississippi and the blue ridge parkway in appalachia

7. leave room for improv – as an accountant, i like to plan down to the minute.  this can make for some stressful travel experiences.  one thing i’ve learned is to build in some time to improv, an extra day to go where i want, a half-day to explore a new part of the city, etc.  one time while driving to LA from dallas, we saw a sign on I-40 for the petrified forest.  excuse me?  detour!  we spent a couple of hours looking at the craziest petrified wood (how is this possible?!) before jumping back on the interstate and heading west.

stay tuned for future posts on best road trip apps, and how to pack your car for the best road trip.  for now, fill me in on any of your best tips for planning road trips – i’d love to hear them!

technology tuesday: pinterest, a (hopefully) soon-to-be app, and a must-visit website

i’m pretty pumped about this week’s technology tuesday.  a dream-come-true, a (hopefully) soon-to-be app, and an extremely helpful website…enjoy!

a snapshot of my work-in-process pinterest maps.

a snapshot of my work-in-process pinterest maps. currently only of the US, but expanding to my international pins soon!

  • pinterest maps – as you may have read on jaunt’s twitter a couple of weeks ago, i’ve been busy mapping jaunt’s pins.  what does this mean, you ask?  well, basically heaven.  over the past year, i’ve pinned so many great sites – both from jaunt posts and also from other pinners.  i try to group them by location, but it can be hard to visualize and find everything quickly.  enter: the pinterest map!  i can now add a location to pins, and they are placed on a map for each board.  mapping existing pins is extremely time-consuming, but i’m hopeful for quick mapping/pinning in the future.  for now, you can check out my US boards (i’ve mapped each state separately), as well as my world board, which will have each pin on it and mapped.  so helpful when planning a trip that crosses borders, goes off the beaten path, etc.  transform those pins into reality, people!
roundtrip app design from the terminal velocity series at fastco design

roundtrip app design from the terminal velocity series at fastco design

  • roundtrip app – my friend, stephanie, shared this app-in-process with me a few weeks ago.  just in theory for now as part of the terminal velocity series from fastco design, it seems similar to the tripit app, which i reviewed here a couple of months ago, with added perks like budget tracking during vacations, alerts to leave your house for the airport based on current traffic situations, and notifications of weather changes to help you pack in advance.  the app is still in the works (at least let’s hope so), but you can check out the proposed design and features here.  cross your fingers that this puppy makes it to market soon – the sleek design is enough for me to download ASAP.
check out seat guru's website or app for the best seat on your flight.

thought you wanted seat 14a? think again – limited reclining and very cold! however, extra legroom! check out seat guru’s website or app for the best seat on your flight.

  • seat guru – now a part of the trip advisor suite, seat guru has been a fan of mine ever since i started traveling for work.  type in your flight number, airline, and plane model, and this website will tell you which seats are best to reserve.  you may think that front-row business class seat is the best for added leg room, but it’s actually across from the restrooms and there is no window in this row.  or perhaps the window seat you originally wanted is in a row that is difficult to exit if your aisle buddy is asleep.  i check seat guru during every reservation now, and would not leave home without it.  though i’ve always visited the website, there is also a free app now.

i love receiving new tips and suggestions for technology tuesday, so please send me any great travel tech advice you’ve come across!  until next time…