Although the “by the seat of your pants” method of road tripping sounds alluring – just jump in your car with your buddies or family and head off in search of adventure, the fact is that planning is a must. It’s the hands-down best way to ensure your vacation is a great one.
When I start planning, I use maps, guidebooks, and online resources as part of my research arsenal, helping me organize, map out our route, find unique stopping points and attractions, and much more. You, too, need more than one website to help you plan. Here is a list of the best road trip planning websites I’ve used and what makes them essential resources.
Road Trip Resources Online – The Best of the Best
This site is a great planning resource for your next road trip. Why? Because it’s all about real people and their real travel experiences. It’s not a bunch of advertising gimmicks and sales pitches. The staff on TA work hard to try and keep out bogus reviews and their forums delve even deeper if you’re looking for specific location information. I’ve spent a lot of time on the forums and has gotten to experience the fascinating and passionate dialog on there – let me tell you, these people take their trips seriously! And they should: vacation time has dwindled in America. If you’re finally going on vacation, it ought to be as good as it can be.
This site’s most essential offerings: great information about lodging, dining, and attractions (rated by actual visitors, not salespeople), and, of course, the forums.
This is a great website if you want to find bizarre off-the-wall attractions along your route or near/at your destination. That’s what they specialize in: crazy kitschy stuff! Want to see the world’s largest chair? What about the biggest ball of twine? This is the site. I use this as I’m planning a trip to determine what I would like to stop and see along the way. By no means do I use it exclusively – I like other types of attractions (non-zany) as well and they’re not featured. Still, it adds that special spice and humor to a road trip that makes it much more memorable.
This site’s most essential offerings: Wild weird or just plain quaint attractions across the USA for your road trip entertainment.
Although my road trip calculator has most of what you need to determine your budget, this website takes my gas estimate section to the next level, providing the kind of help I could only dream to aspire to. They take into account your start and endpoints, your car’s make, model and year and will then give you the amount you can expect to spend on gas as well as your carbon footprint! They even tuck in a Google Map to show you the best route. Take the amount they give you, add it to my calculator and you’ll have a very accurate idea of the cost of your vacation.
This site’s most essential offerings: A much more exact estimate of what you’ll spend on gas on a road trip than anything else out there on the web. Remember to double the cost to make it round-trip.
This is my favorite online mapping resource –especially after having some bad experiences with other online mapping tools. Google Maps works for me every time. Of course, I always have a paper map and a GPS, too.
This site’s most essential offerings: Great mapping suggestions as well as options to avoid tolls as well as avoid highways. You can drag-and-drop your route at will. Nice!
If you’re interested in taking a road trip to visit this country’s amazing national parks, look no further than US-Parks.com. Not only do they give extensive details about each park, but they even offer trip itineraries to help you with planning! I’m really impressed with the quality of this site.
This site’s most essential offerings: Awesome Google Maps of every park, camping site, and lodging option they recommend plus detailed mapped-out road trip plans for visiting the parks.