How I plan a road trip

On my Danish travel pages I have a couple of times told about the planning of a road trip, but I have never done so on my English travel pages, so I will make up for that with this article, and I will use the road trip I have been planning with my son for our coming road trip in the summer of 2018 as an example, even if we have made a few more changes to our orginal plan than we usually do. The plan is now as complete as it will ever be, though we know that some things will probably change when we get underway.

For this years trip we have made 9 changes to out original plan since we started our planning right after returning to Denmark from our 2016 trip. And this is how it went.

Nice camo gator

Plan 1: The first plan was made in September 2016, and it would take us from Seattle to New York City, like we did in 2012, but following a different, more northern route. The major stops were Wallace (Idaho), Glacier National Park (Montana), Sturgis (South Dakota), Bismarck (North Dakota), Grand Rapids (Minnesota), Ann Arbor (Michigan), Niagara Falls (New York), Lancaster (New Hampshire), Acadia National Park (Maine), Providence (Rhode Island) and finally New York City. Of course there would be several other stops along the way, just to shorten each of the driving stints, and there would be the usual detours like going to Mount Rushmore, and visiting Lake Itasca to see the beginning of the Mississippi River and so on. That plan didn't last long though.

Plan 2: About one month later, we changed the route for the first time. We would still begin in Seattle, and New York City would still be the eastern terminus of the trip, and we would still visit Glacier National Park, Niagara Falls and Acadia National Park, but we removed South Dakota from the list and also some other places to add Great Falls (Montana), Green Bay (Wisconsin), Chicago (Illinois), Lake George (New York) and Montpelier (Vermont) to our route.

Plan 3: In December 2016 we made a major change to this plan, as my son, Tim, wanted to visit a friend along the way. Therefore the starting point was changed to Los Angeles (California) and from there the route would include Phoenix (Arizona), Monument Valley and Moab (Utah), Casper (Wyoming), Bismarck and Fargo (North Dakota), Minneapolis (Minnesota), Gary (Indiana), Toledo (Ohio), and then also Niagara Falls and the New England states although with some different stops, including Boston. This plan lasted until January 2017. Then we made some more changes.

Plan 4: Los Angeles and Phoenix was still included, but now we included Santa Fe (New Mexico), Dallas (Texas), Lafayette (Louisiana), Little Rock (Arkansas), Joplin (Missouri), Cedar Rapids (Iowa) and Madison (Wisconsin). From there to Toledo (Ohio) and continuing as in Plan 3. The whole idea of these first plans were to give me the opportunity to visit some of the few states in the center of the United States, I have yet to visit, and to give Tim the opportunity to see more of New England. This plan lasted until June, when Tim returned after having visited friends in Arizona.

Plan 5: In this plan we completely skipped the midwestern states and New England. We kept Los Angeles as the starting point, but decided to return home from Miami (Florida) instead, and now the major fix points was Los Angeles, Phoenix, Gallup and Santa Fe (New Mexico), Dodge City (Kansas), Talequah (Oklahoma), Little Rock, Lafayette, Bayou La Batre (Alabama) and Lake City, Ormond Beach, Tampa and Miami (Florida).

Plan 6: This plan was made in July 2017, but only included a few changes. From Santa Fe we would include Witchita Falls (Texas) before Dallas, and Bayou La Batre was changed to Huntsville (Alabama) and also Lexington (Kentucky) was included. From Lexington we would go south to Elizabethton (Tennessee) and then spend the rest of the vacation different places in my favorite part of USA, Western North Carolina. And finally we planned to fly back home from Charlotte (North Carolina). Most of these changes, except for the WNC part was due to Tim wanting to visit more friends around the country, like Phoenix, Dallas and Lexington.

Nice old hotel

Plan 7 only included one change to Plan 6. In stead of beginning the road trip in Los Angeles, we would fly to Phoenix and start there.

Plan 8 introduced another major change. This plan called for us to split up in the last part of the trip. We would also skip Lexington and put Florida back on the map. From Lafayette we would in stead go to Tallahassee (Florida) and from here to Flagler Beach (also Florida). Here I would drop Tim of at yet another friend of his, and then he would stay there, while I would go north to WNC and visit my friends there. I would spend three or four days there, than go back to Flagler Beach, pick up Tim and we would return to Denmark from Orlando (Florida).

Plan 9 (made in November 2017) didn't change much except skipping the planned New Mexico and Texas stops and just have stop overs in El Paso and Kerrville (Texas) on our way from Phoenix to Lafayette. This was supposed to be our final plan - until we started looking for plane tickets, Then we discovered it would be much cheaper to fly to Los Angeles anyway and drive from there to Phoenix and also to fly back to Denmark from Miami instead of Orlando. So the resulting plan from January 2018 is like this:

Plan 10: Los Angeles to Phoenix with a stop over in Joshua Tree National Park (California). Tim will be visiting friends in Phoenix! From Phoenix to Fort Worth (more of Tim's friends) with stop overs in Las Cruces (New Mexico) and Abilene (Texas). From Fort Worth to New Iberia (closer to Avery Island, our actual Louisiana destination, than Lafayette. From New Iberia we will make a 500 miles drive to Tallahasse and then on to Flagler Beach. I drop off Tim an continue north to Western North Carolina with a stop over somewhere in South Carolina, maybe Florence or Columbia. I will spend a week in WNC, visiting towns like Spruce Pine, Lenoir, Wilkesboro and my friends in Charlotte before heading back to Florida to pick up Tim. Then we will drive to Miami, spend a night there and fly back to Denmark the next day, bringing Tim's friend along with us.

Nice car (and Tim)

Beside the route by the way, we have also discussed though not yet planned in details what we want to see along the way. Some places we are definitely going to see, but we like to improvise as well so we have left room for that. After finally getting the route on track, what's next?

Well I have to get an ESTA permission, as I have had a new passport issued since my last visit and my old ESTA has expired. Tim's ESTA is still working though. The plane tickets are booked, and we will fly British Airways from Copenhagen to Los Angeles via London, and from Miami to Copenhagen once again via London. We have booked hotel rooms for some of the nights along the way, all in the beginning of the vacation. First night we will spend in Yucca Valley outside Joshua Tree National Park. Also our hotel in Phoenix is booked. The final three pre-booked hotels are in Las Cruces, Abilene and New Iberia. We will probably also book a room in Miami, as I don't want to drive around looking for a hotel in a large city. And having learned from experience, I will have to book rooms for at least some of my stays in Western North Carolina. I just don't know where yet, but I will have to find out soon. All we are now missing is renting a car, and as usual I will probably take care of that in April, and then all we have to do is wait for June 27th to come.

So this is just a short brief on how we plan a road trip. Maybe someone else can learn from this or at least be inspired. To me the planning and changing of plans is almost half the fun of a road trip. And by the way, even if the vacation 2018 has not yet taken place, we already made the first draft for a 2020 road trip.

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