Five step guide to planning the perfect road trip

Carlton Boyce / 11 February 2016

From choosing a destination to planning your route, follow our five steps to plan the perfect road trip or driving holiday.

If you enjoy driving, have a sense of adventure and dream of discovering new places, you’ve got the perfect ingredients for a road trip!

That’s all very well, I hear you say, but how do I go about planning one? Well, that bit’s easy; just follow our five-step guide to planning the perfect road trip.

Step 1

Decide how far you want to travel: is it going to be a weekend break, a fortnight’s holiday, or even something longer?

Of course, if you’re travelling in a campervan the world’s your oyster but friends of mine tour the UK in a Caterham Seven, a car not renowned for having a large boot. That they manage to do so is a testament to their ingenuity – and a willingness to wash their smalls in the bathroom sink from time-to-time.

Of course, it’s not all about the luggage. You might have domestic responsibilities or a small budget or any one of a number of reasons why you can’t take a month off. 

However, I’ve just Googled a trip from my home to Norway and back (I’ve always wanted to drive The Atlantic Road), which could be done as a four-day mini-break, albeit a packed one.

So 'Think Big' and don’t let a busy life prevent you from doing something wonderful every now and then!

Six tips for driving long distances.

Step 2

Now to decide where you want to go and what you want to see while you’re there. 

You could decide to do one of the iconic road trips: a holiday-of-a-lifetime Route 66 adventure in America calls to many – or there is our home-grown alternative the North Coast 500, a 500-mile loop through the Scottish Highlands that could be done in a week.

Or you might want to forge your own path. Trip Advisor is a good source of information on what’s worth seeing and what isn’t (although beware: some people’s expectations of what to expect can be woefully unrealistic…) while a couple of hours on the internet should give you some inspiration.

Failing that, do you have a favourite book whose locations you could follow? Or a favourite painting or piece of music? The possibilities are endless: I once spent a day tracing the locations mentioned in the Warren Zevon song Werewolves of London, ending the day by drinking a pina colada at Trader Vic’s…

Read our guide to some of the UK's best drives.

Step 3

Route planning in the past involved sitting down for hours and days with a map and a pencil and a bottle of Aspirin. Thankfully, life has moved on and you can now do the whole thing online.

I use Google Maps for the initial planning as it allows you to drag and drop your route easily, helping you fine-tune your waypoints. I then move on to the Michelin route planner, which might be more complex but does have options to include accommodation, fuel stops and attractions.

I like to pre-book my overnight stops but you might prefer to sort them out when you arrive, something that certainly gives you more freedom. When I have done this in the past, I’ve always found the local Tourist Information Centre is a great source of information on the best places to stay.

How does a sat nav work?

Step 4

The final element of preparation might involve getting the car serviced or even hiring one at your starting point. You’ll need some clothes too, and something to keep you entertained on the long, boring motorway stretches. (You get bonus points if you’ve managed to avoid using any motorways at all.)

However a passport, a toothbrush and a credit card will take you around the world, so there’s no need to overthink it!

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Step 5

Take lots and lots of photographs. Of course, a proper camera will give the best results but even an iPhone will give terrific results, especially if you carefully tweak them.

You could then post them to Facebook or Twitter to share your adventure with your friends and family. You might also consider using a popular photo-sharing website called Instagram. If you do so you can later upload them to a third-party site (I’ve used PastBook with great success) to create a book of your road trip as a lasting momento.

Where would you go on your perfect road trip? And who would be your perfect travelling companion? Leave a comment below to let us know...

For more tips and inspiration, browse our motoring articles.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.