Planning a road trip can be extremely overwhelming and exciting all at one-time. I get it, there are so many places to see, explore, and adventure. It is a world filled with endless hidden gems, natural wonders, and pure epicness. In my opinion, road tripping is the best way to experience the great outdoors. We’ve driven thousands of miles and our Google Maps is full of road trip ideas.
The beauty of road tripping in a van is the flexibility and not having to worry about expensive hotel reservations. You’ll be able to travel anywhere on the road and camp comfortably in your own van. Here are tips and guidance to help you how to plan your next van life road trip!
1. Choose Your Route
Do you have a bucket list? A destination in mind that you’ve always wanted to visit? It’s obvious that the first step in planning your road trip is figuring out where you want to go. Once you’ve decided on the destinations, it’s time to plug those into a map. We like to use Google Maps to give us a rough idea of the drive time and mileage. If possible, choose the scenic route! America’s Scenic Byways and Authentik Canada offer epic scenic routes, in case you are looking for some inspiration.
Pro Tip: Google Maps will most likely use the most direct route but you can modify it to take the scenic route by simply dragging the blue line elsewhere on the map, just keep track of the mileage and drive-time.
2. Make Your Route Adaptable
Additionally, keep your route adaptable as you may want to make spontaneous stops along the way because let’s be honest…that’s what makes a road trip fun and how you find those hidden gems!
Questions to ask yourself: How much time do you have for your road trip? How many miles can you comfortably drive? These are important to help you plan your drive times accordingly.
3. Plan For The Weather
Depending on where you plan to go, researching the average temperatures is a must. Doing so will prepare you to plan ahead your clothing items, camping essentials, and must-do adventures. So check the weather of areas you plan to visit before you finalize your route!
4. Find Places to Stay
As I mentioned earlier, the beauty of road tripping in a van is flexibility. We love choosing a route that takes us through a scenic way and off the grid packed with explorations and free campsites. Whether it’s on Forest Service Roads or the Bureau of Land Management, there’s nothing like going to sleep and waking up in some epic places! However, if you are planning a road trip to a populated destination during peak season, reserving campsites in advance is a must. If you plan off-season, reservations along the way are plausible as well.
5. Pack Like a Minimalist
The secret to a successful road trip is to pack like a minimalist. It involves light packing and is the foundational element of stress-free travel. Here are a few things to consider – make a packing list before your trip, choose a neutral base color for your outfits (this will make packing easy and versatile), and use packing cubes to keep you tidy. Check out this list of the best travel gear and essentials to help you with your packing!
6. Prep Your Van For The Road
Before embarking on your road trip, you probably want to make sure that your van is in tip-top shape.
The most important thing you can do to ensure that? Make sure your van is up-to-date on its maintenance. So if you haven’t had your van serviced in a while—or if it’s been a while since you’ve had an oil change, or maybe even just since the last time you checked your tires—make sure to take care of that before hitting the road!
7. Organize & Finalize Your Road Trip
Regardless if you’re taking a week-long road trip or a month-long road trip, it’s always best to organize all of your collected information (in my honest opinion). We like to use Google Docs to note down places we want to see along the way, potential campgrounds, mountain biking & hiking trails, and any other information relating to the trip. Soon after, a flexible planned route with trip dates is implemented in Google Calendar & Google Docs with day-by-day detail of planned destinations, drive times, and campsite reservations.
Before finalizing your van life road trip route, I recommend reviewing your plans. Ask yourself: Does it feel well-balanced? Are there any activities or attractions you might have missed? Once you feel confident with your road trip plans, make sure you download the Google Offline Map and your docs to always have access to your itinerary.
Pro Tip: Service can be spotty depending on where you go and Google Maps may not always work properly, this National Geographic Road Atlas: Adventure Edition is the perfect map to have on hand and in your van. Plus it’s got great recommendations for the adventurous soul!
In conclusion, road trips are great ways to relax and enjoy nature but also require careful planning and preparation. We hope this article helps you plan your next adventure on the road!