With my road trip coming up, I wanted to share about how I plan a 1-2 day trip to a specific city or town. Exploring a new place can be daunting. There’s so much to do, whether it’s a big city or small little town. I’ll walk you through my process to make it a little easier.
Step 1: Before you start, decide how to track your research.
While some prefer a notebook to a computer, I digitally plan my trips. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve lost pages with notes or spilled coffee on a notebook. In a flash, all that work is gone. I use Evernote on my computer and phone to keep my notes in one place. I have an Evernote notebook dedicated to my trip and notes on hotels, towns, shopping and eating. Using the cloud sharing across devices makes notes portable and easy to reference. Google Drive and Dropbox are also great.
Step 2: Decide where to stop and how long you want to stay.
Where to stop along the way depends on the amount of distance driven in a day. A person driving alone can safely do 5 hours of driving everyday, which equates to 300 interstate miles. If there’s stops along the way or the route is on country roads, the mileage might be lower. Travel Math has a great tool that computes stopping points for a trip based on daily mileage.
Any city or town really needs at least a full day or two to visit. An agent at AAA once told me each stop needs three days, but sometimes places just aren’t that interesting. However, it’s always good to maintain a bit of flexibility in a schedule for those places with an unanticipated magical pull. Or perhaps when an extra day of rest is needed.
Step 3: Decide where to stay.
Gone are the days of being stuck at the Super 8! Thanks to platforms like Airbnb, FlipKey and HomeAway, there are so many options for how to stay. Want to sleep at someone’s house? Done. How about a cabin? You’ve got it! Maybe you want a free option, in which case, check out CouchSurfing.
For those on the hotel route, there’s more out there than just the typical big name chain. From boutique hotels to bed and breakfasts, there’s a whole world of options out there. I already have stays planned at the Magnolia Hotel in Dallas, The Austin Hotel in Hot Springs and The Capital Hotel in Little Rock. I’ll be sharing about my stays as they happen!
Step 4: Make a plan.
For big cities there’s a wealth of information out there. For smaller cities and towns, more digging is required. Let’s take Hot Springs, Arkansas, a small town with a population of about 35,000. To start planning, I’ll search something broad like, “What to do in Hot Springs, AR.” Luckily Trip Advisor has a great series of guides of the top 30 things to do almost anywhere. Here’s their guide for Hot Springs. Some days I prefer to be out in nature, while others I like to be in museums. I open whatever interests me in a new tab. I quickly skim through the information and if it sounds fun, I add it to my notes for that city in Evernote.
For eating, I depend almost entirely on Yelp, probably like a lot of other travelers. Typically I don’t decide where to eat until I get there, but if dietary restrictions are a concern, planning certain helps! I search for $ and $$ restaurants around me and usually go with one in the top five depending on what I’m in the mood for. Sometimes I’ll even order based on dishes mentioned! This strategy has yet to lead me astray.
Thanks for reading! I hope this helps you in your travel planning!