How to Use to Plan an EPIC Road Trip (or any road trip)

Saturday, February 4, 2017 - 3:08pm

Our road trip journey continues with this excerpt from "Two Lane Gems, Vol. 1: Turkeys are jerks and other observations from an American road trip." Want the whole story? Order your copy directly or through Amazon.

Kids these days have it SO easy. When I was a young whipper snapper and we wanted to plan a road trip we had to use paper maps and actually physically go to the local AAA to pick up our TripTiks. We talked to travel agents - on a phone - that was plugged into a wall - and went to the bookstore and to the library to learn about potential destinations. We had visitors' guides mailed to us - in envelopes with stamps - and we had NO IDEA when they'd arrive. We didn't have any fancy-schmancy Internet with its PDFs and ebooks and geolocatingwhatzahoozits. GPS? We had our wits and an atlas. And patience. Lots and lots of patience.

Now the ease of planning a road trip is at your fingertips and it's immediate. There are so many tools and apps that it's almost harder to get lost than it is to find somewhere to go. (I prefer it this way.) We've found a few amazing tools to help us plan the Two Lane Gems Tour and I'll be sharing how we're using them so that you, too, can plan an amazing road trip with the greatest of ease.

First up:

RoadTrippers Home Page

Overview: What is

RoadTrippers is a website and app that helps you plan road trips by allowing you to plot points on a map. It then calculates the best route between them and helps you find info about what's along the route. With RoadTrippers you can:

  • Quickly plan a route
  • Calculate how much driving time your trip will take, both overall and between points of interest
  • See how much gas will cost based on your vehicle and MPG
  • Find nearby attractions, restaurants, and accommodations
  • Map out gas stations and rest areas
  • Find Tourist Information Centers, which are great for picking up paper maps and getting advice from locals

RoadTrippers launched in 2012, one year after my husband and I drove Route 66. It would have been incredible to have this resource available for that experience, even with a route that was mapped out for us by definition.

How to use RoadTrippers to Plan Your Route

There are two main ways to use RoadTrippers to plan a route. The first is if you have no idea where you want to go; you just know that you want to take a road trip and you need inspiration. The second is when you have a starting point and a destination and you're looking for the places in between.

1) As Inspiration

One of the coolest features of RoadTrippers is the existing trip guides. These are great for inspiration and include guides created by users as well as those posted by RoadTrippers. There are Weird Guides, Scenic Drives, Outdoor Escapes, and Classic USA Road Trips. You can find America's best tree house hotels, gems in the Pacific Northwest, and a road trip down the Atlantic coast. Once you find one you like you can share it or add it to your account. While this is an easy way to find inspiration, there's no way to filter the guides, so you have to browse based on general subject.

Roadtrippers Trip Guides

2) As a Trip Planner

This is how we've been using RoadTrippers to plan the Two Lane Gems Tour and it's been an invaluable - and super cool! - tool.

I began by adding our starting point, Elgin, and our destination, Oceanside, on the home page. This created a one-way trip with just two points. Because we're going round trip, I added a second Elgin and moved it below Oceanside. As you can see in the pictures below, it changed the length of time the trip would take, how much gas would cost, and how many miles we'd drive.

Roadtrippers Trip Planning
Roadtrippers Trip Planning

This is when it really gets to be fun. I began adding destinations and points of interest that we knew we wanted to visit. Every time you add a spot, a little marker bounces on the map and then you see the route change. It's so cool!

Roadtrippers Trip Planning - adding destinations

You can also see how long it takes you to get from one point to the next. This feature becomes especially useful when planning a drive through the Southwest and through the mountains. That Texas panhandle looks deceivingly short in comparison to the rest of the state, but it takes a looooooooooooooooong time to drive through. 

Roadtrippers Trip Planning - adding destinations

As I mentioned in my post on choosing destinations, one of our big considerations is weather. We're leaving in mid-February, and while this winter has been mild, there's no telling what could happen so we're heading south fairly quickly. Our return trip is going to take us through Utah and Colorado, but we're going to stick to the southern parts of those states for the same reason.

(Sometimes I'm realistic. Not often, but it happens. Sometimes.)

Adding a place you know you want to visit can open up possibilities you may not have considered until you see the route change on the map. For example, I knew I wanted to include the Salton Sea on our journey. When I added it, RoadTrippers took us through Yuma so now we're going to spend some time there.

We've continued to add and subtract as our plans finalize. With each plotted point, we can include a date and notes, so that may become our repository for any confirmation numbers, contact info, and any other details we'll need, making it a full-fledged itinerary. Because we're going to be in a lot of places without any cell service, we'll also have a good-old fashioned paper plan, and I'll share how we're keeping that organized in later post. (Warning: there will be color-coding.)

So far, this is what we've got planned:
Roadtrippers Trip Planning - adding destinations

Did I say this was going to be EPIC or what?

The drive west to San Diego is nearly finalized, but the return is probably going to change dramatically. We still haven't really decided if we're going to come back through Nebraska and Iowa or through Kansas and Missouri. There are so many ways we could go, and we want to go everywhere. Since that isn't feasible, we're using tools like RoadTrippers to help us narrow it down.

I'm fairly new to this tool myself, so as I learn more I'll share more. There are options I haven't even tapped yet, like using it to find campgrounds and trails and hikes. Would you like to see a full-on tutorial? If so, let me know!

In the meantime, if you want to follow along on our Two Lane Gems Tour be sure to follow me on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. You can also sign up for daily or weekly updates in your inbox.

Thanks for reading this excerpt from "Two Lane Gems, Vol. 1: Turkeys are Jerks and Other Observations from an American Road Trip." Want more? Visit to learn about this epic journey, or get your copy now:


Theresa Goodrich's picture
Theresa Carter - The Local Tourist Founder and Publisher, a.k.a. the boss
About Theresa

Hello Fellow Traveler! I'm the Emmy-winning founder and publisher of The Local Tourist. I've got insatiable curiosity, wanderlust, and an incurable need to use my words. In fact, I