Looking for tips and advice on how to plan an epic road trip with multiple stops? Here is a complete guide to creating the perfect eco-friendly experience on the road, including how to budget your trip, find accommodations and map your itinerary to ensure you see the best of your destination. It contains everything you need to live unforgettable eco-adventures across the globe.
I love road trips – it is my favourite way of travelling as it allows me to move around freely and stop wherever I want – and I enjoy this idea of freedom.
I also find that road trips allow me to deepen my knowledge of my destination and its culture, as I can get off the beaten tracks and discover remote locations and authentic places where I can connect with the locals.
So if like me, you love road trips (or are a first-timer) – you have come to the right place!
Since I know that planning a road trip is challenging, especially when exploring sustainably, I created this article to help you.
This ultimate “how to plan a road trip” guide is ideal for better organising yourself, making the most of your time away and enjoying your holiday stress-free! It is perfect for planning solo, family or friends’ road trip adventures.
Plus, do not forget to check out the sustainable tips at the end. Enjoy 🙂
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- Overview: plan a road trip with multiple stops
- Your guide to planning an epic road trip
- Part I – Brainstorm your road trip
- Part II – Choose your road trip transport
- Part III – Research & plan your road trip route
- Part IV – Budget your road trip
- Part V – Create your road trip itinerary
- Part VI – Make bookings for your road trip
- Part VII – Packing for your road trip
- Mistakes to avoid when planning a road trip
- How to reduce your eco-impact on the road
- Best apps & websites for your road trip
- How to plan a road trip – FAQ
Overview: plan a road trip with multiple stops
- Brainstorm your road trip
- Choose your transportation
- Research your route
- Budget your trip
- Create your itinerary
- Make bookings
- Get ready & pack
Your guide to planning an epic road trip
Part I – Brainstorm your road trip
Before you start designing your road trip itinerary, taking the time to brainstorm your ideas is essential. It will allow you to write down all your thoughts and options and see what works best for your schedule and budget.
1- The destination
Brainstorming your road trip starts with where you want to go.
Think about your destination and the adventures you want to experience: is it a road trip through the USA, around Iceland or in Vietnam?
The possibilities are endless, so choose which country you want to discover and which parts of this country are the ones you want to focus on and see. Research as much as possible using Google, travel blogs, magazines, books, social media, recommendations from friends, etc.
Personal experience: Pinterest and travel blogs are my favourite ways to find inspiration for road trip ideas.
Here are some of my favourite road trips:
- South Tunisia Road Trip: Perfect 7-Day Itinerary
- 9 Perfect Days in Iceland: Ring Road Itinerary
- North Vietnam Travel Guide: 2-Week Itinerary
- London to Edinburgh Drive: 20+ Best Stops
- South of France Road Trip: 1-Week Itinerary
2- The timescale
Once you have chosen your destination and know where you want to go for a road trip, decide how long you have, in other words, your timescale.
Would you like to road trip for a month, two weeks or a weekend?
Again, anything is possible, but be flexible and realistic as it will depend on how many things you want to see and your budget – we will get to that in a bit.
If you only have fixed dates, no worries: you can fit and adapt your road trip according to these dates.
3- The season
Now, decide which time of the year you will road trip.
If you know which dates you are travelling on, then choosing the season will not matter.
But if you have decided on your timescale, you will have the opportunity to select the season in which you want to road trip.
The season matters a lot, as each period of the year will bring out something different from your destination and impact your budget, accessibility and activity level. For example, consider bank holidays and festivals: these events will increase prices and attract more tourists.
Of course, the seasons will also influence the weather – and it is necessary to do your research. For example, if you are travelling to Iceland, this is important as the weather in winter can be harsh and driving on icy roads is not easy – but possible with good preparation.
4- The travel buddy
Finally, last but not least, with who are you travelling: are you travelling alone, with your family or a friend (or friends)?
You will have to adapt and tailor your itinerary to your travel companion, as touring with a friend is not the same as touring with a child – they will have different needs for the activities they want to do.
For the purpose of this brainstorming, it is good to know what your travel companion likes and dislikes and what they expect from this road trip. It would also be great to know their budget so you can adjust.
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Create your dream adventure & live an unforgettable green experience on the road.
Part II – Choose your road trip transport
Now that you know where you are going, for how long, in what season and with whom, you can finally start planning your road trip.
The first step is to decide which transport you will use.
Reminders – choose your mode of transport based on your destination and the season and what is the most convenient way for you to get around.
The method of transport you choose to reach your destination will play a crucial role in the overall footprint of your holiday. Therefore, try to select the greenest form of transportation possible, such as public transport, bike or electric car.
In addition, whatever you choose, use EcoPassenger to calculate the environmental effect of your journey. It will allow you to become aware of your impact and offset your carbon footprint when you return home.
1- Your own car
If you plan your road trip not far from your home, you will have the opportunity to travel in your own car. It could be a great idea as it will reduce your (car rental) expenses and give you peace of mind as you already know your vehicle.
Travelling by car has many benefits: you can move at your own pace, make as many spontaneous stops as you want, store as much as you want in the boot and decide on your schedule.
- Advantages: simplicity, money saver, flexibility
- Disadvantages: not eco-friendly, can breakdown
2- Caravan & motorhome
One of the road trippers’ favourite ways of travelling!
Caravans and motorhomes are perfect for discovering a place at your own pace, providing you with comfort and stability throughout your road trip and allowing you to save money. It is an ideal way to travel as a solo adventurer or for families with children.
For your road trip, you can venture out with your own caravan or motorhome or easily rent one at your destination.
- Advantages: practical, comfortable, money saver
- Disadvantages: hard to manoeuver, not for every destination
3- Car rental
If you prefer to travel by car but can not bring your own, renting one is your next option, and you can do that at any airport or city – even in remote places. Car rental is great and convenient for a road trip but will add more expense to your budget (price per day + insurance).
If you need to rent a car for your self-drive trip, I recommend using rentalcar.com. From affordable to luxury, they make it easy to compare and offer a great selection of rental agents and different pick-up and drop-off options.
Eco-tips: choose the smallest vehicle possible, travel with friends or select an electric car.
- Advantages: accessibility, timer saver
- Disadvantages: more expensive, strict terms
4- Bike & motorbike
Yes, accomplishing a road trip by bike is possible and an incredible way to discover your destination! It will allow you to experience the place from another perspective and travel slowly. Plus, our planet will thank you!
I know travelling by bike can be physical and not for everybody, but why not consider this option for a weekend getaway?
Otherwise, road-tripping with a motorbike is another option. It will not be as physical and can be incredibly practicable in some destinations, such as Asia. However, remember that travelling that way is still more tiring than travelling by car.
- Advantages: slow travel, freedom, thrill
- Disadvantages: physical, tiring, less storage
5- Public transport
I know travelling by public transport is not technically road-tripping, but it can be a great way to move around whilst reducing impact.
Yes, planning a road trip by bus and train is possible! It requires a bit of organisation – but what better way to save money and lower your carbon footprint? Plus, as for motorbikes, some destinations are easier to discover that way.
For example, during my road trip through northern Vietnam, my friend and I only travelled by bus – and it was great! We rented a motorbike from time to time to discover the surroundings where we were staying, but we only moved around by bus as I could not imagine driving a car.
- Advantages: reduce carbon footprint, save money
- Disadvantages: more organisation needed, strict schedule
6- Group or private guide
Finally, another way to road trip is by using a group or private guide. It is not my favourite, but it can be exceptionally convenient! You will not have to plan much – you can sit back and relax as someone takes you around and shows you the best spots. As a result, it will save you time and energy.
On the other hand, if you travel with a group, you will lose a bit of freedom as you will not be able to stop where you want or do what you want each day. But you will meet new people and make friends along the way.
- Advantages: convenience, time and energy saver
- Disadvantages: less freedom and flexibility
Part III – Research & plan your road trip route
The next step in planning your perfect road trip is to explore your possible stops and map your route. In that order, you will need to narrow it down and get a bit more specific.
Firstly, write a list of all the places you want to stop and things you want to see and do (on your computer, phone or paper). Put down everything that seems interesting or exciting to you. And again, take inspiration from Google, travel blogs, social media, magazines, books and more.
For now, do not look at what is possible or not: research and write it down. It can be places, restaurants, landmarks, activities or attractions – anything you want.
Then plan where you might want to stay each night. Find the best locations and choose the type of accommodation best suited for you: camping, hotel, Airbnb, guesthouse, etc.
To go further in your research, use Google maps. You can use filters to look for a specific activity or location and save it to your list.
From there, I like to look at my notes and gather what is nearby and possible to do in one day (using colour codes) – or what makes the most sense to do together.
Use Google Maps again and circle or rewrite each activity, attraction and place according to their location.
For example, if you are planning a road trip around Iceland, it would make sense to combine the three attractions of the Golden Circle or Skaftafell with Jökulsárlón. On the other hand, do not plan the Golden Circle with Húsavík on the same day.
Now, you have a better overview of your activities and things to do – and what might be possible!
Part IV – Budget your road trip
One of the most challenging parts of planning a road trip is budgeting.
Budgeting a road trip is not easy as it can be tricky to know how much you will spend – and how much to save.
On the other hand, building a budget will help you better prepare, make a savings plan and record your expenses to stay within your goal. It is the ideal way to organise yourself and make the most of your time away whilst enjoying your holiday stress-free.
Here are a few ideas to help you:
First, decide on an overall budget. How much would you like to spend on this road trip, or how much have you saved?
Once you have decided on a (rough) number, write down your main categories, such as transportation, accommodation, food & drink and activities, and break down your budget. (Add more categories, if needed, such as miscellaneous, eating out, etc)
Then break down each category even more.
For transportation, for example, write down the estimated cost of car rental, petrol, tolls and insurance.
Yes, it is an estimate!
It is hard to know beforehand how much things will cost, so write down the estimation and keep track of everything whilst travelling. How to do that? Just record your expenses on your phone, computer or paper.
Tip: to calculate the petrol, you can use online websites or do the math yourself: miles / miles per tank x cost per tank = fuel cost. (it will give you an estimate and not a precise amount!)
Another tip would be to set a daily budget for each category, so you can estimate what to spend each day and monitor with your expense tracker once on the road.
Part V – Create your road trip itinerary
Now that you have chosen your destination, decided on your transportation, done your research, planned the best things to do and created a budget, it is time to complete your itinerary!
1- Perfect your route
With your research (part III) and your budget (part IV), perfect your stops and start drawing your route.
In part III (Research and Plan), I advised you to group attractions and activities by location so you can do them in one day. From there, narrow down even more – and this step will depend on you! It will depend on what you can afford, what time you have and how much you want to see in one day (your energy and activity level).
Highlight the activities, attractions or places you absolutely want to do and see, and fit the rest around them – if distance or time allows.
For example, if you plan a trip around Iceland, select the main things you want to do, such as the Blue Lagoon, Golden Circle and Jökulsárlón. Then, look at other possible attractions around those places.
In this stage, you will have to make sacrifices. You can not do everything in one day or on one road trip. You need to decide on your priorities and remember that you can return any other time.
2- Use Google Maps
To perfect your route, even more, head to Google Maps and create your itinerary. It will help you know how long you will need to travel between each stop, and you can map your entire road trip that way.
You can also go to “My Maps” to personalise and save each of your itineraries.
Or, if you prefer, you can also print a map of the country you are visiting and draw your itinerary on it by hand. It is what I did on my first trip to Iceland. I used colour codes for each day – it was fun to do.
3- Select your accommodation
Google Maps will also allow you to research where to sleep each night -but choose what works best for you! Either stay in the same area as your activities for the day (which I did in Vietnam) or sleep somewhere halfway to the next day’s attractions (which I did in Iceland).
Compare accommodations according to what you prefer (hotel, camping, guesthouse) and your budget. Use websites such as Booking.com, and if possible, select a place with flexible cancellation.
4- Keep notes & record
In addition, keep notes on your computer or paper. For each day, write down the estimated budget, major stops (with time and distance between each) and where you plan to stay for the night.
Yes, it is starting to take shape - how exciting!
Part VI – Make bookings for your road trip
The serious part is here: book your perfect adventure.
The booking order is up to you, but I would recommend: flight ⇢ transport ⇢ accommodation ⇢ activities.
If you start your road trip from your home, then great, you will not have to book any flight.
But if your destination is further away, you might need to book a flight, and for that, I recommend using Skyscanner – my favourite platform to compare, find the best deals and book tickets (the only one I have used for the past seven years).
How to get to your destination without harming our planet?
That is a question I have asked myself a lot, considering how much I travel by plane. Whilst doing some research, I discovered (without surprise) that transportation pollution is a significant issue caused by tourism. Air pollution has steadily increased with the number of tourists travelling by planes each year, severely affecting local air quality and contributing to climate change.
If you use a plane, take direct flights as much as possible to reduce your carbon footprint, as landing and take-off have the worst effect. You can also choose greener flights with Skyscanner. It has an option that only displays flights with lower CO2 emissions.
And if you can, prioritise reaching your destination by public transport, train or carpool.
Now that you know when you will arrive and depart from your destination, it will be easier to book your mode of transportation, whether it is a rental car, motorbike or caravan.
I recommend using rentalcar.com. From affordable to luxury, they make it easy to compare and have a great selection of rental agents and different pick-up and drop-off options.
Eco-tips: choose the smallest vehicle possible, travel with friends or select an electric/hybrid car.
The following booking step is accommodation and where you will stay each night. I suggest using Booking.com and Airbnb to search, compare and reserve, and if possible, select a place with flexible cancellation – in case of emergency or if things do not go as planned.
Also, try to stay with locals as much as possible. It will allow you to connect with people and learn more about the culture of your destination.
Prioritise eco-friendly accommodation. It is not always easy to determine whether a hotel has eco-conscious practices, but as guidance, read the hotel description, look for green certification or statement committing to sustainability, or search for places locally owned. You can also use Bookdifferent or Ecobnb to help you decide. And if possible, go camping!
4- Activities & attractions
Now that your road trip is taking shape, you can consider booking the activities and attractions you want to do on your itinerary. Reserve through their website and ask questions if you need. Also, pay attention to the opening and closing times.
When travelling, being mindful of the activity you choose and the travel agent you select is very important for helping reduce impact. A sustainable tour operator offers travel products or services complying with high social and environmental standards. They focus on creating benefits for local communities, protecting the environment using conservation projects, and prioritising animal welfare.
It is essential that you do your research before booking an activity or tour. Only get involved in activities that benefit the environment, locals and wildlife. Also, try using local guides and look for authentic experiences to ensure your money goes into the local economy. Most importantly, never participate in activities that do not seem right (like involving wildlife)!
For more ecotourism activity ideas, check out this article: Best Ecotourism Activities Around the World.
Part VII – Packing for your road trip
Woop Woop! You are now ready to go. After choosing your destination and booking your trip, what you pack is the next step in preparing for your road trip.
1- Essential road trip packing list
Each suitcase will look different to everyone, depending on where you are going and for how long, but here are some road trip essentials:
- Phone and tablet (to listen to music or watch movies)
- Camera (to capture your incredible adventure)
- All chargers (indispensable)
- Passport, driving licence, and any necessary visas
- Credit card and cash (you will want to bring souvenirs)
- A map or GPS (so you do not get lost)
- Travel books and guides (to discover the best of your destination)
- Road trip snacks (a crucial item)
- A reusable water bottle (stay hydrated on the go)
- Notebook or travel diary (to record your thoughts)
- Glasses and sunglasses (to better see where you drive)
- Travel games (for fun)
IMPORTANT – do not let any significant belongings in your car! Take them with you as they can get stolen.
Love reading on the road? Check out this article: 15 Travel Books to Inspire Your Next Eco-Adventure.
2- Packing eco-tips
The best way to avoid waste and plastic when travelling is to arrive prepared. That is why considering what you bring with you is so important. Here are some clothing and gear ideas for your road trip:
- Sustainable backpack: It is hard to road trip without a good backpack. It is essential for any type of adventure, no matter the duration and level, and it will last forever if you choose the right one. Check out Osprey and Lowe Alpine.
- Ethical clothing: What you wear will depend on the season and weather, but try selecting sustainable and eco-friendly clothing that respects the environment. Check out Rab and North Face.
- Reusable food containers: Reusable containers are essential for packing your meals or snacks and reducing waste. Get a reusable meal kit, collapsible containers and bamboo cutleries to say goodbye to unwanted trash. Check out Bambaw and Light My Fire.
- Filtered water bottle: Stay hydrated on the go with a water bottle that contains a purifier filter. It will provide healthy and clean water anywhere you hike whilst avoiding waste and single-use plastic. Check out Grayl and Epic Water Filters.
- Portable solar charger: Having gear charged on your road trip is essential to capture your beautiful adventure and come home with unforgettable memories. However, it can sometimes be trouble when you are on the road. Check out Goal Zero and Anker.
- Eco-friendly tote bags (reduce single-use plastic)
- Travel towels (reduce water usage)
- Reusable straws (reduce single-use plastic)
- Biodegradable shampoos (reduce toxic chemicals)
- Zero-waste sunscreens (reduce single-use plastic & toxic chemicals)
- Solid toiletries (reduce water usage)
Check out this page for more inspiration on eco-friendly products & gear.
Shop the editable travel packing list
Mistakes to avoid when planning a road trip
We all make mistakes, and that is how we learn! Here are some of the ones I have made along the way and my advice for avoiding them:
1- Over-planning and adding too much
One of the easiest mistakes to make when planning a road trip is adding too many things and not giving yourself enough time to do them all.
Remember that road-tripping takes time and energy. Do not over-plan or you will quickly feel overwhelmed by the things to do and see. It starts with preparation, so give yourself free space when mapping your road trip.
2- Ignoring traffic and breaks
We easily forget this one! I know it’s hard to predict how busy the road will be during your trip, but try considering traffic jams and pauses. Do not think you can travel an 8-hour journey all in one go – break down your route and organise stopovers!
Again, a road trip is tiring and driving that long can be exhausting – so be prepared, do not be hard on yourself and take your time.
3- Thinking everything will go as planned
It could be! But that might not be the case – so keep an open mind and leave room for the unexpected. Anything can happen on a road trip: car breakdown, illness or injury, change of itinerary, accommodation cancellation and more. Be ready and open to adapting your plans, and be ok with missing things if necessary!
Plus, the beauty of road-tripping is to wander and go off the beaten tracks, so leave space for exploration and adventure!
4- Forgetting the busy seasons
Each country has its own busy period depending on the season and cultural events such as bank holidays, festivals and more. Therefore, do your research beforehand, as this will impact your road trip through prices and crowds.
In addition, research the weather at your destination as much as possible. The weather can be extreme in some countries, so you do not want to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
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How to reduce your eco-impact on the road
Are you looking forward to your amazing road trip? I understand! Road trips are a fantastic way of travelling as they allow us to move freely and discover so many incredible places at our own pace. However, they can also have negative environmental impacts. That is why considering our carbon footprint and adopting eco-responsible habits is essential.
Here are some sustainable tips on making your road trip more eco-friendly and having a positive impact on the places you visit.
PREPARE YOUR ROUTE
I know getting lost on a road trip can feel fun and exciting. But when trying to minimise your footprint, it is best to plan your route to avoid unnecessary travel. In addition, the shorter the distance you travel, the less fuel you will use and the less harmful emissions you will produce. Tip: Get offline maps to stay on track even if you lose signal.
PLAN YOUR MEALS
Another great way to reduce your impact on the road is to plan your meals. Throughout your journey, try to find local restaurants or eco-friendly facilities. You can try the local cuisine or wander through local markets and buy fresh produce.
MAKE YOUR TRIP PLASTIC-FREE
As you might know, plastic packaging is a significant environmental issue and causes concerns for wildlife and the preservation of natural landscapes. Therefore, avoid plastic as much as possible and bring reusable items instead. Choose eco-friendly alternatives, like reusable tote bags, cutlery, plates, etc. Tip: you can also buy filtered water bottles to refill your water anywhere.
CHECK YOUR CAR
Make sure your vehicle is in the best possible condition for the road: check the engine, oil level and tire pressure before your trip. In addition, use the available features in your car, like cruise control, to help you maintain your speed and reduce excess emissions. And even better, drive an electric vehicle if possible! (Or a bike for the most courageous).
LEAVE NO TRACE
Aim to leave a place better than you found it. For example, dispose of your litter appropriately and pick up any trash you encounter. Be respectful of the land and do not drive over protected areas. And finally, stay on the marked trails when hiking, as going off can be dangerous for flora and fauna.
Be mindful of your surroundings and adopt a responsible attitude towards wildlife, on land and in the sea. Do not come close to, feed or touch animals and corals. Remember that you are only a guest in their home.
Want more inspiration?
- Sustainable Travel Guide: What, Why & How
- 10 Best Zero-Waste & Reef-Safe Sunscreens
- Sustainable Beach Guide: 10 Easy Eco-Tips
Download your FREE sustainable travel checklist ↓
Want to surprise a friend or loved one? Check out this article:
15 Best Eco-Friendly Gift Ideas for Travellers
Best apps & websites for your road trip
I have mentioned many different apps and software in this article, but I thought I would also put them in one place to make it easier for you.
PLANNING + ON THE ROAD
- Roadtrippers (best road trip planner app)
- TripIt (best itinerary organisation app)
- Google Maps (an all-time favourite)
- Waze (get the best road and avoid traffic)
- GasBuddy (find the cheapest gas stations)
- Viamichelin (estimate the cost of your trip)
- iExit (let you know where to stop)
- Booking.com (easily compare and book)
- Airbnb (find unique gems)
- Couchsurfing (stay with locals)
- Ecobnb (find a sustainable accommodation)
- Bookdifferent.com (stay in green hotels)
THINGS TO DO AND SEE
- Tripadvisor (get reviews and travel advice)
- FairTrip (find the best authentic & local places)
- GetYourGuide (access popular tours and attractions)
- Bikemap (explore over 9.3 million cycle paths)
- AllTrails (best hiking routes anywhere around you)
BE MORE ECO-FRIENDLY
- Klima (reduce your carbon footprint)
- Closca Water (find nearest water fountains or refill points)
- Ecosia (best eco-friendly search engine)
- HappyCow (find vegan and vegetarian restaurants)
- My Little Plastic Footprint (reduce your plastic footprint)
- Green Travel (make better eco-friendly travel decisions)
- Too Good to Go (rescue magic bags of surplus, unsold food)
Check out this article for more eco-travel apps: 10 Best Travel Apps for Exploring Sustainably.
How to plan a road trip – FAQ
Yes, the best free app for planning a road trip is RoadTrippers. The app allows you to plan your unforgettable adventure in one place, from the top local restaurants to the best places to visit.
Brainstorm, do your research, write down everything you want to do and see, gather your discoveries by location, head to Google Maps and start drawing your route with your multiple stops.
You should stop as much as you need! There are no rules – you decide. However, I would recommend breaking down your route as much as possible. Road trips are tiring, so plan enough stopovers to pause and recharge.
And you, how do you plan a road trip? What is your favourite destination?
Let me know in the comments below!
With love ♡