Creating a route and discoveries along the way

Road Trip Planning

I’ve been working with My Scenic Drives for the past couple of years when planning road trip itineraries.  It’s a comprehensive website that allows you to choose destination points from which it will calculate directions, points of interest, total miles, fuel consumption and more.  The site allows you to make infinite changes so that you can add and subtract destinations as you refine driving plans and contract or expand a travel schedule. Since you can adjust the route to expand or contract the length of the driving day (the preset default is something like 6-8 hours of driving a day), it’s a great resource that we have used primarily for planning a course and making make that the route makes sense. The site also has recommended scenic drives throughout the country (and likely elsewhere) that you can reference for ideas.  For daily navigational purposes, we tend to rely on Waze, Google maps and our vehicle’s navigation system to make sure that the day’s destination is within reach.

Panama Road Trip

Resources for Research

Roque and I have historically traveled with a rough route in mind, mapping out places we want to visit and the general routes between points, as well as a rough calendar itinerary mapped out so that we are sure to make our way to all (or most) of the points on the list.  We make adjustments along the way when we come across something unexpected or when we decide to add or skip one place or another along the route. This has worked well for us when we set out for time-limited trips.  The next road trip will have no limitations imposed by time since we will be free to lengthen or shorten our stays wherever we are and wherever we wish to visit – a blessing that is among the top things to which to we look forward on the DC-Alaska-Panama trip (which we will now refer to as DCAP).

Aside from the route plan, the calendar outline and the basic gear list (that we will outline later) with which we set out, we do not routinely do a great deal of research in advance of the trip . This generally works out well for us. There are exceptions to that rule — when we planned our trip to Maine and the Maritime Provinces this past summer  I realized, a little later than optimal, that hotel reservations in Portland, Maine in late July are highly sought after and relatively expensive. I learned from this (and most of you may be wondering why this didn’t occur to us sooner) that it’s important to remember seasonal demands and to research special events that may affect hotel and even campground availability.

While on the road, typically Roque does much of the driving while I do the research. For dining, accommodations and points of interest research, we use a variety of resources.  Traditional travel websites such as Trip Advisor are helpful but I have found that it is important to research many sites to get a more accurate view of destinations. Because Trip Advisor is so heavily used by travelers, I have noticed that comments posted there are often reflective of personal preferences that may not be aligned with our travel style. For instance, dining choices on Trip Advisor often list American chain restaurants that do not necessarily rate local favorites or off the beaten track options. Luckily, others have experienced this dilemma and there are a number of other websites that I have used to get a broader and different view of a particular destination.  Websites such as Not For Tourists and Road Food and Chefs Feed, among others, have steered us to some wonderful finds for dining options and events that we would not have found on traditional travel websites. We look at Fodors, and Frommer’s and Lonely Planet, Travel and Leisure as well as Food and Wine (for travel as well as dining recommendations), Refinery 29 as well as Bed and Breakfasts together with general Google searches of inns, AirBNB, campgrounds and others to find accommodations, comparing the results to see if there are some restaurants and accommodations that are mentioned across the spectrum before we hone in on choices.  Most of the times, this works well for us. It works particularly well if I do not throw too many options at Roque since he is, like many men, a typical hunter who prefers making a choice and not being overwhelmed with choices.  I have learned, therefore, to happily digest  lot of information (in silence) before narrowing down the options for presentation to him.  I read the comments offered by travelers on websites such Trip Advisor with a healthy amount of skepticism since the “average” Trip Advisor post often will not reflect our preferences.  Whether you are like us or not, I offer these comments with the aim of sharing that it is important to find the sites and resources that, by themselves or in conjunction with others, are reflective of your travel style and goals and I have yet to find just one that does the job.

I have had the same experience while researching Overlanding and expat blogs since all are written, as is this one, from the perspective of the individual travelers where budgets, lifestyles, age, experience and other factors present the lens of the writer.  Roque and I are not traveling with children, are over a particular age, are interested in seeking out local favorites, even if that means driving off course, and are usually interested in getting the most bang from our travel buck (my interest in frugality competes mightily with my desire for luxury so I’m always on the look out for a relative bargain when I can find one) and these are among the things that factor into our choices.  We think that it is important to find your “inner travel compass” and to follow that compass in your travels so that the results are tailored to your view of the world and scratch your particular itch.

 

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