How to Plan a Road Trip

Plan your next road trip with KOA.

By: Sara Sheehy + Save to a List

Road trip season is just around the corner, and the time to start planning is now. 

Get a jump start on your spring break and summer plans. It'll give you something to look forward to, plus, you can snag those coveted "busy season" reservations at your favorite campgrounds, parks, and attractions.

Need some tips on how to plan the perfect road trip? With the help of our friends at the KOA Family of Campgrounds, we've got you covered.

Design Your Framework

Photo by Brayden Weeks // A Road Trip Guide to Southern Utah and Northern Arizona

Every great road trip needs a framework. Think of it as the bones of your journey: where are you going, how long do you have, and where will you stay?

Maybe your trip is designed around visiting family, going to a wedding, or seeing Utah's Big Five national parks. Set your general destination, and then starting planning a driving route that will get you there. 

Whether you have a week or a month, know this: everything will take a little longer than you expect. Our recommendation? Though you may have to put in long driving days to get within range of your destination, try to drive no more than two or three hours a day once you arrive.

Equally as important to picking your route is securing your accommodations. There are some seasons when flying by the seat of your pants is ok, but spring and summer are not among them. KOA makes finding and booking your campsites and cabins a breeze with online reservations at hundreds of campgrounds throughout North America.

Plan Some Activities...But Don't Plan Everything

Photo by Meghan Young // From the Sea to the Sky: Road Tripping California's Central Coast

With your route set, it's time to start planning your activities along the way. We recommend picking out one or two "must-do" experiences in each of your destinations. 

Search on The Outbound Collective to find outdoor activities like hiking, biking, and paddling (you can save what your favorites by hitting the heart icon on any adventure or story). Find other experiences by asking friends, family, and colleagues, searching Instagram, reading travel books, and visiting tourism websites.

By picking one or two activities at each destination, you'll know that you're seeing the best of what's there while still leaving room for exploration. One of the best qualities of road trips is that they are in the realm of chance. By not booking yourself up for every moment of the day, you can take that pretty detour or eat at that greasy spoon diner that a local recommended. 

Use Apps to Help You Along

Photo by Grant // Walk the Boston Freedom Trail

These days we have so much information at our fingertips. Technology can keep us from enjoying what's right in front of us, but, used thoughtfully, can also make road tripping so much easier.

The KOA app allows you to search for campgrounds, reserve lodging, access your KOA Value Kard Rewards and receive emergency alerts from campgrounds where you have a reservation.

We love The Outbound Collective app for finding adventures nearby. Our other favorite road trip apps include Google Maps, GasBuddy, Spotify, Roadside America, and Atlas Obscura.

Don't forget to bring along a paper atlas, too. Apart from being helpful in those moments when you're out of cell coverage, an atlas has a wealth of information that is hard to replicate in digital form. 

Enjoy the Journey

Photo by John Entwistle // Swim at the Lynn Canyon Swimming Hole

If there is one thing we know about road trips, it's that they are unpredictable. Get ready for the inevitable surprise by leaving room in your agenda, having a flexible attitude, and making the most of whatever the experience throws your way.

To book your next road trip accommodations with KOA, check out their website, mobile app, and campground directory.

Cover photo by Emily Hlaváč Green

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

Do you love the outdoors?

Yep, us too. That's why we send you the best local adventures, stories, and expert advice, right to your inbox.


10 Things you need to do in Baja

wyld honeys

Journey to Wyoming’s premier snowmobiling destination: Togwotee Mountain Lodge

Samuel Brockway

A peek through God's window

Heather Arnold

Big Bend Bound: Crafting Your 3-Day Adventure

Erin Newman-Mitchell