Road Trip Online
How to plan your awesome road trip online
Picking your path
The first & best is Roadtrippers. They have a free mapping feature where you type in where you’re starting and where you’re finishing, and it maps the route for you like google maps (see below). Where they go beyond google, and how they make their money, is they also show you lodging, points of interest of various types, places to eat. These are shown via a clickable legend with adjustable radius from your driving route, so if you want to experience the nightlife along your road trip, click the ‘nightlife’ icon and the map will show you all the places with nightlife along your route. When you’re done planning your trip, you can save & share it.
The most popular tool is Google Maps. It’s mapping ability is robust, and what it lacks from not focusing on road trips online, it makes up with it’s image search & street view. It doesn’t have the radius search & clickable points of interest that Roadtrippers does, but you have fast access to the millions of images people have uploaded & geotagged (saying where the picture was taken). You also have access to street view, Google’s project to photograph the world by driving around with cameras on the roof of the cars. These 2 options alone make this an incredibly powerful tool.
ProTip: I specifically use this when planning any travel to see what kind of neighborhood a point of interest is in.
Locating your lodging
The cool (not so new anymore) place to find lodging is Airbnb. This company allows people to rent out a room or their entire house. You’ll find lower rates than hotels, but the rates won’t be as low as when Airbnb first launched in 2008. Since I only use lodging for a place to sleep, I don’t make use of Airbnb’s other advantage over hotels: the host. Frequently, the host will offer advice on cool places to go and may even make a nice breakfast. Even without interacting with the host, the places you’ll stay have a less sterile atmosphere than a hotel.
With Hotwire, you’ll find lower rates, but you won’t know who the hotel is until you’re done booking. Choose a high star rating hotel to make sure the place is clean. You pay more $$$ for refundable rooms, basically negating the cheap rate you went here for.
Kayak is a search engine for travel booking, so you won’t find the lower negotiated rates that Hotwire offers, but you will find more options and a easier-to-user interface.
If you’re traveling during holidays, decide on a location & plan your road trip online 60 days before your trip, and have everything booked at least 30 days before your trip. Wait longer to book & spend more money.
If you’re not traveling during holidays, decide on a location & plan your road trip online 45 days before your trip, and have everything booked at least 14 days before your trip. Wait longer & you’ll spend more $$$.
Travel during off-peak months: April, May, September, and October. Kids are in school and there aren’t any major holiday (except Memorial Day & Labor Day), so demand is low & prices are lower.
Book lodging through Airbnb, Hotwire, or Kayak in that order… unless you want to camp or sleep in your car. =)
Bottomline – Use Roadtrippers as a starting place with Google maps as a mapping backup and Hotwire or Kayak as lodging backups.
After your road trip is has ended, you can relive it by creating an Online Travel Map.