Trip Planning 101: An Epic Summer Road Trip

By: The Outbound Collective + Save to a List

Ready to hit the road?

The warmth of summer is just around the corner. If you're ready to roam a bit further from home this year and take that epic road trip (safely and responsibly, of course), now's the time to scheme your routes and destinations, unearth your camping gear, and get stoked about the season ahead. 

Make your road trip a breeze by utilizing KOA's nationwide network of over 450 campgrounds, where you'll find welcoming, reservable campsites throughout the United States. If you don't have a camper or tent, many KOAs offer unique lodging options like on-site Airstreams, cabins, yurts, and safari tents.

Not sure how to get started? Don't worry, we have you covered. Here are a few things to consider when planning that big summer road trip.

Pick Your Destinations

Photo by Jonathon Reed

The first step to planning an epic road trip is deciding where you want to go. While there are a handful of iconic road trip routes that are sure to delight, you may choose to stray from the beaten path. Start by picking a couple of destinations that you'd like to explore, preferably within a comfortable driving distance of each other. After all, you want to spend more time exploring than driving, right?

Once you've picked your anchor destinations, use The Outbound to uncover hidden gems nearby. Small parks and wild places near popular attractions often get overlooked, when many of them are quieter, wilder, and just as beautiful.

Map Out Your Route

Photo by Mike Scaturo

With a list of destinations in hand, it's time to plan your route. Google and Apple maps are both great tools for finding primary and alternative driving directions between your stops. If possible, try to drive less than two hours per day, so that you have plenty of opportunity to enjoy the sights. Be sure to leave time for promising-looking detours, too! You never know what piece of local beta you'll pick up once you're on the road.

Use KOA's handy Trip Planner to find campgrounds on your route. You can even adjust the tool to tell it how far off your planned path you're willing to go for a good night's rest at a friendly KOA.

Make Reservations

Photo by Ryan Mckinney

If there was ever a year to make reservations, this is it. Those who are used to flying-by-the-seat-of-their-pants with campground reservations, park reservations, and even dinner reservations, may find themselves out in the cold while road-tripping this summer. With more people than ever finding adventure and solace on the open road, everything is filling up much faster than it used to.

Apart from the comfort of knowing that you're guaranteed a campsite or park entry with a reservation, some places are requiring them this summer. Be sure to do your research ahead of time so that you're not unpleasantly surprised when you roll up to Rocky Mountain National Park on a Friday and realize you can't get in until the next Wednesday. 

Start Packing (Yes, Now!)

Photo by Liam McNally

How much adventuring did you do last summer? If the answer is "not much," it's definitely time to start packing. Open up your closets, pull the boxes out of the garage, and sort through your gear. What do you have? What do you need? What requires repair? Get started now so that you have ample time to acquire, repair, and pack the gear you need for your summer adventures. 

Now is also the right moment to get your vehicle in tip-top shape for your trip. Many auto shops will do a "road trip readiness" run-through of your vehicle and take a close look at things like your fluids, brakes, and tires. Better to identify any issues on the front end than to spend precious days of your trip at a mechanic's far from home.

Enjoy the Ride

Photo by Sarah Seads

With your preparations made, it's time to hit the road. All that's left to do is enjoy the ride. Road trips can be magical, frustrating, and memorable—sometimes all within a single hour. As much as it's possible for you, go with the flow. Be open to new experiences while not losing sight of what you set out to do and see. Be flexible. Have fun. Smile at strangers. Be good to the Earth.

We'll see you out there!

Cover photo by CampCo

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.