19 days until your road trip! And today we're starting some fun stuff- learning how to create a road trip route itinerary and plan it on Google Maps.
If you've just joined us, WELCOME! This is the 21 day Road Trip countdown- whether you're exploring by Motorhome, RV, car or caravan, this daily countdown contains a list of all the things you need to check and organise in the 3 weeks before you go. Each day there's a new task for you to focus on, which will break the whole process down into manageable units and ensure you don't forget anything.
If you want to see the full list of tasks, here’s the main page: Road Trip Travel Checklist- Countdown to Departure.
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How to create a Road Trip Route Plan & Itinerary
So, you've got a whole number of ways to create a route and start finding places. Today I'll share with you how we create a rough route- we're never very strict on our travel itinerary and we leave lots of time for detours and random occurrences, but we do start with a list of places we'd like to visit if possible.
For today, I'll assume you know a country/ rough area. If you have absolutely no idea where you want to go (I get it- Europe is MASSIVE after all and a European Road trip could go a million ways!) then read our How to Plan a Motorhome Trip to Europe HERE first, as it will help you narrow down your options.
Where to visit on your Road Trip?
It's time to start your research!
A lot of this is entirely personal- it depends on what you like, what you want out of your road trip and how much time you have. In Germany, our aim was to see as many castles and cool places as possible. In Norway, it's going to be to park our motorhome in as many awe-inspiring locations as possible to take lots of photos to put on Social Media (kidding, kidding… kinda! 🙂 Talking of which, are you following us on Facebook and Instagram??? If not, here are the links! Facebook | Instagram)
So, for Norway, I've been researching hikes which have incredible views (but don't take too long- we will NOT be hiking for 12 hours anywhere!) and camping locations for motorhomes by the fjords. We know Norway is crazy expensive, so we don't plan to eat out much and we want to visit little villages and towns, and will possibly avoid the major cities completely. Having said that, we do know we need to find an airport at least twice on the trip for Jade to return to the UK. (This restriction is a bit of a pain- the joys of having teenagers whilst you're trying to explore remote areas without an exact timescale!)
We also want to be able to unwind a little and not drive miles and miles each day like crazy people (basically, not what we did in Germany!) but I also want us to get as far North as we can before we have to turn back… so there's a little bit of pressure and time constraints involved in our journey. I hope it's more relaxing than it sounds!
For your road trip, you might want to see more culture, museums, restaurants, art. The way to start is to Google where you are going and ‘things to do' and you'll slowly start building a list of amazing places you like the sound of. Don't worry about putting too many points on- this is your map and your route plan. You can always go through and remove stuff afterwards.
Best Road Trip planning tools- Google Maps
How to use Google Maps to plan a Road Trip route
Google Maps is one of my favourite road trip planning tools. It's FREE, it's easy and you can take it with you when you travel. This is the same mapping system as you'll see on our Start Here/ Home Page and also in the sidebar of every post. As you can see, I use it a lot!
Here's how I set up a new route plan with Google Maps:
- On a desktop/ laptop (mobile never seems to work so well for setting up) open up google.com/maps
- I see many different maps I've already set up, but yours will likely be blank if you've never used it before. Click on ‘Create a new map”
- A map will open up. Mine automatically centres on the UK as Google knows where I am.
- On the left hand side, you can click on ‘Untitled Map' and give it a Title. I'm calling mine 2018 Summer Tour
- You can click on ‘Untitled layer' and give that a new title too- perhaps have a different layer per country if you like? I tend to use just one as all my layers end up on one big map so you lovely readers can see where we've been!
- At the bottom of the box, you can click on base map and change the style of the map if you wish. I don't bother as I like the original setting, but it's there if you want to play.
Adding Location markers on Google Maps
So, you should by now have at least a few places picked out that you want to visit. Even if you're staying on one campsite for the duration of your holiday, you can use Google Maps to make note of local markets, playgrounds for the kids, good beaches- whatever works for you!
- First (and most important!), make sure the correct layer is selected if you're using more than one layer- otherwise your location markers will be added to the wrong layer. Booooo.
- Then, under the search bar at the top, select the little black ‘pin'. This will turn your cursor into a cross, which you can use to click on a map and create a marker. Clever huh?
- However, you don't want to be searching up addresses of every place you've found and then trying to find that on Google Maps, do you?? (If you do, be my guest!) Instead, you can type the name of the attraction, place, city etc into the search bar.
- Select the one you want from the drop-down menu and Google will immediately add a pin on to your layer at the location you've selected.
- Be careful- Google is good but often it will take you to the centre of a town instead of the exact location. You might have to click and add your own marker over the exact point you'd like to visit.
Doing clever stuff with Google Maps
Are you ready for some additional fun? Ok then- here we go!
- You can change the colour of the marker by clicking on it, then clicking on the paint bucket and selecting an alternative colour. In 2018 I'm using light blue for places we'd like to visit and dark blue for places we've been(see it HERE)
- You can also click on the pencil icon and edit the name of the marker
- In the box on the left side, you can click and drag one point to another position on the list, changing the order the markers are displayed in your route
- Underneath the colour options in the ‘paint bucket', you can change the icon of the place to reflect what sort of stop it is- historical, cultural, scenic etc. If you look at our map of castles in Germany, you'll see all the icons are baby castles. Awwww.
If you're a visual learner, you might prefer the video we did on planning a road trip to Europe. There's a section in the beginning which discusses Google Maps and how we use them.
We don't actually carry a paper map at all in our motorhome, but there have been a couple of times when I wished we did- most notably in Switzerland when the signal was hit-and-miss and there were times I couldn't get a stable lock on our location. Having said that, our navigation system has NEVER had an issue, so we've never worried about it too much. We've been able to navigate most of our way around Europe by selecting points from our Google Map itinerary plan to create a route and decide where we go next!
I hope you've seen how useful Google Maps can be, but if you have another route planner you prefer- even just good ol' pen and paper, start creating a list of ideas and places to visit for your road trip. I'm all for spontaneous and ‘going with the flow', but I hate it when I tell someone I've just visited somewhere and they ask if we saw X, Y or Z … and we didn't even know they existed! A little planning can definitely avoid the frustration of missing out on something awesome.
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