Have you ever worked to create a plan with a group of people but later discover that everyone had a slightly different interpretation of what ya’ll decided? Or worse . . . everyone agrees but loses interest and focus over time?
Yep. It happens!
And planning a road trip is no different. You’ll invest a lot of time and planning and you might just lose some folks along the way. So how can you keep everyone on the same page and avoid distraction and disappointment?
Start with a clear Road Trip Mission and Vision. This helps clarify what everyone wants, define your goals for the trip and avoid misunderstandings and meltdowns on the road.
Your family’s Road Trip Mission will name the specific destinations that you'll visit along with some specifics like timeline and how you'll define "success". Your mission might be bigger than just one trip. For example, you might want to visit all 50 states in the next 10 years, to drive Route 66 start to finish, visit every Civil War battle site, ride every record setting roller coaster in the U.S., or see the birthplaces of your top 10 musicians. There are endless possibilities! Just work to find what your family (or group of travelers) is most excited about.
We’ve written more about the road trip Mission process here. It’s a big part of Step 2 in the Roadtrip Possible process and can really help you prioritize how you’ll spend your time and money as you plan all of the details of your trip.
Your family’s vision may not be a list of specific destinations (though it could be) but will include the types of things you’d like to do along the way. Think beaches, amusement parks, national parks, zoos, history museums. . . whatever! But take the time to get a clear picture of how you’ll fill the time that you’re not at one of your “mission” destinations.
This whole vision and mission thing may not be as common as the “what to pack” lists or “must see destinations”. But it is just as important for effective road trip planning. In fact, we'd argue that it might even be more important in creating a trip that really works for your whole family.
Once you have a clear vision and mission, you can create a visual representation that you can put up where everyone can see it regularly. We affectionately call this your Roadtrip Possible Map. And, just like every family is unique, every Roadtrip Possible Map is unique.
Creating your Roadtrip Possible Map can be exciting. It is both a super practical planning tool and an inspirational one, bringing everyone together and excited about what you’re making possible.
For the more practical aspects, we’ve found that using Google My Maps is incredibly useful. It provides options for different layers, customized icons for pins on the map and more. This format will really support you in creating your detailed route and even in right-sizing each trip. We talk more about “right-sizing” over here. But basically, it's a process for figuring out what to include from your big vision and mission in each particular trip.
So, Google My Maps for practical planning.
But for the inspirational aspect of the Roadtrip Possible Map, there are dozens of more aesthetically pleasing options that can be posted or hung around your house. Get creative and have some fun with this process. There is no right or wrong way to do it.
Keep in mind that you really can just print the Google My Maps or even a blank outline of the United States and color or decorate it however you’d like. You could get some poster board and go nuts with markers and construction paper. Those are solid, simple and really flexible options.
But If you’re looking for a premade map that you can customize, we’ve got some suggestions. Depending on your Roadtrip Mission, some maps may prove more useful than others. And, of course, there are many styles to choose from, each with some benefits and potential drawbacks.
Our first suggestion is a super basic, corkboard map. This one in particular isn’t very large (only 10x 17 in) and has only the outlines of all 50 states - which means that you have a pretty blank canvas on which to pin all of your destinations.
If you like the idea of a pretty blank canvas or if your Roadtrip Mission and Vision include destinations that are unlikely to be included on a standard map, the Adventure Awaits Push Pin Map could be a great option. While it features a simple display of all 50 states and state capitals, it doesn’t have a scratch off element or a lot of other busyness - which means you can more easily pin the destinations that are important to your family and see them clearly. Since this is just a poster (with push pins included) you’ll need to decide how to best affix it to your wall. You might already have a bulletin board or cork board surface you can pin this up on but be aware that simply hanging it on the wall may present some challenges for getting the push pins to stay - depending on the materials your wall is made of. So, just a heads up! You can get simple cork foam boards (like this one) in various sizes.
The last really customizable map that we want to share is a clean, sophisticated, framed print. It is available with various frame styles/colors and with or without your family’s name and information added. We love the polished look that this map provides and it solves any issues or challenges you may have with push pins in your walls. It comes with a wire hanging kit and can hang as easily and sturdily as other framed photographs. You can add your pins (it comes with 100) easily. This map in particular could double as a great souvenir collection. Consider swapping out the Destination pins with small souvenir pins from each place you visit.
Speaking of souvenirs. . . . we’d be remiss if we didn’t share this beautiful souvenir photo frame. If your Roadtrip Mission involves all 50 states, you might enjoy having one featured photo from each and making a map like this a permanent fixture in your home. This one is less about planning and more about remembering and celebrating your epic road trips. But again, we just had to share it with you!
There are a lot of other maps available that focus on each state or even on the National Parks.
If National Parks are a significant part of your Roadtrip Mission and Shared Vision, you might like something like this Scratch off Map is available in black or white and feature state capitals, National Parks and highest peaks. Once you’ve visited a state, you can scratch it off, revealing a brighter, more colorful map beneath.
We also love this more classic looking relief map that has the National Parks pinned. Again, it is simple and allows you a lot of space to add other destinations without getting lost in too much detail. This map is available in different colors and with or without a frame. It is just a poster so you’ll need to consider how/if you’ll use pins, markers, or stickers to highlight your destinations. If you opt for push pins, be mindful of the wall surface behind the poster. You may need to get some corkboard or foam backing in order for the pins to stay put.
If, on the other hand, you LOVE more detail, then the Explore America National Parks Poster may be a good fit. It includes a lot more detail and is available in different sizes. In addition to the National Parks, you’ll find National Monuments, museums, state capitals and other attractions that may be of interest. Again, these may or may not fit for your Roadtrip Mission and for some, this may feel a bit busy.
If the state capitals and National Parks aren’t at all part of your Road Trip Mission - no worries! There are plenty of other specialized maps out there too.
But maybe baseball parks aren’t your thing, be sure to search online for whatever is. You might be surprised by what is out there!
Whichever format you choose for your Roadtrip Possible Map, have some fun with it! You’ll return to it not only as you plan this trip but as you look ahead to future trips and look back at all the incredible places you’ve traveled.
If you’re interested in learning about the 9 Step Roadtrip Possible Process and would like to know more about how this map and other tools can support you in making your road trip dreams come true, click here!