I’m sure that if you go through the internet there will be thousands of guides and specific instructions on how to plan a road trip. You can find all the necessary and unnecessary information to nearly any destination.

This is a guide on how not to plan a trip. In order to illustrate it, I will share the funny experience on how we planned our road trip. Honestly, the way we planned the trip it is a wonder the trip actually happened and worked out so fine.

Nothing better than a road trip to San Francisco
Nothing better than a road trip to San Francisco

First off, we booked our flight. We knew our road trip would start in San Francisco and end in Las Vegas. Then, a couple weeks later, we got together to thoroughly plan the trip. Where do want to go? Where are we going to stay? What are we going to do during the day? Where are we going to eat? These were the problems we wanted to tackle. It seemed smart to ask Aman, since he already went on such trips to help us get organized. And it was – if only we had listened to him.

What we should have done

He suggested that each of us focus on one aspect of the trip. For instance, I was supposed to check out the rental car options, meaning that I had to find a type of car specific to our needs and checking the prices. Max was told to find out points of interest and plan all of our sight-seeing. And Michi was supposed to take care of our accommodation throughout the trip (taking our budget into account). The tasks were all clear so each of us opened our laptops and started searching. The only problem was that none of us did what we were told.

What we’ve been actually doing

After about 10 minutes Aman checked up on us. First he was like “so Michi, show me what you’ve found so far”. Michi was looking for beach houses, houses with big pools, houses in Beverly Hills and so on. While Aman was kind of angry it amused us and we had a good laugh for the next minute. Then he wanted to see which points of interest Max has selected. Turns out Max wasn’t looking for points of interest. Instead he was on Facebook trying to find Facebook pages about the latest parties on any campus. Again Aman was disappointed and we laughed. Aman’s last hope was that at least I was up to something useful. Once again, he was headed for disappointment. I was comparing AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile (by the way we went with T-Mobile) for sim cards. In my defense though I did have a tab open where I was on Hertz’s site.

Anyway Aman gave up, sat down and wished us good luck.

The turn around

A few weeks later we met again (this time without Aman because we clearly had a different approach to planning a trip) and decided on the cities we were going to visit. We knew we were going to drive all the way down to San Diego. We decided to drive through Silicon Valley and make stops at Monterey, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles and finally arrive in San Diego. We booked all our Hotels on Hotwire (this is also a really cool story by the way).

A road trip actually means spending a lot of time on the road
A road trip actually means spending a lot of time on the road

Since the Grand Canyon is a must see it just had to be our next stop from San Diego on the way to Las Vegas. The problem is that if you want to drive from San Diego to the Grand Canyon and type this exact journey into Google Maps it shows that you have to drive all the way back up to Los Angeles and take the Highway heading east. Since our time was limited we didn’t want to spend it driving back the same way we came from. So we decided to make another 2-day stop in Phoenix and drive to the Grand Canyon from there.

We got our rental car on a different day (which again is a story for itself) and decided to just wing our days instead of traveling on a tight schedule.

And this was ultimately all we planned ahead of the trip. We had a flight, we knew which cities and places to visit and we had a car to drive around. The rest just seemed to happen by itself.

For everybody planning a similar road trip, here’s a map of our route through the western USA:

Our route
Our route