Since a few days I am back in Germany, the road trip through the western USA is over, and I have time to reflect a bit, look at photos and videos and think about Travel Diaries. But first, let's talk today about the preparations I made for the road trip.
Generally, when you go on a road trip, you usually have spontaneity and not really planned routes in mind – but unfortunately this is not always possible. Because especially if you want to do a lot, have a limited period of time and want to stay in places where many other tourists want to stay, it is not always possible to book everything spontaneously.
Determine time periods
I knew when we would arrive in San Francisco and when we would fly from Los Angeles to Hawaii – and thus the time period for the road trip was automatically fixed. Together with my friend, I then went through what exactly we want to see, and approximately how long we want to stay where, depending on the sights or tours that we can or want to do from the respective stop. After we put together a (more or less) logical route from these stops, we were able to estimate how it would fit into our set time frame.
Should you book accommodations beforehand?
If you want to be spontaneous on a road trip, it's best to just go for it – we also met people at our first accommodation who did just that. However, with a converted van, in which they also slept, and then partly just several days without shower and so on. That wouldn't really have been an option for us, mainly because we just didn't want to rent a motorhome.
We have inquired and seen directly: just in Las Vegas, partly in LA and in the national parks that we wanted to visit so, you have to book in advance to get safely something that 1.) is in the budget, 2.) is not completely far away from the route and 3.) is not the crappiest motel you can find. In addition, we had to follow two friends we wanted to visit and who were kind enough to accommodate us (thank you again at this point)!). That's why we have booked many things in advance.
The accommodations, which we have booked finally, were a completely multicolored mixture. Partly we slept in Airbnb apartments, sometimes in hotels, sometimes with friends and sometimes in motels. Especially when booking motels, we relied on the reviews of other guests, which you can find on various comparison portals, such as Jahn Reisen. For round trips the website is not optimal, but you can find good offers here – and depending on the destination it can really be worth it. It is also easy to compare the reviews of other travelers as soon as you take a closer look at a hotel or offer. My tip: my friend and I always search on German and Dutch websites, because especially if vacation periods are different, there can be some differences in prices.
My conclusion: it depends!
I would have liked to plan the road trip a little more spontaneously, but especially if you have certain routes and destinations in mind, it is worthwhile to compare and possibly book beforehand. Especially if you want to stay near the national parks in California, you should check the location beforehand – the same goes for cities like Los Angeles. However, you get online usually relatively quickly an insight into how fully booked the hotels in a particular area are about and possibly still decide spontaneously and book nothing in advance.
But especially in California, if you want to travel stress-free and maybe even in the high season, you should definitely book in advance. But also outside the high season (for all of you who are on the road in September like we were) it is worthwhile to look beforehand. Many motels for example are more expensive if you decide to stay there only spontaneously on the spot…
How do you guys feel about? Would you have booked a lot beforehand or just go for it??
Here are the stops of our road trip and the respective accommodations: