Trip planning resources

I was talking to a friend about travel, and how while it doesn’t always feel as though I travel a lot, I’m fairly frequently on the move to visit people and places, or relocate for work. It was a different perspective to travel than what I’d considered as travel (for the purpose of vacationing). Consequently, inspiration struck in the form of sharing some of my trip planning methods and resources.

Road trips are my favorite–and most frequent–type of travel, for both vacation and work. Most times I can make camping a part of the trip, as that’s my favorite type of vacation.

There are several great resources I use when planning a road trip. In no particular order, here they are:

Google Maps. I love Google Maps, and have been using it for a least a decade. The design is intuitive, there are options to route yourself away from tolls, highways and ferries, and multiple options with up-to-date time estimates are provided. Being able to see a map, view satellite imagery of my destinations, and see the StreetView of places is very helpful for reducing anxiety over driving somewhere I haven’t been before.

Paper maps. I always travel with at least a small scale map of the area I’m driving through. Mine are from AAA/CAA, which I find useful for the inclusion of driving distance estimates, insets of larger cities, and big picture route planning. Normally I have a map of the province or state I’m driving through open, and will look at a regional map (Southwestern States, Western States and Provinces) when I stop to get my bearings.

AAA/CAA membership. This is a great insurance policy to have when driving long distances. The organization is great, offering a variety of services at different tiers including free or low-cost towing, battery service, fuel deliveries, maps, and also their own trip planning specialists, travel agents, travel insurance and, in British Columbia, car insurance.

Travel insurance. I always have travel insurance. Partly this stems from being in a country where health care is subsidized, and there are ads all over the cities recommending an insurance policy for any international travel. Partly it’s because I once was an international student and required to have my own insurance. And partly it’s because I I was hospitalized once, and travel insurance I purchased through BCAA covered the entirety of my five-figure medical bill with an astonishingly low level of bureaucracy. I highly recommend it–it can seem expensive at the time, but $100-200 for a policy is a LOT better than a huge, unexpected bill.

Dispersed camping. There are wonderful free campsites across the United States and Canada on the vast system of public lands. Most of these places have no services or amenities, and it’s important to be aware of local regulations and to practice the principles of Leave No Trace. A wonderful, thorough guide to dispersed camping can be found on My Open Country Free Campsites is a wonderful, interactive map of locations you can camp for free that includes rodeo grounds, city parks and some national forest and BLM campsites.

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