Free Online Road Trip Planning Programs
Who doesn't love the idea of self-serve, automated roadtrip planning tools? For more than a decade, we have tested many of the dozens of web-based trip planning programs. Some work really well, and others remind you why a good, old-fashioned paper map is still a road tripper's best friend.
In 2010, RoadTrip America launched the Map Wizard and Advanced Maps programs. The interactive RTA Map Wizard lets you make instant road trip maps. Simply enter your beginning and ending points, then click to find RoadTrip Attractions along your route. A mobile version (not an app) of RTA's Map Wizard designed to work on smart phones and tablets was launched in May, 2015. No registration is required to use the Map Wizard. Free registration is required if you want to save, print, and/or share maps.
RTA's Advanced Maps tool for desktops and laptops allows you to create custom routes, then add and save attractions and stops on your road trip. You can also create your own points of interest. There are no limits to the number of personalized, custom road trip maps that you can create, save, share, and print using RTA' Advanced Maps. Free registration is required to use RTA's Advanced Maps.
It's likely that no single mapping application will ever work exactly the way you want it to, because each takes a different approach. Most of the trip planners listed below were originally developed for desktop viewing. Many are now adding apps for mobile devices. If the RTA map programs are not exactly what you're looking for, check out these programs for different approaches and features:
Our colleagues at Roadside America have, over the last 20+ years, created the most complete (and entertaining!) database of odd and unique road trip attractions. The site offers two primary mapping tools. “My Sights” works best on desktops, and the resulting trip plans can be saved & transferred to a number of GPS devices. The Roadside America App, an excellent mobile application for iPhones (not free, but cheap), allows users to find and map attractions easily when they are on the road.
In 2007, the proprietary TripTik program, previously only available to Automobile Association of America club members, was made available to the public free of charge. When you click on the link above, it will take you to your current club if you are a member. If you are not a member, you will be given the opportunity to choose a home location.
Yahoo's original trip planner has morphed into a much larger site for planning trips around the globe. There's a very nice section about road trips, mostly consisting of articles about trips taken by Yahoo members. The site can help you plan a road trip, but it is not map-based.
This is a good, user-friendly route planner that lets you choose various types of sites and points of interest to add to your itinerary.
Launched in 2013, this is one of the newer free applications out there. Its database of hotels, restaurants, and points of interest is large and growing. Its desktop site has good mapping tools, but we've had difficulty using the Roadtrippers free mobile app on Android phones. Your mileage may vary, and the developers are constantly rolling out improvements.
This mapping application is probably the least intuitive program that we’ve looked at over the years. It does have a major advantage of displaying he locations of national motel chains along a given route.
TripIt is not limited to road trips. You can plan and save info about all aspects of a trip – hotel, map, route, flight schedule, car rental info, etc. The basic version is free -- an upgrade to "TripIt Pro" provides more features.