Thoughts, ideas and memories of photography, cooking & the outdoors (not in that order!)

Traveling, Research & Planning

I wanted to make a post about tips and tricksies I’ve learned in my travels over the years, specifically the past few months.  Pretty high-level here, aiming at relatively inexperienced travelers that are willing to rough it out.  I’ll add in a few notes for my specific current destination – New England.

Preparation tips

  1. Do research and determine your “hotspot” areas – this is a list of your must-see spots. Learn a bit about them, and more importantly where they are from a geographical perspective.
  2. Get a good road map for your destination area.  The Delorme road atlas ones work pretty well.  This is for those guaranteed spots where you will not have reception.
  3. As a second/backup option to #2, download Google map offline data for your destination.  You can do this within the mobile app (Menu, Offline maps, Select your own map, then zoom to an area large enough to cover your region)
  4. Find lodging along your routes/areas, assuming you’ll be doing more then a day-trip.  I typically camp as it’s 1. cheap & 2. relatively-easy to find last-minute.  If you are sleeping in a car and not bothering with tenting, then just finding a pull-out or remote area will typically work, especially if you are in BLM land (which is plentiful in the west; you can “dispersed camp” anywhere on BLM land).  I prefer established campgrounds myself to have a picnic table, a fire ring and in many cases showers.

Once you have done the above research/prep tips, the most important tasks are done. But to make things easier, I’d recommend doing a few extra steps.  You don’t have to do any of these, but having at least one definitely helps.

  1. Add the above data to Google maps.  This is most easily performed via the Google maps website.  You can add destinations either as “starred” items (these will appear under “Your Places”, then “Saved”), or a custom map (“Your Places”, “Maps”, “Create Map”), or a combination of the two.  Be aware that any custom maps are not available offline (without a data connection), but saved/starred places will work offline.  It is your choice, I generally do a hybrid approach with both – creating scenic drives with custom maps, then must-see items as starred.  I find it easier to look at a broad zoomed-out map with a list of drives highlighted, but the no-offline access is a challenge.  You can alternatively take a screenshot to save when there is no access, of course you can’t zoom or navigate around but it’s better then nothing.


    One of my custom maps

  2. Add the above data to your road map/atlas.  This has the benefit of being fully offline and free of any electronics.  You’d have to mark-up the map though, so might want to double-check before doing on a map you borrowed!
  3. If there will be a lot of driving, make a playlist or even better download some audiobooks to your phone!  I’m a big fan of audiobooks on road trips, especially interesting fictional epics as they help to distract you from the miles passing by. Smart AudioBook Player is an excellent Android app for this, I’ve heard you can use iTunes on an Apple device but have never tried.
  4. If you plan on doing an extended road trip (requiring charging multiple electronics), I’d recommend making a charging “station”.  An 12v car inverter, pegboard and some zipties will handle the job and having this set up makes your job much easier.   Charge when needed, or have 2 sets of batteries for each device, leave one in the charger.  My car is designed to have constant power to the 12v cigarette outlet even when the ignition is off so I can charge at any time, and I’ve tested that doing so overnight does not drain the battery.  YMMV.


    Camera, NiMH AA/AAA, cell phone & laptop chargers

Other tips: location/time-specific

  1. If you are going to an area towards beginning or end of a season, double-check any seasonal lodging windows – especially campgrounds.  Many shut down in fall to be winterized, or open later in the spring.
  2. Getting an idea of the weather will help too (eg: going to New England in the fall, make sure there are no hurricanes heading up the coast!)
  3. If you want to get a bit specific for photo ops, look at a map and figure out which direction the light will be in various times of the day (eg: don’t shoot a barn/church when it’s in a shadow).  Optimize your route to hit places at the right time.
  4. If you happen to be heading to New England, these lists of campsites will help!
    3. And of course,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s