Active Travel



How to Plan the Ultimate Active Road Trip

Aug 1, 2018 | Active Travel, Active Travel Guides | 5 comments

how to plan an active road trip

I was recently interviewed for Lindsey Hein’s podcast, I’ll Have Another, (one of my fave podcasts for long runs), and she mentioned to me that I always seem to be in the USA. Yep, I LOVE it. I would move there if I could get a visa. Actually Tom’s job presents more of a visa issue than mine but that’s a different story for a different day.

Back to travel in the US.

This Summer I’m spending a total of 6 weeks in America, travelling around Florida, New York, California, Colorado and finishing up with a road trip from Seattle to Salt Lake City. I like to plan in advance, making sure I tick the top spots off my bucket list (and don’t waste any meals on sub-par food!). Here are some of my top tips for planning your own active road trip…

how to plan an active road trip

Write your wish list first, then plan your trip around it. Research beforehand and layout your rough itinerary to make sure you hit all the must-see spots that you want. My Mum and I have some different opinions on what we want to see, but we’ve compromised to make sure that we don’t miss anything major. I wanted to spend more time in Seattle, however my Mum wanted to spend more time in Olympic National Park…then I discovered that Forks, WA was just outside Olympic and I was willing to compromise (Twilight fans will understand!).

Be realistic about how far you’re willing to drive and how much time you want to spend in the car each day. It’s better to go with less mileage per day to fully enjoy your trip (in my opinion!).

Ask for tips. Include the hotspots but make sure to get off the beaten track too. Some of my best finds have been through asking locals, scouring blogs or asking park rangers where to go. I haven’t bought a guide book in years (after travelling the exact same path as every other 21 year old in South America), and love finding spots where I don’t feel like such a tourist…although the accent always gives it away!

Find local running clubs on Facebook or other social platforms. It’s the best way to find local running routes, or to join a group session! Lululemon and other fitness stores often have free group classes or runs that you can sign up to.

Or join a running tour like the one I took in Tampa. The best way to sightsee in my opinion.

SatNav. I don’t know about you, but map reading in a new place can get quite stressful. To avoid arguments over getting lost (or illegal U turns), I usually try to get a car with SatNav, or ensure I have data on my phone to use Google Maps. This has been a lifesaver over the years on road trips with my Mum, Tom and friends. We just won’t talk about the time my Mum reversed down a motorway outside Denver at 3am…

oh and keep cash on you for tolls.

how to plan an active road trip

active Road trip tips

Have your trainers handy – whether you put them on for a quick hike to a scenic spot or your stretch your legs with a couple of easy miles, one of the best ways to explore is on foot! Anna and I drove to La Jolla from San Diego and discovered that lots of people were running along the beach, so we changed in the back of the car and headed out for our own 2.5 mile run. It was perfect after a long day of traveling and we earned our sunset happy hour drinks 🙂

Don’t be put off by a little sweat/dirt/sand to put you off running then hopping back in the car. Bring some wet wipes/deodorant and dry shampoo, a towel to sit on, and a change of shoes so that you can do a swift clean up and get back on the road!

Book yourself in to hotels with gyms/running routes nearby. We stayed at The Westin in Long Beach, and although we were disappointed with the room and all the extra charges that came with it (why are all the extras free at cheap hotels, like parking/breakfast etc, and they cost so much at mid-price hotels??), we did love the gym and the run concierge who gave us a map to the local running routes.

I usually try to fit my workout in first thing so that I don’t miss out on the day, or end up not getting a run/workout in at all. Could you include the run/hike as part of your sightseeing? Like a sunrise hike, or a run to breakfast?

how to plan an active travel road trip

Sign up to Classpass two week trial, or similar for your trip and take advantage of their multiple studios in cities across the world. Similarly, if you’re travelling to major cities in the US, you could buy a pass for a gym chain or studio with plenty of locations such as SoulCycle, Barry’s Bootcamp or FlyWheel!

Bring Healthy Snacks. There aren’t the best options on the road, often just fast food joints and petrol stations. I usually stock up on dried fruit, hummus and crudite, juice/smoothies, chopped fruit – anything that’s easy to pick at while driving or map reading. I am also a really big fan of buying a salad or sandwich in advance of the trip, usually where we have breakfast e.g. my favourite Einstein’s Bagels turkey salad, or WholeFoods smoothie’s for elevenses.

Pick a decent car. I know this sounds silly, but I travelled in the smallest car of the range with 3 people and big bags, and it wasn’t the most comfortable. You don’t need to go BIG but if you’re going to be spending hours at a time in the car, you’re going to want some level of comfort. It’s also a great chance to choose a fun car that you wouldn’t get to drive at home! We upgraded our car to a Jeep when we landed at San Diego using the Hertz Ultimate Choice – you don’t get allocated a car at your reservation, instead you pick something within the range (or upgrade, like we did when we saw this red beauty) and the changes to your booking are processed as you exit. All really simple and you can easily change your car based on your needs – or wants! This service isn’t available at all airports, but we were lucky that San Diego was one of them!

We were given a discount on our Hertz rental car in exchange for sharing on social and blog about our experience. We chose the bright red Jeep ourselves 🙂 

Photos by Anna Jackson


  1. Chiswickmum

    Can’t wait for more road based fun with you. What about the time we only had two CDs for 1000 mile trip form Denver to Yellowstone and back?

  2. Samantha Darlington

    Instead of finding a running club, I clue into parkrun.

    • charlotte

      Great idea, although they are a bit few and far between in the US!

  3. Cari

    I feel you on the fees at mid range.
    Speaking of local running clubs, have any specific London ones? Looking at Secret London Runs and Love London running but always up for more ideas. Thank you!

  4. lalaforte

    When will you be in CO and Seattle? I’m also doing some of my own traveling and would love to group up for a run! I’m from Colorado so have some great recs as well. 🙂


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