How To Plan A Trip Out West in 2024: Your Complete Guide

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How To Plan A Trip Out West in 2024: Your Complete Guide
Oh, the wild west! Whether you want to road trip along the Kenai Peninsula, spot wildlife in Yellowstone National Park, or stroll through the vibrant Grand Canyon, there's much to explore. But with so much scattered around, is it possible to see it all? Let's break down the steps and start planning your next adventure out west.
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From navigating the national parks and diving into history-rich museums to feeling the city buzz and dipping into the rugged coastline, you're spoilt for choice. Whether it's a peaceful retreat or an adrenaline-fueled vacation, there's no doubt you'll find it here. 

But with a hefty handful of things to do in the west, how can you squeeze it all in? Maybe you're heading out on a 7-day trip out west, or perhaps you're thinking about a 3-week road trip… This in-depth guide will take you through everything you need to know. Here's how to plan a trip out west! 

Map in front of car windshield
Photo by Tabea Schimpf on Unsplash

Step 1. Decide when you want to head out west 

How many days do you need for a road trip out west? The answer you're looking for depends highly on you. It's about your preferences, travel style, the attractions you want to see, and the activities you want to do. The best time of year to road trip out west can vary greatly depending on these factors. 

Planning a trip out west any time of the year can offer many pros and cons. Each season hosts unique experiences, like shredding on snowy slopes in winter or hiking in spring.  

The west is well-known for its sublime scenery, and an ideal time to explore is during the shoulder seasons. The springtime showcases a wealth of wildflowers as they surge across the snow-melted mountains. In contrast, the fall brings colorful foliage with a few raindrops. The low season offers backpackers more affordable prices on accommodation and flights too! 

The wintertime offers action-packed events and activities for both snow and sports lovers. If you're interested in skiing or snowboarding, now's the time to shine! Prices can soar around Christmas, so it's not ideal for budget travelers. 

The west's summertime boasts hot and dry weather, making it a stellar time for outdoor activities. Tourism is usually at its height this season, so it may not be ideal for those bound to a strict budget. 

Step 2. Create your ideal travel budget 

If you're planning a trip out west, you're probably left thinking, how much will this cost? Now's the time to construct your very own travel budget. It sounds simple and not so appealing, but it's a crucial step to get more bang for your buck. 

When creating your ideal budget, remember to factor in accommodation, transport, flights, rental car hire, food, etc. Every last detail counts! 

The standard daily budget for travelers out west can differ greatly, depending on your travel style. If you're looking to keep it low cost, stay just outside the popular tourist areas and find budget accommodation in advance. If you're planning to hire a car, remember the money for fuel and tollways!  

Traveling has become more affordable in recent years. You can make the most out of your adventures by using these comprehensive budget travel tips.  

Budget journal
Photo by NORTHFOLK on Unsplash

Step 3. Figure out the must-see destinations 

All right! The United States West is home to an inundating inventory of dazzling destinations. Whether you want to lay low in a coastal town or sweat it out in a national park, a lot goes on on this side of the country. If you're heading out on a road trip out west, here are some top destinations you could add to your itinerary: 

  • Yosemite National Park 
  • Museum of American West in Denver 
  • San Francisco city 
  • Rocky Mountain National Park 
  • Las Vegas 
  • Jackson Hole 
  • Getty Center in Los Angeles 
  • Yellowstone National Park
  • Space Needle in Seattle 
  • Beaches in California 
  • Zion National Park
  • Grand Canyon 

Step 4. Establish your route  

How do you plan on getting around? Are you thinking about a 2-week road trip out west, or would you prefer a 5-day visit? Are you driving a car, campervan, or participating in a group trip? 

Whatever your preference is, there really is no right or wrong way to do it. Plan your route out west, and remember to calculate time, cost, and distance. 

Yellow car on road
Photo by Dino Reichmuth on Unsplash

Step 5. Figure out your accommodation 

Out west, there is a huge range of accommodation. Depending on your travel tastes, what you choose can vary greatly. When planning a trip out west, you'll encounter everything from budget hostels to luxury resorts. You can also choose between Airbnb,  Couchsurfing, hostels, sharehouses, and hotels. 

Save yourself time by comparing different hotel options on websites like Hotels.com. You can even sign up to score hotel deals alerts to save extra money.  

 Step 6. Research some activities and attractions 

Now's the time to ask yourself, what are some of the best things to do out west? Maybe you've seen a photo of a canyon you'd like to conquer, a beach you'd like to bathe on, or a desert spa that's calling your name… 

Whatever you're feeling, get it down on paper! Here are some activities to add to your itinerary out west: 

Step 7. Get down to the nitty gritty  

Now that you know how to plan a trip out west, it's time to get down to business. Get your travel visa and documents organized, and make sure you've got travel insurance too. Being prepared in case things go wrong can bring you great peace of mind. If you need help figuring out what's right for you, take a peek at this insider's guide on the best travel insurance for 2023.

Step 8. Start packing  

Packing doesn't have to involve running around your room, frantically fumbling through drawers, throwing clothes everywhere, and screaming, "I can't find anything"… In fact, packing can be quite the opposite. All you need to do is stay organized and pack ahead of time. 

Scan over all the items in this complete vacation packing list to ensure you've all the necessities. Keep your clothing organized with packing cubes and utilize all the room you have. Heck, even stuff socks and underwear into your shoes! 

When planning a trip out west, there are going to be some long hours spent on the road. To help make your life easier and not break the bank, don't forget these travel essentials: 

Packed baggage with camera and laptop outside
Photo by Anete Lūsiņa on Unsplash

Why visit the west? 

This part of the United States is home to some of the most unique landscapes on earth. With rolling hilltops, sandy deserts, vibrant cities, and a whole lot more, there is something to satisfy every type of traveler. 

Rural escapes, stunning scenery, crashing coastlines, and more! 

Now that you know how to plan a trip out west, it's time to take off your serious shoes and slip into something a little more comfortable. Pilot can help you plan the most epic trip, so what are you waiting for? Start the countdown now! 

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Disclosure: Pilot is supported by our community. We may earn a small commission fee with affiliate links on our website. All reviews and recommendations are independent and do not reflect the official view of Pilot.

Jessica Bergin Blogs
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Jessica Bergin
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