Planning Your Big, Fat, Epic, International Road Trip

Planning road trips are usually pretty simple.  You decide where you are starting from, where you want to end up, and how long you want to take to get between Point A and Point B.  Easy, right?

But what if you are planning something a bit more involved than a quick weekend jaunt to visit grandma in Spuzzum, British Columbia?

The logistics involved in this endeavor were staggering.  I was contemplating a road trip of 4,400 km (2,734 miles) across three countries driving my 2012 Nissan Murano.

4,400 kilometres, 1 province, 10 states, 3 countries over 7 days = 1 epic road trip.

As I sat down to plan out the international road trip that was going to relocate me from Calgary, Canada to my new home in Mexico, I realized that this wasn’t going to be a simple exercise that could be planned out in a few minutes.

“Surely somebody has developed a website to help plan this kind of thing.”  A quick Google search later, I had my answer.

Canada-Mexico Route
Canada to Mexico Border Route

OK, full disclosure.  I am NOT a planner.  At least not when it comes to my leisure time.  I’m much more likely to just ‘wing it’ when planning a trip. To me, the most engaging part of traveling is the ability to just make it up as you go – something that doesn’t work in the corporate world.  And yes, my propensity to approach things this way has gotten me into some terrible jambs in the past.  But hey, don’t ever let fear or logic stop you, right?

That being said, our across-North America sojourn was of a magnitude I have never taken on before, so this trip was going to require at least some rudimentary planning to get us where we needed to be.  My usual ‘chaos theory’ to travel planning could work against me, so I decided some effort was going to be required to give this thing a better chance of success.

As I was planning this trip, I was sitting in front of my laptop with Google Maps opened, a blank Word document sitting ready for recording details of the route, lodging choices and city highlights, as well as about seven tabs in Chrome for simultaneously checking hotels and local attractions in each city.  Figuring out how long each day’s route would be in Google Maps was a royal hassle, and involved a lot of fiddling to make each day’s drive time reasonable. Every time I adjusted it, of course, I then had to start all over again with determining what points of interest were available at that point on the route.  This whole process was taking far too long.

As I struggled with planning the trip using all these disparate resources, I remember thinking to myself, “Surely somebody has developed a website to help plan this kind of thing.”  A quick Google search later, I had my answer.

Some clever minds have developed the Furkot Trip Planner for just such a purpose.  And it is brilliant…

Furkot amazed me right from the start.  This web-based tool allows you to either create a login, or link Furkot to your Google account (which is what I did) to get started with route planning. It then allows you to create and save multiple routes and even variants of routes as you build out your trip.

To get you started, Furkot asks for a few basic pieces of information to create the basic route: How long do you want to drive each day?  What are your start and end dates?  What are your lodging preferences?

Using just those basic responses, Furkot plotted out an optimal route, inserting stopping points along the way based on the driving interval I selected earlier.

Furkot menus
Furkot sidebar menus

I wasn’t overly keen on the automatic route that Furkot selected (even though it would have been the shortest route), but modifying the route was just a matter of clicking and dragging the route path over to the interstate highway I preferred.  Furkot immediately adjusted all overnight stopping points based on my preferred route.

The Furkot sidebar displays all the menu items you can use in conjunction with either a route segment or an overnight stopping point, including thinks like restaurant locations and even reviews!

Adding something like a local attraction to your route is simple to add as well.  Don’t see what you are looking for on the “Plan” menu?  Just begin typing the name of an attraction into the search function in Furkot.

I found that most places I was interested in visiting are already in their database.  But not always.  For example, while we will be passing through the San Antonio area, I really wanted to spend a day at Schlitterbahn waterpark, located in New Braunfels, Texas. However, the waterpark didn’t come up in a search for attractions, so I couldn’t just add it to the trip.  Instead, I just typed the name into the search field and when the name of the attraction resolved, I simply selected it from the list and clicked the ‘save’ button.  Furkot immediately added in a route segment through San Antonio to get us there.

At each of the suggested overnight stopping points, Furkot displays all the amenities, including lodging options and even dining choices.  Don’t like the stopping location that is recommended?  You can click and drag the overnight marker to a more interesting location and start the process of finding accommodations and restaurants from that new point.

Hotel Booking Pane
Accommodation Booking Panel in Furkot

Furkot works with several of the biggest reservation sites, including Booking.com, Expedia, TripAdvisor and Hotels.com, as well as many of the major hotel chains that handle their own bookings.  You can even roll the dice and use Hotwire to book accommodations if you aren’t too fussed about which hotel you end up using.  Furkot handles all of this planning beautifully in one common interface, even showing you the best room price you can secure right at that moment.  Clicking through the hotel booking pane, you can immediately book your preferred accommodation and get your confirmation.

Other features that are going to be really useful include things like offline map caching (which is great for keeping the route map handy even when you aren’t connected to a network) and sharing routes with the larger Furkot community. The web application even shows you the forecasted weather at each of your stop locations along the route!

If you like, Furkot can even use information you provide about your vehicle’s fuel range to offer suggestions on where you should tank up to avoid an embarrassing call to AAA for roadside service.

Using Furkot, I was able to quickly plan out my route and make decisions about where we would stay along the way.

Once I’ve decided on my final route I’ll be sure to post the whole trip online so others who are planning an epic Canada to Mexico road trip can see my exact route and accommodation choices for this huge trip.

Interested in using Furkot to plan out your next road trip?  Below is my published route across Canada and the USA to the Mexican border.  Watch this blog for more details on where we stayed and what we liked about each city we visited!

Canada-USA Road Trip by Mexican Moose

3 Replies to “Planning Your Big, Fat, Epic, International Road Trip”

  1. Great information Guil! My cousin was just looking for information on planning a long trip south – another couple of “just retired” with a motorhome and an itch to travel south. I’ll pass on the Furkot website.
    I am staying tuned for more!

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