Prepare ahead - make a proposed itinerary

Do as much reading as you can about the regions you will be visiting ahead of time (see Tip on Good Books). If you are planning to visit the National Parks, call ahead for their information packets. Their tri-color brochures are especially useful in planning your visit to the park.

After you've selected some places you want to visit and some activities you want to do during your stay there, make a proposed itinerary, estimating how long you want to stay in each place. Then enter the stops into one of the mapping programs, such as Microsoft Streets and Tips, to get an idea of driving times between destinations. From there you might want to adjust your proposed itinerary to avoid the inevitable trip fatigue that will result from too much driving and not enough fun.

If you're planning to visit one of the more popular parks, such as the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, etc., you might want to think about making a camping reservation ahead of time. Keep the rest of the itinerary as "proposed" as possible, allowing you to change plans as you go along.

Remember, if you're well prepared, you won't waste a lot of time fumbling around wondering where to go and what to do when you get there, or even worse, finding out later that you missed something really good because you didn't know about it. I usually read so much about our stops ahead of time, that I almost feel as if I've already done the trip. It's fun to watch the actual trip unfold and see how it matches your expectations.