Plan but be flexible

Although having a proposed itinerary is important, remember that the key word is "proposed." Think of it more as a tentative plan that can be tweaked along the way as the trip unfolds.

In the earlier years when we were less experienced, I had practically every night reserved forcing us to adhere to a strict schedule--kind of just like being home. However, a road trip should be an opportunity to get away from the schedules and appointments of daily life.

By all means, have an itinerary, but don't be afraid to stray from it. If you like a stop more than you thought you would, stay another night. If it's not as good as you thought, cut it short. Also, you never know when you're going to run into an unanticipated problem, such as a tire blowout (see Deception Pass State Park) or a tooth knocked out (see Olympic National Park).

Of course, there are places that are just so popular that you're going to have to make a reservation or you're going to miss out, but other than those, just "wing it." You'll love the sense of freedom it gives you.