Scouting Trips – Scope it Out Before a Longer Trip

(Last Updated On: December 26, 2023)

Hitting the open road for a scouting trip is a great way to map out your future travel plans. Learn about my recent scouting trip and why I recommend them!

Scouting Trips Are a Great Way to See Where to Visit in the Future

While nothing beats the adventure of a road trip, doing a scouting run first paves the way for an amazing vacation down the road. A few months ago, my husband and I embarked on a scouting adventure, making stops in several states to see if they would steer us in the right direction for our next big trip.

We had a wheel-y good time checking out the highway highlights across different parts of the country. Our scouting trip put the engine in motion for planning an incredible road trip itinerary or two (or three!) in the future.

From scenic routes to hidden gems just off the beaten path, our scouting adventure yielded a roadmap to places we can’t wait to re-tread. While road trips themselves are a blast, doing a scouting trip ahead of time fuels you up with insider knowledge so your next vacation is smooth sailing.

If you’re looking to scout out destinations for an upcoming trip, gas up your car, roll down the windows, and cruise through potential spots. You’ll pave the way for an incredible getaway by doing your scouting homework first. I have no doubt this will lead to the ultimate road trip with no bumps or detours in sight!

Related: Check out some unique accommodations for an unforgettable trip!

The Benefits of Scouting Trips 

scouting trips - kentucky mountains landscape photographed on the road

A scouting trip might seem like a hassle upfront, but the investment pays off when it comes time to plan your real vacation. Here are some of the key benefits of taking a scouting trip before your bigger trip:

Get a true sense of a place 

Reading reviews only goes so far. Seeing a destination in person lets you determine if it’s worth your valuable vacation time. You can confirm if a place lives up to the hype.

Scout accommodations

Finding the right hotel or rental home can make or break a vacation. Scouting first means you can check out properties and neighborhoods in person to find your ideal place to stay. 

Discover hidden gems

The best local restaurants, shops, and attractions often don’t rise to the top of review sites. Scouting a location yourself lets you wander and uncover hidden hot spots.

Figure out optimal timing

Understanding a destination’s seasonal patterns can help you plan your bigger trip during the ideal time of year. Seeing a place during different seasons gives you insight on when to return. 

Test drive itineraries 

Trying sample itineraries during your scouting trip means you can tweak and perfect your actual vacation agenda later. Test runs help build the framework.

Uncover undersold attractions 

Some of the coolest spots slip under the radar. You can pull back the curtain and find underrated activities to highlight on your real trip.

In short, scouting trips pave the way for amazing vacations. The upfront effort pays off when you get to experience a new destination like a local.

Related: Learn about the best road trip destinations in the US for 2024!

My Recent Scouting Road Trip

My husband and I recently went on an extensive scouting road trip along the east coast to help us plan future vacations. Our intended destination was to get to New Jersey to watch a K-pop concert for the first time, and we used it as an excuse to scout the states along the east coast to learn where we would like to visit for a longer getaway.

scouting trips - concert venue for blackpink concert in new jersey

Over the course of a week, we drove through beautiful parts of West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and more.

We took pages of notes on places we’d like to revisit. At the top of the list is Washington, D.C. We really want to have at least a week to see all the monuments, parks, and of course The White House.

West Virginia absolutely dazzled us with its mountain landscapes – we could have spent weeks exploring this state alone. We decided we need to return to West Virginia and spend at least a week or so enjoying the hiking and small towns.

The history and charm of Philadelphia also won us over. We determined three or four days would be ideal in the future to experience the food scene and tour Independence Hall. We did get to try a Philly Steak and Cheese there though – which by the way is just referred to as a Steak and Cheese when ordering in the state!

In Rhode Island, the mansions and oceanside location provided a delightful change of pace from the mountains. We agreed two or three days in Newport on a return visit would suffice.

Oh, and Salem! I only got one evening in Salem, Massachusetts, but I look forward to spending at least a week there.

Beyond the highlights, having boots on the ground helped us evaluate where we would like to focus future trips and how long we should plan to stay in each place. Our scouting trip provided invaluable first-hand experience to start crafting our next multi-state road trip adventure.

Key Tips for Scouting Trips

If you’re planning a scouting trip to help map out future vacations, keep these tips in mind:

– Be flexible – Don’t overschedule your scouting trip. Allow time to slow down and evaluate places. Give yourself freedom to lengthen or shorten time in each spot.

– Take notes – Write down or voice record your impressions on accommodations, restaurants, activities while they’re fresh. Details will help immensely when planning later. 

– Research hidden gems – Scan blogs and social media for tips on underrated attractions. Locals know the best undiscovered spots.

– Consider off-season – Visiting a destination during its quieter season gives insight on when crowds may be smaller for future trips.

– Prioritize what matters – Focus your scouting on the factors most important to you – weather, costs, ease of transport, etc.

scouting trips - downtown richmond kentucky mural of the city name

– Stay central – Choosing centrally located accommodations makes it easier to explore different areas efficiently.

– Meet locals – Striking up conversations with residents can yield insider information not found online.

– Take photos – Pictures of places, hotels, and activities will jog your memory later when trip planning.

– Scout multiple spots – Don’t commit fully to one place in case you end up preferring another destination.

Taking the time to scout out vacation spots results in future trips tailored to your interests and perfectly timed. Use these tips to maximize the value of your scouting adventure.

Start Your Engines for an Epic Road Trip

After reading about my recent scouting adventure on the east coast, I hope you can see why I’m such a strong advocate for scouting out destinations before a bigger trip. While the initial scouting journey requires time and effort, it pays dividends when you get to plan an incredible vacation tailored to the very best a location has to offer. 

Armed with first-hand knowledge of accommodations, hidden gems, timing considerations, and priorities for each destination, crafting future trip itineraries will be a breeze. All that’s left to do is count down the days until you can return to those hand-picked spots for the vacation of a lifetime! 

For me, fond memories from my scouting stops will fuel my wanderlust until I can embark on a longer journey to many if not all of the places we quickly drove through. My scouting trip gave me a priceless sneak peek while allowing me to curate future vacations to highlight the very best of each incredible place.

So consider scouting trips for your next destination as the first step on an amazing longer trip. Let the wanderlust wash over you as you road trip through potential spots. Then get ready for an unforgettable future vacation engineered to perfection. Your scouting efforts will take the work out of planning so you can focus on anticipation and excitement. Happy scouting!