Looking to get away without breaking the bank? Finding a fun and cheap vacation is not an easy task, but there is a simple solution. Nope, it’s not a trip to see your family or a trek to some touristy destination. It’s the good old open road. That’s right, pack the car with food, games, and expectations, cause for the next week the van is your hotel and the interstate is your destination. Wait, a cramped backseat with a backpack for a pillow doesn’t sound comfortable? Well, good news: when planned accordingly, road trips are as relaxed, affordable, and fun as any other vacation. So if you’re looking to avoid rest-stop-snoozes and fast-food-overdoses this summer, follow a few of these tips.
1. Plan Ahead
As exhilarating as it is to just hop in the car and drive, your vacation is better served by having some idea of where you want to go. Mapping out a route keeps your budget in line and your schedule on time. Go off the beaten path by taking a few back roads or drive through some old towns. You never know what you might discover.
2. But Don’t Plan Too Far Ahead
Outside of affordability, flexibility is the main reason for taking a road trip. Highlight a few must-sees, discover some new spots, and follow the road to the next exciting adventure. Don’t be afraid to spend an extra day at a place you just stumbled on. That’s the reason for your trip!
3. Rack Up Rewards
While not as expensive as a waterfront condo, life on the highway can add up. Grab a rewards credit card and tack on your food, fuel, and lodging expenses. You’ll be halfway to a free vacation by the time you return from your journey.
4. Don’t Travel Every Day
A road trip is about the destinations — not about the actual road. So enjoy some sightseeing on your drive, but plan entire days around specific events or places. You’ll spend enough time in the car over the course of a week, so take some time to relax at one or two special spots. Remember, you’re on vacation!
5. Find Comfortable Overnight Arrangements
Nobody is excited about spending the night sleeping on a wheel well on the side of some highway in middle America. Money spent on hotels will be well worth it when you’re energized enough the next day to actually enjoy your scheduled stop. Plus, hot showers, hot breakfasts, and cold air conditioning will save you money on cheap hacks to manufacture those necessities while on the road.
6. Car Entertainment
It is a road trip, after all. Download some fresh music, buy a few new games, and make up your own as you travel the country with friends and family. Packing a cooler with some snacks and drinks is never a bad idea. Remember that there will be stops along the way though, so conserve space when loading up on soda and candy.
You won’t need many items for your expedition, but one you will require is a map. In the event of a roadside emergency, supplies and equipment will also be necessary. First aid kits, jumper cables, and back-up GPS devices are just a few of the safety items you should pack.
8. Switch Drivers
One inevitable part of road tripping is that you’ll have to drive. Stay alert by swapping drivers every few hours so you can cover more ground and make fewer mistakes. It’s estimated that over 100,000 crashes a year are caused by fatigued driving. Towing your vehicle home is no way to end an adventure.
9. Take a Comfortable Car
Use some common sense here. The more room available, the better the ride. Cargo space is just one factor though. Fuel economy, working ventilation, and driving technology are other options to weigh. Try to command the same luxuries out of your car as you would a hotel — because that’s basically what it is.
10. Get a Tune Up Before Setting Off
The best road trip is a one that ends safely. Head to the local garage for a once over before you jet. Tell the mechanic that you are going on a week-long drive and see what his suggestions for safety and maintenance are. Once you’re settled up, all that’s left is to enjoy the open road.
© 2016, Tonya Prater. All rights reserved.