Road trips: one of the easiest ways to avoid airlines and their hidden fees. I have to pay $30 because my luggage is 0.4 lbs over the limit? Yes. (cries in corner, but, don’t worry, the flight has been delayed 2 hours so you still have time) Whether you are crossing states or entering different countries, there are many things to consider when planning a road trip:
1. Where are you going?
Knowing point A and point B will help you know the primes in between: point A’, point A”, etc. You don’t have to go in one straight line to get to your destination. Your road trip map may consist of curves, swirls, and other words that are very similar to one another. You may want to visit some places more than others or you may have already been to the places that lie in between and don’t want to revisit them. Create a list of your start and end points and the places you would like to visit.
2. What do you have?
Essential: a car. I know, duh, but, is your car in great condition? Is it reliable? Great on gas? Are you getting a rental? Using someone else’s car? Are you getting an RV? I know, this seems like a Toyota commercial. Double check that your mode of transportation is safe and up to date on its maintenance. Oil change, full gas tank, fire extinguisher, spare tire, spare tools, etc.
Essential: GPS or map. A compass is questionable. Just don’t bring a magnet as well. Know where you are going. Yes, you may be keen on reading road signs, but, when it’s 1 a.m. and you are still driving, do you want to read signs only to take a wrong turn? Nope. Have a layout of the places you will be visiting. Check if there are tolls, different terrains, enough rest stops, enough gas stations, and so forth. Don’t wind up in the middle of nowhere with a ball of straw crossing the road.
Essential: Money. You have to budget how much you intend to spend on gas, food, places to sleep, and souvenirs. Find gas stations with the cheapest rates- usually you can find this on Google maps. Decide on whether you are eating a five-star meal or are satisfied with making a PB&J sandwich in your trunk. Are you comfortable sleeping in your car or want to pay for a motel or hotel or not pay at all and visit a hostel or search on couchsurf? Do you just want to take photos or bring back physical items? When budgeting, be realistic. Plan out if you want to go to museums, attractions, events, and what they all cost. The point is to be smart with your money and not spend it all on ice cream and snow globes. Open up the good ol’ Excel and keep tabs of the money you have and what you need to save and how you will allocate your finances appropriately and stick to it. Like peanut butter sticks to the roof of your mouth.
Essential: Camera. You could have a flip phone camera or a dslr, whatever you have, take photos and know what locations the photos were taken. Keeping a journal or even a blog are nice ways to remember anecdotally what happened, but having a photo brings a visual component to the memories. Yes, you could describe a waterfall in a magical way, or you could save page space and insert photo [here]. Something that I also suggest investing in is a instant camera such an Instax mini, Wide 300, neoclassic, etc. One of the coolest things I’ve done while travelling is ask strangers if I could take their photos and actually give them the physical copy.
Essential: People. Family, friends, neighbor, the barista you met last week. Travel with someone. This is not only for safety purposes, but, it’s great to have company. Someone to talk to, someone who can drive as well, someone to take photos with, someone who will take photos of you, someone who will laugh with you, someone to play amazing music, and someone who will split the costs. I know, this sounds like an eHarmony ad. Unless you want to travel by yourself, bringing someone along for the adventure can make the experience just a bit better.
Emergency cash, emergency plans, emergency contacts, emergency medical notices, all important. Plan for best and worst case scenarios and have a back a plan. This can be as simple as having back up clothing for whatever reason such as not realizing how cold a place would be. Be prepared.
Be flexible with your plans. You can never go wrong with visiting the capitals of the places that you are visiting (just know they tend to be a bit more pricey). If you want to go to a location to mainly visit the mountains, plan which mountain side. If you want to go a particular museum, see what their rates and hours are, if they are accessible, if they have any events happening, how far they are from your next destination, what their reviews are, etc. Keep some point places, but don’t overwhelm your schedule. Ask locals what are some great spots to visit, but, don’t make it obvious that you are a tourist. Don’t be like, “Hi, I’m not from here and am going to this next city. I’m low on gas, easily vulnerable, and here is my social security number. Also, do you have a recommended cafe that’s on the way?” Yikes. No. Just NO.
Plan your music playlist. Unless you want to listen to the Top 40 songs a hundred times, don’t make a playlist. Plan some songs you’d like to hear along the way. I think it’s kind of fitting if you also choose songs that mention the place you are in. Like, how many songs have L.A. in it? Too many. But, when you are in L.A., it may excite you even more. Also, switch it up with podcasts and audible books orrrrr silence.
Any travel experience can be stressful to a certain degree. Road trips are really up to you. Independent travel, no pressing itinerary. You choose where to go and how long to stay at a particular location. Take a breather and enjoy the places you visit.
Happy road tripping.