As restrictions are being lifted and the world slowly starts opening up after more than a year of being cooped up in their homes and coping with a pandemic, most people are ready to break away and travel again. A recent study conducted by The Vacationer found that over 67% of people are planning to travel this summer. However, the effects of the pandemic have people thinking differently about traveling. As people are regaining their confidence to start traveling again, there are many travelers who are still uncomfortable traveling by air.
This year, 60% of Americans are planning to travel by car. Road trips are a safe and cost-effective way for people to break away and satisfy their travel itch. A well-planned road trip can be fun, adventurous, and it reduces interactions with other people.
Here are a few tips to help you plan an affordable road trip.
Are you traveling a scenic route or the interstate? Do you plan to make stops along the way to visit museums or national parks? Before you pack your bags and hit the road, you’ll want to know where you’re going and how you’re going to get there. Creating a plan for your destination will save you time, money, and the frustration of not knowing where you’re going and how to get there.
Google Maps is a free online tool that could help you figure out the driving times and your destination route. It also can help you find places you may want to stop along the way. Google Maps is a resourceful tool, but don’t forget to pack a paper map of your route as a backup just in case you lose cell service in an area you’re traveling.
Now that you’ve planned your destination, it’s time to determine how much the road trip will cost you. Having a budget for travel is your roadmap to help you plan to save and spend money for your trip. As you create your traveling budget, you’ll want to factor in expenses such as gas, lodging, food, car service, activities, and extra money for emergencies and unexpected expenses. Once you've determined your budget, you can open a savings account and automate your deposits to ensure you stay on track with saving for your road trip.
As you’re planning your destination, you’ll want to be mindful and realistic about how far you can safely travel in a day. If your road trip takes longer than eight to ten hours, you’ll want to consider breaking up the long drive. You can search websites or use travel apps to find the best deals on hotels, or you can use Airbnb to save you money on lodging. Also, if you have friends or family along your route, consider contacting them to see if they have a place you could stay for a night.
The last thing you want to happen is your car breaking down on you and your family while traveling. Before you hit the road, make sure your vehicle is thoroughly serviced and in tip-top shape for traveling. Make sure to have a mechanic check your tires, brake pads, fluids, lights, and change the oil.
Car trouble can happen at any time, and it’s best to be prepared when it does happen. It would be helpful to map out recommended mechanics on your route just in case you have issues with your car on the road.
Here’s something else to consider. If the service and repairs for your car are going to be expensive, you may want to consider renting a car or purchasing a new one. Evaluate the cost of servicing your car versus purchasing a new one to determine which option works best for you and your budget.
Make sure you have copies of your up-to-date registration and insurance information.
Don’t leave home without the essentials. You may not think to pack these things, but you’ll want to make sure you have them just in case. Sometimes we don’t realize we need something until we’re in a situation where we really need it. You’ll want to make sure to pack a universal charger, a camera, water, paper roadmap, comfortable shoes and clothes, spare keys, blankets, toilet paper, lighter, towels or napkins, and an emergency road kit.
Also, be sure to pack some cash and exact change in case your route takes you across a toll or you stop somewhere that only accepts cash.
Having snacks available in between meals will save you time and money. Pack a cooler filled with your favorite snacks to satisfy your sweet tooth and mid-afternoon cravings. Also, be sure to pack your refillable water bottle to help cut down on the cost of buying beverages.
The one question no driver wants to hear during the trip is, “Are we there yet?”. There’s only so much staring out the window you can do before boredom kicks in. Pretty soon you’ll want to do something that’s more entertaining. Entertaining your family while traveling doesn't have to be expensive. There are free and low-cost activities you can plan to help create a fun and exciting bonding experience with your family. For example, playing games such as the alphabet game, license plate game, and 20 questions game are free games you all can play to help pass the time on a long road trip.
You can include activities like coloring, reading, singing, storytelling, and watching movies on a tablet or laptop. Don’t forget to download playlists, books, or podcasts the entire family would enjoy.
Other low-cost activities you can find along your route to add excitement to your trip are walking/hiking tours, museums, parks, and beaches.
Does your credit card offer a rewards program? If so, it could work to your advantage to use it on vacation for expenses such as gas, hotel, and restaurants to earn cashback rewards on your purchases. The money you saved for the trip can be used to pay off the credit card after your trip.
With all the excitement of hitting the road, you may not think of ways you can save money while you're away. For example, set the thermostat to a higher temperature so it's not constantly running while you're away, and turn off the water to your home so you don't come home to any costly leaks. You can also unplug unused appliances and electronic devices such as the coffee maker, television, and computer.
Going on a road trip this summer is a great way to see new places and make fun memories. You'll also likely find it to be more affordable than other forms of travel. Make sure your car is ready for the adventure, create a plan, pack some snacks, and have fun!