I don’t think there’s any half-way about road trips. You either love them, or you don’t. Brett and I love them. Our children, not so much.
There are three ways to approach taking a road trip:
- Fill your gas tank, fill your wallet, hop in your car and see where the road takes you. I have friends who do this regularly and have had some pretty terrific trips.
- Do your research, make a plan, fill your gas tank, and go.
- A blend of #1 and #2.
You might think that with my love of planning we’d go with the second method, but Brett and my road trips were mostly a combination of #1 and #2. We had a destination, a deadline and a budget, but then we’d get in the car and go, stopping when we felt like it, and adjusting our route along the way.
Here are some tips for making your road trip a success:
- Plan your route: One of the following three things will pretty much have the most effect on which direction your plans will take: destination, distance or budget. Once that’s figured out, then you can start thinking about what you want to see along the way. Are you a fan of historical site (says the girl whose parents stopped at every historical marker along our route)? Do you want to experience nature? Are there friends along the way you’d like to stop and see? After you decide what or who you want to visit, then it’s time to see if there is a logical route that can be taken, and how that route can be broken down into manageable driving segments. Knowing your route and stops along the way can help you plan how much gas you’ll need, and how much that will cost.
- Find your lodging: Once you know the location where you’ll be stopping for the night, then you can figure out the place where you want to spend the night. This is where Google can be your friend – search for a place + lodging, and voilà! Some locations might be worth the splurge for a fancy hotel or famous lodge, while others might warrant nothing fancier than a Motel 6. Besides the cost for the room, other things you might consider are whether the hotel or motel offers a free breakfast, if there is a swimming pool where you can cool off and unwind after a long day’s drive, or what nearby dining options are available. Camping, whether that’s pitching a tent or sleeping in your car, is one way to keep travel costs down if you’re on a tight budget. Don’t forget to check out AirBNB as well for a more unique lodging experience, depending on where you’re going and how long you might like to stay there while you’re on your way.
- Download some apps: There are loads of terrific travel apps available now that can help make your road trip easier and more enjoyable, as well as save you money. TripIt can actually create a route for you – just plug in your preferred lodging and the attractions you’d like to see and they’ll do the rest. The Along The Way app for iPhones can find bathrooms, coffee stops, shopping locations, etc. wherever you are on your route. Gasbuddy will help you find the cheapest gasoline prices, and sites like OpenTable, tripadvisor and Yelp provide restaurant reviews, menus, photos and other helpful information about where to eat. Music apps, like Pandora or Spotify are also great to have along on your road trip. Most smartphones these days also come equipped with GPS, if you like or need that sort of thing.
- Be flexible. Even the best-made plans sometimes have to change. Stuff happens. Be sure you are able to adjust and adapt to changes that might occur, whether than means having emergency funds set aside, being able to shorten or lengthen your trip, or taking a different route if necessary.
- Make sure your car is in tip-top shape before you go. There is nothing worse than having car trouble when your hundreds of miles away from home, or out in the middle of nowhere (I say this from experience). Get your tires checked and take care of other maintenance issues that you’ve been putting off before you go.
While there are no road trips happening for us these days – the highway that circles Kaua’i is just over 56 miles – Brett and I still talk about possibly making a road trip back on the mainland some day, after the girls are all off at college (that’s not what we’re planning for 2018 though). Road trips were the only way either of us traveled when we were young, and we love being out on the open road. Our dream trip is to see all the western national parks in one trip. We’ve priced it out though, and it would cost us at least $15,000 to do it from here, if not more. It would take approximate two-months to make the loop, and once we started figuring out our costs for air fare, car rental, lodging, gas, food, etc. the price just kept climbing. So, for now it remains nothing more than a dream. One of these days though . . . .