5 Keys to Planning the Best Summer Road Trip Ever
Whether you are headed up the coast or across the country, hitting the open road for a summer trek can be a freeing experience. Some of the best memories can be made while spending time on a nice, long drive with friends, family, or just by yourself.
Planning the best possible road trip without breaking the bank requires some thinking ahead, though, so here are five ways to make sure you are truly prepared to hit the road:
1. Make Sure Your Ride is Ready for the Long Haul
Obviously, the most important part of any good road trip is a reliable vehicle. And since your car is going to be doing most of the heavy lifting, you should make sure it’s in tip-top shape before you embark.
Instead of finding out you need a new fan belt on the side of a deserted highway in Arizona, visit your mechanic for a thorough inspection and get your oil changed prior to your trip. It may cost you a few bucks before you head out, but could save you from expensive repairs — and lost time waiting at a garage — while you’re traveling.
As important as it is to check the inner workings of your vehicle before a trip, it’s equally important to check the outside, namely your tires, before the rubber meets the road. Driving on heavily worn tires puts you at greater risk of experiencing a blowout while traveling at higher interstate speeds. So, make sure your tires are safe before you go, and, if you do need a new set, be sure to research your options and find the best tire deals.
If you’re not sure your car will make it, or you just don’t want to put the miles on it, renting a car can be a great road trip option. You can even find discounts from car rental companies online for the vehicle that best suits your trip.
2. Chart a Course (Even if You Decide to Stray From It)
Throwing caution to the wind and heading out with no plans sounds romantic, but it can quickly turn into a wild goose chase. While you don’t have to map out every last detail of your trip, having a starting point, an end point, and a list of things you want to do along the way, gives you enough structure to make the most of your trip.
Consider using Roadtrippers to make planning incredibly easy. Just input a starting point and a destination and the site creates a customized road map for you, complete with driving directions as well as hotels, attractions, natural wonders, and oddities along your route.
But just because you have a plan doesn’t mean you can’t freestyle during your trip. Just remember to check the cancellation policies of anything you have booked beforehand, like an experience or a hotel. You don’t want to be on the hook for a night at a fancy hotel in Los Angeles if you’ve decided to stay an extra day in San Diego.
3. Don’t Forget About Savings While You’re on the Road
It’s easy to splurge and overspend while away from home and justify it by saying, “I’m on vacation.” But with a little planning, it’s also easy to save money on a road trip without much effort. You can take advantage of grocery coupons and pack snacks beforehand, which cuts down on stops you’d have to make to refuel.
Speaking of fuel, gas is an automatic expense with any road trip, and a little planning can lead to big savings. The Waze mobile app can lead you to the closest gas station with the lowest price along your route. And, in addition to finding the lowest price at the pump, you can save even more by using a credit card that rewards you for fuel purchases. A comparison site like CardRates can help you find the best gas credit card for your upcoming journey.
And don’t forget to bring all of your customer loyalty cards when you hit the road. Whether it is a coffee punch card or a Walgreen’s Balance Rewards card, you’re still going to have to buy necessities, so you might as well keep earning points for your purchases.
4. Apps Help You Find Things To Do at Every Stop
Today, a virtually endless line of mobile apps allow roadtrippers to learn about — and enjoy — the places they are visiting on the fly. That’s always been my preferred method of travel, anyway. And thanks to location-based technology, you can get to know your surroundings in an incredibly customized way.
The Yelp app is a great on-the-go resource for finding highly rated dining options while Nightlife can help you discover bars, nightclubs, and live events happening nearby. Got your heart set on eating food truck tacos like a local? You can see if there is one in your vicinity with the Roaming Hunger Food Truck Finder.
You can take self-guided tours, locate cheap parking, or even connect on the go through local dating sites and apps. Some bigger cities have their own dedicated tourist apps to help you find your way around. And you can always stop off to do some deeper research at a rest stop with wifi, although internet access isn’t always guaranteed. However, Safeway grocery stores and Denny’s restaurants both offer wifi 24 hours a day, plus hot meals.
5. Be Prepared to Make & Store Memories — Then Share Them
If you use your phone to take pictures, make sure you have enough storage space on your device for all of the photos you’ll accumulate during your trip. If you need more, consider purchasing extra cloud storage from your service provider to make sure you can keep snapping and posting throughout your journey. And don’t forget to check social media for location-based camera filters to add more context to your pics.
If you’ll be taking pictures or video with a DSLR or other dedicated camera, like a GoPro, you may need more than a few gigabytes of extra cloud storage. In that case, you can use a photo hosting site builder like Wix to upload and store your files on the go. Plus, Wix offers easy templates to help you publish and share your travel memories in an online gallery.
A Little Road-Trip Planning Goes a Long Way
Hitting the open road can be a truly liberating experience. You have the freedom to stop and explore, make adjustments to your route along the way, and you get to enjoy not just the destination, but the journey, too.
It’s easier than ever to plan as you go rather than mapping out an entire trip ahead of time, but thinking ahead just a little — even one or two stops — can save you both time and money.