Planning a Road Trip

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Though all vacations require thought and effort, road trips may seem overwhelming if you consider all the individual options and steps. You have to consider your vehicle maintenance, routes, stops and budget on top of planning and packing for the destination. But, with proper planning, these can be as fun as preparing for the rest of your adventure.

Choose Your Route
With all trips, the first thing you need to know is where you are going. But what makes road trips so special is that the journey can be just as exciting as the destination. A good way to start choosing your route is to look at a map and see if anything you would like to see or do is generally between you and your final destination. Once you have identified where you’re headed and specific places to visit, decide whether to plan more stops on the way there or on the way home.

Try working backward from your destination to your starting point to plan your route. If you need to be at your destination by a certain date, start thinking of how far you want to drive each day and still see or do the things you’ve planned. For example, if you have a 12-hour trip, it could take you anywhere between 1 and 3 days. You could drive straight through in one day, or break it up in multiple sections. But you may want to detour and drive through a national park, taking up 4 hours of one day, and stop at another attraction the next day. That might extend your trip to 2-3 days.

Once you have an idea of how much time will be spent traveling to your destination, you can start to focus on the details.

Set a budget
Planning a road trip budget can be challenging because you likely won’t know every stop or the price of gas at every gas station during your drive. Using the information you have already outlined from the above section, you can generally figure out how much gas you will need by estimating how many miles you will travel per day. Don’t forget the cost of activities. That detour through the National Park could cost you anywhere between $10 and $50 for admission. Research the costs of attractions you know you’ll want to visit before you leave so that you have budgeted for those costs and have the correct form of payment. Hotel costs can typically be predetermined and easily added to your budget. Though meals are harder to budget for, you can give yourself an estimated cost per meal. You may also want to try bringing breakfast bars and snacks with you to keep costs down. Cutting out snacking stops can add up over a multiple day trip. Though setting up a travel budget can be time consuming, it is a great way to cut out unexpected costs and not over spend while on your trip.

Check your vehicle
Before any road trip, it is a good idea to make sure your mode of transportation is set up for success. Check your oil and fluids, thoroughly inspect your tires, and make sure you have any emergency supplies in the car you might need if something were to happen on the road.

Another consideration for your road trip is to use technology to help. Mobile apps for your phone can be helpful as you explore new places. Apps like Roadtripper can help with planning stops, Waze can help keep up with traffic and reroutes, and iExit can be used to find the right exit for your plans. These are just a few of the many free options that can take some of the hassle out of your road trip.

Whether you are traveling with grandkids or friends, these tips will help ensure your trip goes smoothly and provides you with a fun experience of the open road.

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