When it comes to planning a road trip, finding the balance between making an agenda and being spontaneous is hard. You want to live in the moment, but still have a loose plan to fall back on. Master these tricks and you’ll find yourself walking out the door without much effort put into planning at all.
- Fill up at the cheapest stations.
Use Google Maps or Gas Buddy to find the cheapest gas along your route. If bathroom cleanliness is a big concern, check out SitOrSquat to find well-kept restrooms. Try stopping at truck stations too. They tend to have clean bathrooms, offer more services and are open later than average gas stations.
If you’re a frequent road tripper, look into a gas card. Do research first to determine which company will give you the greatest return.
- Reserve data usage and battery power.
Download music, for free, before you go. With ListenToYouTube you can legally drop in a YouTube URL and it will convert the file to an audio-only format and copy directly into your iTunes library. Or, better yet, try shifting away from electronics altogether and kick it old school with radio roulette and discover local stations.
- Bring camping gear.
The easiest way to leave room for spontaneous decision-making is to prepare for camping along the way. If you don’t have a tent, sleeping bag or ground pad just sleep in the car. Take this idea and modify it with a pool float to save 40 bucks. You can camp for free all over the place. It’s legal to set up anywhere in a National Forest. Hunt for a sweet spot, or pull over and set up on the side of the road. Either way, nobody will bother you.
If you decide to stay in a hotel, remember to check the room for damage or missing items after checking in. Locate the dryer, iron, ironing board, towels, bathrobe, and check that the fridge is fully stocked (if applicable). Report damage to the front office and then the fun can begin!
- Drop a pin.
Finding your way back to the car in an unfamiliar place can be a nightmare. Whether it’s a parking spot, hotel or a friend’s house…drop a pin and wander carelessly without worrying if you’ll be able to find your way back.
- Use city-specific Groupon pages.
Whether you’re at home looking for something to do or on vacation, Groupon has designed city-specific pages to organize their deals. A few weeks ago I was in Ohio visiting my grandparents. I used the Things To Do In Columbus page and didn’t buy a single meal that wasn’t heavily discounted.
Since coming home, I’ve started to use my local Groupon page too. Explore activities near you on the health and fitness, beauty and spa, or restaurant pages.
- Keep things smelling fresh.
It’s almost impossible to stay organized when living out of your suitcase or car. The least you can do is keep things smelling fresh. Stash a few dryer sheets in your suitcase to preserve the clean laundry smell as dirty clothes start piling in. Then keep the clothes in your hotel room dry cleaner bag, or a bag brought from home. This will keep your other clothes from smelling dirty, and can help differentiate between what has already been worn and what is still clean.
Try to keep the car somewhat clean for as long as possible. Usually on the way home this concept goes out the window, figuratively speaking of course. There are several steps you can take that help maintain the cleanliness of your vehicle during a long road trip. Line a plastic cereal container with a trash bag and use it as a smell-proof, spill-proof wastebin. This hack has become an everyday extension for my car, but it’s extra necessary on road trips. If you’ll be traveling with kids, here are some other DIY ideas to help contain the mess:
- Always make a list, and check it twice.
Before planning too many details, write a couple lists. First, a packing list with all the items you will need. Then, a things to do before leaving list. This will prevent you from forgetting anything important, and is a great way to keep account of everything that has already been done. Sometimes when organizing the car it’s easy to forget if something has already been packed or not.
Once you’re on the way, pull out a notebook and jot down another list. This one should be called the check-out list. Include a small list of your most important items (phone, keys, wallet, chargers, etc.) so you can run through the checklist as you pack up to leave. You should also include check-out procedure steps. Here are few items on my check-out list:
- Look under and behind beds/bedside table
- Inspect shower for toiletries/razor
- Check outlets for chargers
- Take hotel notepad, pen, and toiletries if they are high quality
Road tripping can be a huge success or an unforgettable failure. Plan wisely with these 5 tips to save cash, relieve stress, and keep entertained.
Veronica loves the Oxford comma, men in khaki pants, and a full gas tank. She dislikes dog hair on black dresses, her addiction to technology, and most mornings. She studied journalism and business and has spent her life traveling as a pilot’s daughter. Follow Veronica’s other writing and photography endeavors on her website!