Smooth Sailing: Your Guide to Planning the Best Road Trip

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Attention thrill-seekers: this is for you. Do you have a serious case of wanderlust, but can’t afford a costly vacation? A road trip is a great way to go on an adventure on a budget. The long hours on the open road are perfect for soul searching and bonding with the right company. If this intrigues you, read on for some tips to help you plan the perfect trip!

Budget

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The first on our list for a reason. Without money, there’s no trip. It’s important to plan out a detailed budget because the last thing you need when you’re far from home is to run out of funds. Also, make sure to set aside some extra as a cushion in case of emergency. Expenses you can bank on paying for are gas, food and drink, accommodation and activities.

Pro tip: Cheesy souvenirs make for great memories. There’s no shame in buying that keychain or t-shirt.

Route

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This is when Google Maps becomes your best friend. Handy features include direct routes, a gas station and restaurant locator, and an estimated time of arrival that takes into consideration traffic and construction delays. It also gives you a predicted mileage, which will help you budget for gas.

Pro tip: Always keep a hard copy of directions or a map in case you don’t have internet access. 

Timeline

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If you plan to visit a place where the climate changes, timing matters. For example, summer has great weather for driving, but popular attractions will be crowded and the roads will be busy. If you go during the off season, there may be discounts on sites and accommodation, but you risk running into rain, or worse, snow.

Pro tip: Rise early and get on the road so you can reach your destinations before dark. Cities are typically open for business from 9-5.

Accommodation

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When road tripping, you don’t have to break the bank when it comes to where you sleep. Some go to options are motels, hostels or Airbnb. Airbnb is an online service where people can list their living space for rent at a fair price. If you really want to embrace your inner-adventurer, pack a tent and stay at campsites.

Pro tip: If your road trip budget is tight, many Walmart locations in North America allow cars and RVs to camp and stay overnight for free!

Food

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Eating on the road is easy. Eating healthily takes a bit more dedication. While you might have access to fast food, it’s a good idea to invest in a small cooler so that you can stock up on healthy snacks and produce from the grocery store. Also, eating out can add up quickly. Try to buy a few essentials like peanut butter and a loaf of bread to economize.

Pro tip: Keep plenty of water and munchies stocked up in the car at all times in case of emergency.

Entertainment

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The best part of a road trip is exploring. In Canada for instance, there are plenty of national parks and natural attractions to visit. Just be aware that some of these sites and parks have an entrance fee. Factor in parking as an expense too if you plan on visiting cities. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t want to spend a ton of money on activities, there are many free things to choose from. A quick online search of the places you plan to visit will reveal insider secrets and even free events.

Pro tip: To keep entertained in the car, bring a trivia book, deck of cards, camera, journal, music, or other games to pass the time.

Safety

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Better safe than sorry is the motto road trip enthusiasts live by. Yes, you should pack first aid and emergency road kits. Other safety items you should bring are windshield washer fluid, jumper cables, a jerry can, a car jack, and a car cell phone charger.

Pro tip: If you can buy a membership for roadside assistance like CAA or AAA, do it!

What to Pack

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On top of your day-to-day wardrobe, here is a list of year round essentials:

  • Blanket and pillow
  • Running or hiking shoes
  • Flip flops
  • Bathing suit
  • Towel
  • Rain gear
  • Gloves, hat and jacket (for colder climates)
  • Toiletries including shampoo, conditioner and soap
  • Sunglasses
  • Hat
  • Sunscreen

Pro tip: If you’re roughing it, wet wipes, dry shampoo and facial cleansing wipes are highly recommended to tide you over between showers.

Who to Bring

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Probably the most important thing to consider before embarking on a road trip is the company. You will be with this person (or people) 24/7 and often in close proximity. Your road trip companion(s) could make or break your trip – so choose wisely.

Pro tip: Look for people who are open-minded, willing to compromise, and most importantly, fun!

Other things to consider

  1. Cell phone. If you are crossing the border and roaming kicks in, your cell phone charges will increase substantially. Consider paying as you go or using a phone card.
  2. Gas prices. It will definitely eat up most of your budget and prices do vary based on location. Look up standard pricing for the places you plan on passing through and budget accordingly.
  3. Two words. Toll roads.
  4. Your car. Is it reliable? Does it need any work before you go? Oil change or new tires? Is your insurance up to date?

Even though you can’t plan every aspect of a road trip, these tips are a good starting point. We hope that if you do choose to go on an adventure that it’s a fun-filled, eye-opening experience. Tell us:

If you could go on a road trip, where would you explore?

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3 COMMENTS

  1. Great tips. Didn’t know that Walmart lets you park on their lots for free overnight even with your RV. That’s a nice money saver!

  2. Forgot to answer the all important question of where I would go if I could take a road trip. I would drive to Newfoundland. Explored the east coast a few years back by car, but never got to Newfoundland. So it’s still on the bucket list.

  3. Brilliant post! We did a road trip to Portugal with our tent for two weeks and it was fantastic! Now planning trip to Spain – Gibraltar- Morocco for two weeks in June 🙂 All your tips very much appreciated!

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