When done right, road trips can be an economical and much less stressful way to travel. It not only saves a great deal of money and time by not having to purchase and wait for flights, but it also allows couples and families the opportunity to really connect with one another.
Whether you’ve been planning a cross-country road trip for months or just spontaneously decided to drive up the coast for a weekend, there are some important things to consider when preparing for any road trip.
It starts with setting a budget and choosing a route before then thinking about what vehicle you’ll take and what you’ll need to pack. There are then of course precautions you need to take to ensure the safety of you and your fellow road trippers that will be traveling with you.
Planning and Funding an Epic Road Trip
Setting a Budget for Your Road Trip
While financial planning isn’t exactly the most thrilling part of planning a road trip, it’s probably the most important aspect to consider. Deciding what travel budget you can afford will assist you in knowing where and how long you can travel.
When it comes to budget, you have the choice of either saving up, or possibly taking out a small personal loan to fund the trip of your dreams. A quick search online for a helpful small loan for travel will reveal personal loans available for up to $10,000 with flexible repayment terms.
Setting a budget prevents you from getting stranded thousands of kilometres from home without the funds to get back (which is even more tricky if you have a vehicle – you can’t just catch a cheap flight home).
There are a lot of expenses you will need to calculate to make sure you stay within your budget including fuel costs, accommodation, tolls, food, and activities.
What to Budget For
When it comes to road trips, fuel be one of the biggest non-avoidable expenses you’ll have. You can reduce your fuel costs by not overloading your car with unnecessary weight, keeping your tires properly inflated, using a GPS so you don’t get lost, taking advantage of any fuel vouchers you may have, and by using petrol price apps that will show you where the best prices are in any given area.
When it comes to accommodation, you can reduce costs by choosing to camp for sections or the entirety of your road trip as opposed to staying in fancy hotels each night. There are also cheaper motels or hostels if the thought of camping gives you too much anxiety.
You could also rent a campervan which acts as your daily accommodation and some campervan rental companies provide you with free or exclusive deals on campgrounds they may be affiliated with.
Don’t forget to plan for potential tolls and be sure to pay them on time to avoid hefty penalties. Toll roads are usually found in metro areas and tolls can sometimes be pre-purchased so you don’t have to worry about paying them during your road trip.
Your vehicle isn’t the only thing you will need to fuel up of course. Keep food and beverage costs down by packing plenty of snacks, shopping at grocery stores, and preparing your own meals as opposed to eating out or ordering takeaway every day.
You can search for accommodation that offers kitchen facilities, make use of free barbecues at campgrounds and parks, or cook in an RV if that’s what you’re using.
Planning a Route
Once you’ve set a budget that determined how long you can travel, you can then move onto choosing a route. You have to decide whether you want to include many stops along your route or if you simply want to spend more quality time in fewer places.
You want to make sure there will be plenty of sights and attractions to keep everyone in your party amused and make sure those activities along your chosen route will be affordable for your set budget.
You need to think about planning each day’s drive, making sure to not force yourself into having to drive long distances that will take up much of the day. You need to factor in rest stops and stopping for things you want to experience.
You will also want to map out where service stations are and choose a route where you won’t be left without necessary services for days unless you are planning on being self-sufficient.
Research whether you may run into hazards like road construction or flooded roadways and plan any necessary detours. Never create too strict of an itinerary that it doesn’t allow for potential delays or deviations to the plan.
And if you will require accommodation each night make sure to pre-book your campsites and hotels unless you are certain they will be readily available wherever you decide to stop each night.
Choosing a Vehicle
While you may have assumed you would use your own vehicle, it pays to explore other options as well. And not all road trips begin from your own driveway either, especially if you’re planning a road trip overseas or in a remote region far from where you live.
First determine if your vehicle is suitable for the route you are planning and is reliable enough to survive the journey. If you find that your own vehicle isn’t up to it, think about renting something more appropriate. This is especially true if you plan on travelling on rough roads that require a rugged 4WD and your car is a 2WD.
Choosing to rent a vehicle also offers other potential benefits such as getting a vehicle that offers far better fuel efficiency than your own. By renting a vehicle, you will also save the wear and tear that would otherwise be inflicted on your own car which could obviously depreciate its value.
You can also look at renting a campervan or RV to act as your accommodation, just be sure you know how to safely drive one. Most RV rentals for example are manual shift operated so if you have only ever drove an automatic you could find yourself in a bit of trouble.
Whatever vehicle you decide to use, there are a few qualities that every road trip vehicle should have. It ideally should be drivable by more than just one person so you can swap out drivers, be suited for all the roads you plan on driving on such as sealed and unsealed, and offer enough space for all the gear such as tents, sleeping bags, and food that you will need.
When renting a road trip vehicle, be sure to book well in advance to secure your booking and get the best rate. You will also want to be sure to have adequate insurance protection in case of any mishaps or accidents on the road.
Packing for a Road Trip
While road trips allow you to pack a lot more than you could for flights thanks to not having to adhere to strict airline luggage weight restrictions, you want to be careful to not overload your vehicle.
An overloaded vehicle can be dangerous, eats through extra fuel, and can become frustrating when it comes to locating items and packing/unpacking each day.
Making use of labelled plastic tubs that contain the various items you are taking will help keep things clean and organized. You can organize tubs by types of items or by things you will need on specific days of your journey. Also pack items you will most likely use regularly throughout your trip in easily accessible spots.
Essentials on your packing list should include snacks and beverages, tissues, hand sanitiser, toilet paper in case rest stops haven’t been restocked, travel pillows for passengers, and spare change in case it is needed to pay for parking or to use service station vacuums in case of spills in the car.
Invest in a car safe or seek out nice hidden areas of your car to place valuables in and keep sensitive items like electronics out of the sun.
You also want to keep food out of the sun especially if it’s prone to melting and maybe invest in a vehicle refrigerator to extend the life of perishable foods like meat and dairy.
Certain countries like Australia also have quarantine restrictions in place at various state borders to consider. You need to be aware of restricted items that may not be allowed into the state such as certain fruits and vegetables. Failure to get rid of or declare such items could result in fines.
Planning for Emergencies
While you hope and pray for a smooth journey throughout your road trip, you do have to at least prepare for the various emergencies that may halt you in your tracks.
The first step is to make sure you get your vehicle serviced before your trip if you are planning on taking your own vehicle. A mechanic will be able to spot potential problems that need fixing, deem whether your tires have enough suitable tread left, and top up essential fluids.
Right before a road trip is also a good time to beef up your car insurance. You may want to enhance your coverage, adding in things like windscreen replacement and opting in to roadside assist which can come to your rescue while on the road.
Alternatively, you should at least pack your own roadside emergency kit that includes the needed tools to make small repairs. You should have a full size spare tyre available, your vehicle’s manual which can guide you through minor repairs, and a spare key kept somewhere separate to your main set of keys.
Your smartphone can be a literal life saver if you need to call for emergency services, ring roadside assist, or simply get yourself back on track after getting lost. Make sure your phone always has power by packing a car cell phone charger as well as a portable power bank in case of a dead car battery.
You will also want to pack a well stocked first aid kit, more than enough stock of medications you require, and a supply of bottled water in case of a breakdown. While your vehicle may offer comfortable air conditioning while running, things can get dangerous if you happen to break down in extreme heat out in the middle of nowhere. Therefore, having plenty of water available is always smart.
When it comes to safe driving tips, avoid driving at night and be aware of what animals you may encounter on the road so you can be on the lookout for them.
Avoid driver fatigue by regularly swapping drivers or by taking advantage of rest stops and driver reviver sites. Driving for extended periods of time is both physically and mentally exhausting and staying focused on the road is crucial to making sure you arrive at your next destination safely.
I hope my road trip planning tips will allow you to better budget for your future trips and keep you out of serious trouble.
While no road trip is the same, these helpful tips will go a long way to ensuring your next road trip is more enjoyable and memorable.