As a kid, my grandparents would take us on road trips, but we never went to far from the Westcoast, we would drive from Los Angeles to Northern California, Nevada and even Arizona. You never really realize how big the country is until you travel across it. Yes, we see it on the map but you don't realize how huge it really is until you've driven 600 miles and you're still in the same state. The longest road trip I've been on was the drive we took when I decided to move to Maryland (I will share the story of how I ended up in Maryland on a later blog), we packed up the car and drove from Los Angeles, CA all the way to the East Coast, this road trip was about 8 days long and that's only because we made several stops. Thanks to my amazing husband for doing 90% of the driving.
Now, let me get into this half country road trip that I took with my kids and I did all the driving myself. 3,053 miles on the road - 10 days - 9 States - countless cities - family - memories....and I'd do it all over again in an heartbeat. I made sure I packed up books, movies, blankets, pillows, snacks and activities for the kids and we hopped on the road about 3 o'clock in the morning.
You know, sometimes life becomes one humdrum routine, we get up, get dressed, get the kids ready for school, go to work, come home, sleep, and do it all over again. The day to day routine is all too easy to maintain. It's part of living in our comfort zone and getting out of it can be difficult. It just so happens that when you break up your routine with a road trip or any kind of getaway, it invites the opportunity for new ones to develop.
Trust me, I get it. Changing things up and doing something different can be hard. 1) It takes money. 2) It takes effort. 3) It takes planning. 4) There's no guarantee of how it'll all really turn out. But then again, are there really any guarantees in life? Getting out of your comfort zone forces you to experience new things. On our trip, even though we didn't necessarily go to "exotic" places like Paris or Bora Bora , exploring the states that we did allowed us to see sections of the United States that we'd never seen before. In the "busy-ness" of daily life, we can get distracted and lose sight of what's really important. It's not about money or possessions, but about family, friends, memories and experiences.
Yes, it does take some money to travel, but it doesn't have to be much and you can get quite inventive. I traveled on the open road, driving through rainstorms, seeing rainbows, lots of trees, animals, looking at all the different license plates on cars to see where others were driving from, making stops in different cities to sightsee, take pictures, grabbing a bite to eat, hearing the different accents, just getting out make you realize that yes, these are the kinds of things that we'll be talking about as we get older. To experience it with my children and have that to look back on is a priceless gift.
I packed up our cooler with fresh fruit, water, gatorade, sandwiches, also packed granola bars, chips and a few other snacks to keep in the car. We made stops in different cities in these 8 states; Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and then Texas.
When we arrived at our Final destination we went grocery shopping and made breakfast daily, cooked dinner a couple of nights and also checked out some of the restaurants, taco stands and local spots. I booked our accommodations through Airbnb, it was a 2 bedroom 2 bathroom apartment, very nice, clean and spacious and included a full size kitchen and full size washer & dryer. Below are a few pictures of the Airbnb we stayed in.
It worked out great and we were pretty close to everything we needed (grocery stores, restaurants, parks, downtown Houston, etc). About a 20-25 minute drive from the city my sister & brother live in. We had a very good time, just spending this time with my siblings, kids, nieces nephew, dad, grandma and extended family was nothing short of amazing.
If you've never experienced a road trip before, I say get out and do it, even if it's only somewhere 2 hours away to a city you've never been. I'm sure you've heard or read these words before, "Once a year, go some place you've never been before." There is true and deep wisdom in these words.
Here are a few money saving travel tips if you ever plan to take a road trip:
We all know that eating and different spots is one of the most exciting things about road trips, but try eating at places you don't already have at home, try a new spot. Research restaurants in the towns that you'll be passing through and try to visit places that locals talk about.
Try to find accommodations with a kitchen/kitchenette. I really enjoy Airbnb's because it gives us a more of a home feeling when traveling as a family, I can grocery shop and make some meals to cut back on the cost. Often times hosts will offer some complimentary snacks and beverages. Be sure you're thoroughly reading reviews and try to book with a Super Host.
Take advantage of the free breakfasts if you're staying in a hotel that offer it, that will at least eliminate one meal you have to pay for.
Take advantage of grocery store discount/membership cards. Yes, this may be your only time ever visiting this grocery store but it only takes a few seconds to apply...I still walk around with my Kroger card on my keys hahahaha!
Make sure you have a policy that covers emergency roadside assistance, you do not want to be stuck in the middle of no where and hit with a huge bill if you get a flat tire or your car begins to overheat.
Try to avoid tolls. We know that some tolls are unavoidable but if you use Google Maps or Waze, you have the option to check a box to avoid tolls. Those fees can add up easily.
If you rent a car, avoid the car insurance. I've been renting cars over 20 years and I've always opted out of the additional insurance. If you check your personal car insurance policy it typically covers rentals (or any car you drive), and if you have a major credit card, they often times will cover you as well.
Find campsites or resting areas and have a picnic. When we stopped in New Orleans, we took snacks and food and sat near the Mississippi River on a bench to eat, enjoy the scenery and took pictures.
9. Plan your excursions in advance. Know the difference between things you can do at home and a bucket-list worthy activity. Often times when we are in "vacation mode", we blow through our money easily than we would at home because "we're on vacation".
10. Avoid overspending on unnecessary souvenirs, ask yourself, "Do I really need this?" "Will the person I'm buying this for really use or appreciate it?' Yeah, that flask I purchased in Aruba 2 years ago I haven't touched since returning.
11. Find free things you can do (museums, parks, food festivals, etc). You can find lots of free events if you check Events on Facebook or by simply using Google.
12. When I travel I typically don't give myself a budget, but setting a daily budget may also be a great way to cut back on cost. Example: Say you are giving yourself $150 budget per day but you spend $200 the first day, on your next day plan to only spend $100.
13. If you can, try to avoid traveling on Holidays because those prices can be pretty hefty. I know with most of us working full time we like to take advantage of those 3-4 day holiday weekends. If you have any flexibility try going the week before or the week after the holiday.
What other road trip travel tips can you share? What's the longest road trip you've been on?