Road trips are a true American pastime. Grab someone you enjoy spending a LOT of time with and hop in the car. With just a little planning, you can have fun and still be spontaneous.
First thing to shop for is a current road atlas. Of course a GPS is good to have, but keep the maps as a backup. You can use Google Maps to plan your route and have a couple alternate routes in mind.
Go shopping for snacks and drinks for the car. Save some food money by eating a complimentary breakfast at your hotel. Plan to stop at a quick, fast-food place for lunch. Save your food money for a nice dinner spot at your destination later that night.
Fill your iPod with good driving music. Look for a few radio phone applications that are available. Also try some books-on-cd for a change of pace from the radio. Make sure your cellphone has internet access. Bring a pre-paid phone card as backup for those remote areas with no cell service.
Estimate gas charges and plan daily food allowance and spending money. If you are on a tight budget, it’s important to keep your daily expenses organized and set aside, so you don’t run out of money before the trip is over. And keep a credit card free for any emergency car repairs. Get an oil change and other necessary maintenance on the car before leaving. Roadside assistance membership is important too. Make sure your spare tire is in good condition. And don’t wait till the last minute to fill up on gas. Keep an eye on your meter and for any road signs that say “last gas station for 30 miles”.
Loosely plan your hotel and sight-seeing stops. Research some good tourist spots that are off the beaten path. Depending on traffic, tourist stops and other factors, you may change your hotel locations as the trip progresses. Check with your Facebook network for great tourist stops or even a place to stay. Seems like we have such a widespread network of friends nowadays. You never know if a friend has a friend with a guest room in the town you are passing through.
Be flexible on your trip. Sometimes the best road trip stops are unplanned, like seeing a sign on the side of the highway for the coolest place ever! Go with the flow.