A road trip can be the adventure of a lifetime!
Getting behind the wheel (or jumping in the passenger seat) has always been one of the best ways to discover new and little-known places in your own backyard, but there are many people who have yet to experience the bittersweet joys of making emergency pit stops and running out of car snacks. Now thanks to global travel restrictions, it appears as though the road trip is getting a well-deserved revival.
But how do you plan the perfect road trip if this is your first time? Let us help!
It’s a Car, it’s a Van, it’s a…Bike?
There are many (literal) vehicles that you can use to get from point A to point B and beyond, each with its own perks and limitations. Only you can determine the best means of transportation for your trip, but choose wisely. If you happen to be in Europe, Yescapa and Indiecampers offer a peer-to-peer RV rental service (think AirBnB but for campers, RVs and conversion vans) that let you rent your own motor home for as little as €50 per day! And if you find yourself on the West coast of the United States, USA Campervan offers the same service for road trippers in California, Washington and Oregon, and there’s Camptoo for those of you Down Under or in the UK.
Budget, Budget, Budget
Going on a road trip is one of the most budget-friendly means of travel, but that doesn’t mean it comes without expenses. Download an app like Gas Buddy that lets you find nearby gas stations and compare prices to save on costs. Of course renting a fuel-efficient vehicle and not weighing down your car by overpacking can help keep you from burning too much fuel, but keep in mind that gasoline isn’t going to be your only expense. You’ll need to anticipate paying tolls, food and lodging, entry fees for certain sites and venues, and of course a little extra money on hand in case of an emergency (you never know where or when you might end up with a fine).
Plan Your Itinerary
Winging it on a road trip and just going with the flow is a totally valid way to travel, but if you’re a first-timer, you might want to make a plan to make sure you’re maximizing your time on the road and are able to visit all the places on your list. A great way to plan an itinerary is to pick a theme: maybe you’ll want to visit all of the UNESCO world heritage sites in your country or visit a series of national parks. Or you could just pick a direction, pull out a map, and see what interesting sites and towns are along the way. Taking a trip to off the beaten path locations and avoiding big cities is not only a great way to make new discoveries, but will also help your money go further as things like hotel rooms and restaurants tend to be cheaper in smaller towns and villages.
Road Trip ≠ Land Locked
If you live in a region with lots of coastline, there is a good chance that there is a neighboring island you could visit… with your vehicle. Many countries offer ferry services that transport both you and your vehicle across rivers, oceans and seas so that you can continue your road trip adventure in an entirely new location! If you’re in mainland Spain, for example, your road trip doesn’t have to end once you reach the coast.
In fact, you can explore even more of the Mediterranean by driving down to Barcelona and boarding a Balearia ferry that will then take you (and your vehicle) to the islands of Mallorca, Menorca or Ibiza. And if you’re in the US, Balearia also offers services from Ft. Lauderdale to the Bahamas! Ferry services exist in many countries and are a great option for exploring those far off corners you haven’t been to yet.
Determine Where You’ll be Sleeping
If you’re traveling in a camper then you’re fortunate enough to be hauling your sleeping quarters along with you, but you’ll also need to make sure you arrange for the proper parking permits should you be planning to stay overnight at a campground. Or perhaps you’ll be staying in hostels, hotels or Airbnb’s – given that many places have occupancy limits due to COVID-19, you’ll want to make reservations or plan ahead as much as possible.
Of course, the truly adventurous might want to sleep in their car or pitch a tent, which also requires having some awareness of restricted zones while also keeping your safety a top priority. If this is your first time sleeping in the wild outdoors, make your life easier by buying an easy-to-use pop-up tent, otherwise you may find yourself in a tangle of poles and tarps (and don’t forget to do a practice run before you hit the road).
Get Your Paperwork in Order
Making sure that someone in your party has a driver’s license is a given, but do you also have insurance for the vehicle you’ll be driving? You can actually save costs on a car rental if you pay for your own insurance — but to do this you’ll need to have a credit card that can hold a large deposit in case of damages! Check out icarinsurance which offers auto rental insurance worldwide.
And once you have your ride all lined up, don’t forget your passport in case you’re planning to drive across the border! Of course you’ll need to ensure that you have the proper visas and permissions to return if you are in fact doing a bit of country hopping.
The More the Merrier…Sometimes
Needless to say, an easy way to cut down on road trip costs even further is to recruit a group of friends to undertake the adventure together. But don’t underestimate the value of your sanity – you’re all going to be in a confined space for hours on end, and it’ll be much more enjoyable for everyone on board if you share similar travel styles and interests.
By Vianessa Castaños
Vianessa is a producer, actor and culture & lifestyle writer whose love of history and gastronomy has propelled her to travel the world…until she eventually landed at Girl Gone International where she serves as Deputy Editor.