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A couple months ago, my husband and I were talking and he mentioned how he could really use a vacation. We’ve been going for the last 5+ years without taking a vacation, just a day off here and there, and we’re both tired. Not only does my husband work full time at a 40+ hour a week job, but he also pastor’s a small church and has to prepare for 2 services each week. While my husband loves what he does, after 5 years of keeping busy, we both have felt ready for a week off to just relax and rejuvenate. So we started planning a trip, a long trip… a 1600+ trip to be exact and I thought I’d share some things I’ve discovered and learned over the course of planning such a trip.
5 Tips to Planning a Road Trip
Tip #1: Vehicle Maintenance
Before you go anywhere, you want to make sure your vehicle is up for the trip. The last thing you want is to be in the middle of no where and needing an oil change, fluids filled or something worse. In preparation for our trip, I took our family vehicle to our local Walmart’s Automotive Care Center. While my husband has changed the oil himself in the past, life has been so busy around here lately that we decided we’d take our suburban in for an oil change.
In going to Walmart, I thought I’d kill two birds with one stone, get the oil changed and grab some school supplies while we waited. Since our suburban has over 75,000 miles on it (*cough* 175,000 miles to be exact), Leslie, the technician, recommended we put Pennzoil® High Mileage Vehicle® in our vehicle, which also happens to be on Rollback ($39.88 on Rollback to $35.88) until September 28th. Yay for savings on car maintenance, right!?!
Tip #2: Budgeting
We’ve discovered, like everything else, you really need to know what you’ll be able to spend for your vacation. Will you lose pay for that time off or do you get paid vacation? How much does it cost to fill up your gas tank? What kind of housing will you be using (hotel, camping, etc)? And how much will you need to spend on food? Depending on how much you have to spend will allow you to figure out if you can take that 1600 mile trip or a 600 mile. Know what the trip will cost you by including your cost for the actual trip, any lost wages and car maintenance that needs to happen before leaving. Then you can start setting that money aside!
Tip #3: Trip Planner
I’ve never used a trip planner before, but I found one called Furkot that I have enjoyed using to map everything out, but you can do a Google search for others. Using a trip planner has been extremely helpful in figuring out points of interest, where to fuel up, hotels and camping spots as well as grocery stores and restaurants. Knowing where you’ll need to stop and fill up that tank can help you plan for the amount per gallon you’ll be paying (and I would compare it to a site like GasBuddy for verification). This will give you a good estimate on how much gas will cost you and if that will fall within your budget. Discovering where the grocery stores are will help you plan how much you’ll be able to stay within your food budget, plus, if you don’t want to pack 4 days worth of bread for sandwiches or another food item, you’ll know where you can stop and find the grocery supplies you’ll need for each day. Overall, it will help you figure out where you need to go before you’re even there. Hello! Ever been on empty and trying to find a gas station? Um, yeah. We’ll leave that one alone.
Tip #4: Gift Cards
Gift cards will help me? Yes! Once you have your trip planned out, visit discount gift card sites where you can search for gift cards that you might be able to use while on your trip. One of the points of interest on our trip was a visit to the Seattle Space Needle. I did some searching on gift card sites and found two that can be used for Space Needle tickets, giving us an instant 16% savings. If you know your gas stations, restaurants, points of interest and grocery stores, search for them on gift cards sites and see what kind of additional savings you can find.
Tip #5: Packing List
Make a packing list and hang it where you’ll see it and can easily add to it. If you do this early, you’ll have time to plan ahead on all the necessities and wants that you’ll need to take along and you won’t have the stress of trying to remember what you need to pack at the last minute. Putting a list up early will allow you ample time to add to it and possibly help you make final decisions of activities you’ll want to do on your vacation.
So let’s recap a bit:
- Vehicle Maintenance
- Trip Budget
- Trip Planner
- Gift Cards
- Packing List
The number one thing you can do to help make a long trip go more smoothly… plan ahead. Plan ahead with that car maintenance, plan ahead on that budget, think about where you want to go, start saving instantly with discounted gift cards and work on that packing list early. Have fun and enjoy that trip!
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