10 Tips to planning your next road trip
Because of Covid-19, it is increasingly harder to plan an international vacation because what is open today may not be open tomorrow. Traveling by air within the United States is also a challenging decision for many people who are concerned about Covid-19. Yesterday (Thursday, Nov 26, 2020) 560,902 people passed through TSA checkpoints. This same date last year saw 1,591,158 people. (https://www.tsa.gov/coronavirus/passenger-throughput) That is about one third the number of travelers compared to this time last year. Even looking back a week or two, the numbers range from about a third to a half of what it was last year.
If people are not flying or going on cruises right now, what are they doing? They are taking road trips. The upward trend in road trips is based on the ease and safety of road travel right now. When you are in a vehicle you are only in contact with the few people you chose to travel with you. Most lodging places will sterilize a room before you get there, guaranteeing you are the only ones in the room until you check out. And even restaurants across the country are either social distancing or just providing take out.
Today’s newsletter offers ten tips on planning for a road trip. These cover most of the basics.
- Deciding on your destination. While this seems like a no-brainer, picking your destination involves more than just saying you are going to this town in this state. Even if you are visiting family in North Carolina, you need to do a little investigating. Check with that state and city website to see what restrictions are in place.
- Plan your route. This may be the hardest part of road trip planning. You want to find a route to your destination that is safe, has gas stations along it, restaurants, and hotels. You may also want something scenic. There are certain towns you may also want to avoid on your trip altogether. Several years ago, if you were heading through Central Florida, you wanted to avoid Route 301 in a town called Waldo. The police there would pull you over for any violation, including going one or two miles over the speed limit. The situation there has since improved, but going through these types of towns on your road trip can ruin a trip
- Planning your daily driving time. One thing I have been guilty of in the past is putting an address in Google Maps, seeing it says that it is five hours away, and taking that gospel. Eight or nine hours go by before I finally arrive at my destination. You want to make sure that you account for any construction, bathroom breaks, restaurant breaks, or getting out of the car for stretch breaks. It is better to cut your day short and get a good night’s sleep than to plan to be somewhere for the night at 10 pm and finally get there at 2 am when you have to get up and be on the road again at 6 am.
- Plan your overnight stays in advance. I have a friend who drives me crazy with this…we will go on a trip and not book our overnight stays ahead of time. He likes to drive and wherever we are when we get tired is where we will stop. There have been several times we drove over a holiday weekend. When we were ready to stop, we spent over an hour looking for a hotel with a room. Do not let that happen to you. Plan your overnight stops ahead of time and make your reservations so that you know you have a guaranteed room.
- Stops along the route. If at all possible, look for rest areas and restaurants when you are planning your trip. If you like to have a noon lunch, you will not want to be starting a 100 mile stretch of deserted road at 11:30 am. You also do not want to run out of gas 50 miles into that stretch because there were no gas stations for the last 50 miles.
- Stop at tourist or other attractions along the way. Driving twelve hours a day for three or four days can become very tiresome. Find some places that you and your travel partners may want to check out while on your trip and take the time to stop and check them out. If you are not in a rush to get to your destination and can afford to add an extra day or two to your trip, add a half-day stop here and a couple of hours stop there.
- Pack drinks and snacks for the ride. Even if you are planning on stopping every few hours for meals or at a rest area to stretch your legs, you will want to have snacks with you. If you are traveling with 4 people in your car and you stop at a rest area and get one drink ($2.50) and one snack ($1.50) for each person, that is $16 just for that one stop. If you do that several times a day, it really adds up.
- Pre-Travel. Before you start any road trip, you want to make sure you have a dependable vehicle. Make sure your tires are filled to where they should be, all your fluids are topped off, and any upcoming maintenance is performed before your trip. When we take road trips, we prefer to call Avis or Enterprise and rent a vehicle for the trip.
If you rent a vehicle and it breaks down call the rental company and they will get you a new car. You will not have to worry about the maintenance on it, and many companies now offer vehicles with unlimited miles and no restrictions on going over state lines. The car companies will recommend you get their insurance. If you have good car insurance, it should cover you regardless of if you take your car or a rental car. Check with your insurance company if you are unsure. Typically, rental car insurance is an unnecessary expense. Another expense they try to get you on is gas. Do not pre-pay for bringing back the car with an empty tank, you are better off stopping a block or two from the rental return and filling up there.
- Make sure you bring an emergency kit with you. You want to have a first aid kit as well as emergency flares should you break down on the side of the road at night.
- Nightly Check-ins. Regardless of if you are traveling alone or with your family/friends, you should have someone back home that you can check-in with every night to say you made it to your destination. Leave this person a copy of your itinerary.
As I mentioned, these are the basics that should get you going. If road trip planning is not something that you want to do yourself, you can contact me. I can work with you to design your road trip. When you sign up for my Road Trip Planning Service, you will be provided with routes and stops along the way. Any reservations you need will be made for you. Many attraction tickets can be pre-purchased as well. Most importantly, you will know that you are taking a safe route and staying in places that are safe during your trip.