How to Plan a Road Trip.

A road trip is the perfect way to see the world. There's nothing like driving down the highway with the wind in your hair, taking in the sights, and belting out your favorite tunes! While driving may take more time compared to hopping on a flight, one of the main appeals to driving your way from one destination to another is that you’ll be able to really soak in the scenic surroundings. It's a totally different feel and makes getting there more about the journey opposed to the destination. I recently took a road trip down the Pacific Coast Highway and it amazed me to see California in such a different way. I've lived in California for over 22 years and had never experienced the state in the way I did while I was traveling down the coast!

Interested in taking a trip of your own? Here's how to get started:

1. Pick your location.

The world is your oyster! Here's your chance to dream big. Create a list of your favorite places near and far that you would like to journey to. Take a look at your bucket list and think about the destinations you've always wanted to visit, or turn to Google or Pinterest for inspiration. At the end of the day, it's all about choosing a location that excites you! Some of my favorite road trip ideas are Pacific Coast Highway 1 in California, Historic Route 66 in middle America, U.S. Route 1 in Florida, and the Black River Scenic Byway in Michigan.

2. Create a travel budget.

Your budget should factor in gas, accommodation, and food. While you won’t be able to negotiate the cost of gas, you can fluctuate on how much you pay for food and where you're staying. I would recommend overestimating for the price of gas since different regions will have different gas prices depending on how close you are to a metropolitan city.

Tip: A great way to easily cut costs on your road trip is with your meals. While eating out for three meals a day is doable, it can get expensive. If you’re looking to save some money on your trip, consider packing food in a cooler. Not only will this save you a few extra bucks, but you'll be able to save yourself the time of having to get off the freeway and search for the nearest food joint. In addition, you’ll be able choose how nutritious you want your food to be instead of being forced to choose between burgers and other fried foods. When your food stock runs low, you can always stop by the nearest grocery store at your convenience.

Regardless of whether you choose to pack snacks for the road, you should still expose yourself to the different kinds of food in each city. Take advantage of apps like Yelp, FourSquare and Eat24, which are helpful in narrowing down popular food choices that are in your price range.

3. Plan your route and the main stops for the trip.

A few things to consider are how often you will stop, how long you will stay in each town for, what you want to do or eat in each town, and how long your trip will be in total. If possible, plan your routes and stops before you start on the road trip or have a rough outline of where you want to be. That way everyone is aware of when the next stop is and you can gauge whether you are on track for your adventure. A few great apps for planning your route are “Roadtrippers” and “OnTheWay.”

When you’re looking for accommodation - because who wants to sleep in the same car they were just in for 8 hours? -  refer to your budget. If you’re looking to cut costs on your road trip, you might want to stay at a motel or an AirBnB instead of staying a hotel.

Research the areas you plan on going to and make a list of the point of interests you want to see. Are there any restaurants that you’ve been dying to try? What are the top places on Yelp and what do other people recommend? What’s popular and unique to the area?

4. Decide on what car you'll be driving.

Depending on your departure point, you can choose to drive your own car or rent a car. If you choose to use your own car, you’ll want to get your car inspected at least one week before the trip. Even if your car seems to be running fine, bring it to the auto repair shop to check the car’s fluid levels and see if you need to pump more air in your tires. If you’re renting a car, keep in mind that it is cheaper to rent a car for a week than it is renting it for a few days.

Tip: Before you hit the road, consider downloading Gasbuddy, an app which helps you locate the nearest gas station and narrow your search by price. Another helpful tip for when you’re driving on the highway and looking for a gas station is to look for places that have multiple gas stations and restaurants. These stations tend to be cheaper since they have more competition in the area.

One of the most important things to take away from road trips is flexibility.  If you’re not on a time crunch, leave space in your schedule for exploration. Don’t overplan your itinerary to the point where you have no time to check out other attractions that didn’t make your list. Don’t be afraid to go off the grid and explore new territory. Just because it wasn’t on your original itinerary doesn’t mean you should pass it up. You have the freedom to go where you want, when you want. Road trips allow you the flexibility to be spontaneous and truly travel off the beaten path, so get to it!

TRAVELMelanie Sutrathada