September 25 2008 by Neal Mueller
I love the serenity and the who-knows-what-will-happen opportunity of a journey on the open road. Last week I began a 3000 mile roadtrip from Philadelphia to San Francisco. I'd just graduated from a school on the east coast and was setting out to start a new job on the west coast. My trip could have been a straight line coast-to-coast, but I took a few detours to spice it up. I visited my oldest relative in Iowa City, went for a mile-high bike ride in Denver with my friend Adam, and was totally amazed by a sweltering and lifeless hike in the Utah salt flats. The roadtrip lasted five 8-hour days and cost $882 in gas, yowza! It would have cost me more in food, gas and accommodation if I hadn't done some advance planning to find nice hotels and inexpensive gasoline stations along my route.
Here are a few tools/tips that I used...hope they're helpful for your next roadtrip.
- Choose travel partners. I always sit down with prospective road trip partners to discuss what each person's goals are for the trip.
- Plan your route with google maps.
- Pinpoint hotels and cheap gas along the route.
- Estimate your fuel costs with the AAA calculator.
- Visit a National Park along the way.
- Visit a scenic route.
- Visit a secluded beach.
- Go to a concert or festival along the way.
- Signup for roadside assistance. I did this and it gave me piece-of-mind in case my Jeep broke down. It also would have covered me if I'd actually run out of gas in Nebraska, as I almost did. I found that my auto insurance provider gave me a better roadside assistance price than AAA.
- Pack what you need in one bag with the art of bundle packing. "Garments will have creases where we want them to be, and not have creases where we don't want them."
During Your Trip
- Blog about your trip - many Best Western hotels have free internet.
- Call 1-800-GOOG-411 to find local businesses - instructions are here, it's free.
- Tic-tacs help you stay alert. So does Red Bull. Tic-tacs are cheaper and yummier.
- Diet before your trip. You'll want to enjoy the often delicious (and not nutritious) food along the route. I sampled the ice cream in all 11-states that I visited. It was all delicious.
- Buy a GPS. I picked the entry-level Garmin Nuvi 200 ($170 at BestBuy). It has all the features I need and none of the features that I don't. In addition to routing me correctly, it also has 5 million way-points. This feature helped me find local gas stations, Best Westerns and attractions.
Talk to us. What did you see during your recent road trip?