Are you intimidated by even the prospect of leaving your house? Does it sound daunting to even think about traveling during a pandemic? Not sure where to start? if you answered yes to any of the questions – great the post if for you! Today we will go over seven key steps to get started with your first road trip.
Step 1: Decide to travel
It sounds like a no-brainer, but you have to be willing to do the work to leave the house and create an unforgettable experience for yourself and/or your family. When you actually commit to the goal, the details will start emerging, and your vision will become clearer. Things to consider:
- What activity do you want to take on? (hiking, biking, swimming, city walking, landmarks touring, scenic byways driving, etc.)
- How far do you want to go in hours of driving (in your state, out of state, etc)
- Number of days you want to be on the road
- Preferred weather (cold, warmer, hot)
Step 2: Pick your dates
Next, you need to pick your dates of travel. The more flexible you are in your dates, the more opportunities you will see emerging. Keep in mind, if you can work remotely and able to travel during weekdays, that will almost always lead to a less crowded experience and cheaper lodging accommodations. Committing to dates is an important step since you will use the dates in the next steps: setting a budget, researching a destination, and figuring out the weather.
Step 3: Set your budget
Knowing how much you want to spend needs to be decided from the very beginning? Here are some major things to consider in terms of your expenses:
- Attractions and park fees
I drive Toyota Prius, so gas is not something I worry about at all. When I comes to lodging, I have a few tips: book as early as possible, choose a free cancellation option to give yourself flexibility, stay with reputable places with decent ratings. I use the booking.com app to find the best lodging options.
Meals is one of the largest categories of expenses, after lodging. If you are accustomed to eating out, this part may get pricey. I cook while traveling, so I choose locations with grocery stores around, I bring basics with me and cook in the hotel. You do not need a full kitchen to cook something simple.
National aprk fees and attractions. I recommend buying an annual National Park pass ($80). The pass will serve you well in most amazing outdoorsy places and save you tones of money. The pass covers 64 national parks in U.S. You will still need to buy state park passes, factor the expense in.
My 4 days budget: gas $50-100, lodging for 3-4 nights under $300, food $75-100, so my typical 4 nights trip is around $500 for one person traveling. Obviously, if you travel with a friend, you will split the costs.
Step 4: Pick your destination
How do I pick places to go? I search for activities I love and seek a location with the highest concentration of those activities. For example, Moab, Utah is home to three different National Parks, offering countless sites, hikes, and other outdoor opportunities.
I use Google Maps and search for “Hikes near Moab” and compare it to other locations. I pick places where I will have more things to do than a number of days/nights I have scheduled. I read reviews on Trip Advisor, I use Google Travel Explorer features to gather enough info to select a spot.
Step 5: Check the weather
This is a very important step. You need to know what are the typical temperatures for the area. This will define what type of clothing, gear to bring on your trip and what you can do there. I check the weather before I book anything. Why?
For example, Moab has nice warm weather in April (75-85F), but by May it is 95F+ so considering my hiking affinity, it would be smarter to go in April to avoid heatstroke. Think about what you want to do, and figure out when it is best to visit the place. Check monthly averages on google.
Step 6: Book your lodging
Only after you gathered all the above info, start looking for places to stay. Check google maps hotels feature and a few different hotel/camping/lodging sites to figure out your options. If you do not need wi-fy, maybe you can stay in a tent or find glamping options that seem to be popular now.
Again, I recommend booking rooms that allow you to cancel up to the day you arrive or near the date. Life happens and having flexibility can save money and lots of frustration.
Step 7: Check your car and pack
I am lucky since my spouse checks my oil, and all the car-related things. If you do not know how to check oil, or add oil, it may make sense to take your car in and get your car check, especially if you are going away for more than 2-4 hours drive away from your house.
When I pack, I make lists with all the items I need to take with me and consider. I tried to pack without a list and that yields a stressful experience. I tend to forget important things, like sunscreen or chargers.
What are typical categories on my lists: kitchen Items, work-related things, clothing, gear (hiking, skiing, rollerblading, etc), personal belongings (toiletries, journals, cell phone, others). I prefer to have several smaller soft bags, which allows me to flexibility with unloading and moving things more efficiently. I recommend packing and do car checks at least 2-3 days in advance, no last-minute tossing things in the car. Take your time, you will thank yourself later for it.
Step 8: Leave the house
I know it sounds silly, but if I have not left home for a while, actually getting in my fully packed car and leaving can be very scary. I feel the same every time I go. Anxiety takes over, I worry about car breaking down, catching covid, or being attacked by the bear on a remote trail. I worry a lot. Too much at times. Than I go to my family, I hug everyone, I kiss them goodbye, I get in a car, open the Audible app, and listen to my favorite book for the first few hours. The book distracts my mind, calms my thoughts, and allows me to transition.
I love a road trip, and now we road trip either alone or with a family of five every month! Road trips give me confidence, make me happy, allow me to reflect, plan my future, and remember that the world is not such a scary place.