When I was 18, I made a promise to myself that the second I got a car of my own that didn’t have the potential of breaking down at any point in time, I would start taking road trips. The United States is chock full of every type of scenery and attraction you can imagine, and if you’ve got the travel bug, I promise there is something nearby to visit that’ll satiate that need.
Of course, by the time I actually purchased my first car, it wasn’t like I had much leeway to throw money into travel. My budget was and is pretty strict, so I’ve had to work my way through the expenses of heading out of town for a minute. Through trial and error, I have taken pricier trips far away all the way down to trips that cost me little to nothing. Depending on your destination, there are plenty of things you can do to at least lessen the expenses that are unavoidable.
And no matter how you’re traveling, safety is what needs to come first and foremost. I’ve done trips all by myself, trekked with friends and family, and seen many types of roads and environmental circumstances. I once successfully drove my car up and down a mountain in New Mexico which, yes, was one of the scariest but most exciting things I’ve ever done. What has made me so confident when hitting the road is knowing that I’ve taken the proper steps to ensure that if something does happen, I’m prepared for it.
I travel purely by my car at the moment. She is my trusty steed, and with these tips, I’m proud to say I’ve turned my little sedan into a well-oiled travel machine. That being said, most of my tips are currently geared towards vehicular travel. Nevertheless, whether you choose a bus, train, flight, or any other method of travel, these tips are either easily adjustable for your method.
1. Always have gear on hand.
This is the one tip I will give that could require some more money upfront, but if you prepare correctly, these items will carry you through loads of trips. Good gear is important and nothing to skimp on. A well-prepared vehicle or pack to me includes things like: a sleeping bag, a tent, water, a first aid kit, tools and a spare tire, extra clothes, a flashlight, a mess kit, hiking boots, and a small generator. I’ve been told that I’m “extra” for having things like this in my car, but a lot of my travels are to state or national parks and require these things anyways. This also means going through occasionally rough roads and unknown territory. But that doesn’t mean that they can’t be used in emergency situations on the road, or the equally possible spontaneous turn of events. A comfortable sleeping situation and a set of warm clothes can really have your back during worst-case scenario breakdowns on the road.
2. Map your route beforehand.
On the road, you never know what kind of space lies ahead. You could be driving through city on top of city and then suddenly be stuck on a highway that goes through straight nothing for hours. Though those are the best roads for scenery, it’s not so handy if you’re low on gas or have no idea which exit you need to take and you’re out of service. Always look at the route you plan on taking before you leave and map it out, as well as scope out and pin which towns to stop in for refueling and restroom breaks. There will always be spots where you’re going into the unknown, and it’s important to not let that stop you from having a safe and enjoyable journey, and could be the difference between smooth sailing and a huge car repair bill.
3. Pack your own food and snacks.
Eating out is one of the most fun parts of traveling, because it allows new culinary experience from the areas you’re in. But it does add up, especially on the road. Not to mention how downright sick a belly full of fast food and gas station snacks make you feel when you’ve arrived. I will make a bee-line towards any type of gummy snack, even though I know a belly full of sour candy will Mess. Me. Up. It’s majorly beneficial to pack along some snacks that you know won’t make you feel like garbage afterward, which is important if you’re doing some adventuring. A healthy bite to eat on the road or in between hikes can save you serious cash, as well as your butt when you’re halfway through a trail, or when you pass that burger joint on the road and your tummy starts making that noise.
4. Take day trips!
This tip is what has saved me from the always present travel itch, as well as my wallet. No matter where you are there IS something new close by that can create memories just as fun as week long trips. My rule is anything under three hours away is doable in a day. I’m willing to get up early and make the drive there and back in a single day if it means I can see or do something new and it won’t cost more than some gas money and food. Whether it’s a new park to hike or a critic raved barbeque joint that’s a must try, going out of town for one day and being in your own bed by night is worth your time.
With all of this tips I’ve kept up a pretty decent travel rate and I don’t feel like I’m missing out because of a strict budget. With a tent and a map, I can pretty much set up anywhere (within regulations of the park or area I’m staying at — always be respectful) and have an adventure that I won’t be regretting in the following weeks. Safe travels everyone, and get outside!
Aside from her part-time job, Mickaela aspires to be a full-time writer and poet. A major mission of hers is spreading her message about the importance of the conservation of our nation’s lands and encouraging everyone to get outside and get excited about nature. If she’s not doing one of those things, she’s probably doing something food-related.
Image via Unsplash