Now that the holidays are over, spring break is just around the corner. This annual vacation for college students might seem like a long way off, but with the flurry of classes and exams in the new semester, the weeks will fly by. This year, why not plan for the time honored tradition of the college road trip? Contrary to what Hollywood would have you believe, most road trips are not full of car breakdowns or scary villages where serial killers are waiting for a group of innocent kids to drive through. When you make the most out of a road trip and follow a few simple guidelines, it can be one of the best experiences of your life.
Road trips do take some planning, however, and there are a few things you should be aware of before embarking on such an adventure. Here are some tips to get you started. Start getting ready now, and your spring break road trip will go a lot smoother when the times comes to head out on the open road.
1.Decide who’s going – In true tradition, road trips are generally taken with friends. It’s always good to share the experience with someone and traveling in groups is helpful when it comes to driving and general safety. However, realize that you’re going to be cooped up in a car and a few hotel rooms with the people you’re road tripping with. Make sure the group you choose is one that gets along. There’s always the chance of conflict on your trip, and traveling with people you get along with and can trust to be mature in a disagreement will make for a better time overall.
2.Map a route – The great thing about taking a road trip is that you can pick any direction you want to go. You’ll probably want to do some general sightseeing, or maybe even pick one place that you’ve wanted to visit for some time. Decide with your friends what your destination is going to be, then map the route. Mapquest and Yahoo Maps are two good sources for driving directions. Once you know the way, plan ahead for stops along the way. It’s okay to be cheesy and have your picture taken with the World’s Largest Ball of Twine. Spring break road trips are for letting loose and having fun…even if that means being a little silly.
3.Book rooms ahead of time – Even on a road trip, you’re going to want to stop and rest. Because spring break is one of the busiest times of year for hotels and motels, now is a good time to get online and start booking your rooms. Hotels.com, Orbitz, and Travelocity all offer good hotel deals. You can also search hotels by the cities you know you’ll be traveling through. Often, smaller motels will go through a local site rather than one of the big ones. These places will usually have cheaper rates as well. Decide if you want to go economy or luxury and start making reservations. Even if you don’t have the money right now, most will let you book with a credit or debit card and pay when you get there. Read the terms carefully and make sure to keep printouts of any and all reservations you make to have handy for check in.
4.Set monetary goals and figure out how to split costs – With the price of lodging, gas, and spending money, road trips can get expensive. Start planning now for how much you want to spend and start saving. Get with those going on your road trip with you and decide how to split the costs. Lodging can usually be split evenly once reservations are made and costs are totaled up. Some groups pay for gas by rotating who fills up at each stop, or forming a “gas kitty” in the beginning to pay for the trip. Meals and souvenirs can be paid for on an individual basis. Figure out how much you’re going to want to buy and how much you think you can eat and make it a point to set aside that much before your road trip begins.
5.Have your car checked and ready for anything – Before embarking on your road trip, make sure the vehicle that’s being used has had a full service oil change to make sure everything is in working order. Make sure insurance is up to date and that proof of insurance and registration documents are in the glove compartment in case you get pulled over. If you don’t have roadside assistance, see about getting it added. Also, make sure that everyone who may be driving during the road trip has valid drivers’ licenses that have not expired. If you don’t already have a car charger for your cell phone, invest in one. Being prepared for the drive itself and any emergencies that may arise will help you feel safe during the course of your road trip.
6.Don’t forget the little things – When taking any trip, there always seems to be those few things you forget to take along. While you can pretty much stop anywhere to get them on the trip itself, you’ll probably save money by buying them ahead of time at a discount store rather than at convenience stores and gas stations, which are usually pricy when it comes to odds and ends. Make sure you have plenty of batteries for your camera. Sunscreen is a must. Even if you’re not planning on lounging on the beach, you can get a sunburn just as easily when driving on a sunny day. Antacids might sound like a strange thing to bring, but being on the road and eating fast food can do crazy things do your digestive system. Aspirin or other forms of headache medicine are good to have. So are band-aids and motion sickness pills. Have everyone bring extra pillows and blankets to make the ride more comfortable. CDs or audio books are great for entertainment and make the trip go by faster. Being comfortable while on the road is key to making your trip a memorable one.
7.Plan for safety – As a rule, many people don’t think about safety until they are presented with a problem. Discuss ways to stay safe on your road trip with the people you’re going with. Make set plans on what kinds of places you want to check out and what kinds of places you want to avoid. Picking up hitchhikers is highly discouraged, so make sure everyone is onboard with not adding any surprise passengers if they’re driving while everyone else is napping. Agree to stay together in a group when traveling to unknown places or figure out how to partner up should everyone want to do something different. Exchange cell phone numbers if you haven’t already and have everyone add a little bit of cash to an emergency fund in case repairs need to be made on the car or the weather gets bad and an extra night at a hotel is needed. You probably won’t encounter any difficulty, but it never hurts to be prepared for your own well being.
8.Go with the flow – Planning is a great tool to help you get going, but rarely do plans go 100% like you thought they would, especially when you’re taking a road trip. Be open to the possibility of getting lost or making an unexpected stop. Don’t get irritated if your itinerary is not being followed to the letter and encourage your friends to take the same approach. Remember that the little unplanned detours can actually turn out to add something great to the trip that you wouldn’t have known about otherwise. Let yourself enjoy the unknown while having fun with your friends, and you’re sure to have a great spring break road trip.