It’s getting to be that time of year again, when the warm air tempts animals of every stripe out of their
winter hibernation and into the spring sunshine. And with the end of the school semester looming, a new
fiscal year heralding finalized project schedules at work, and a tax return burning a hole in your savings
account, it’s time to start thinking about your annual family summer outing. But before you strap the
camping gear to the top of the car and head off for parts unknown, there are a few things you need to
consider (especially if you’re road tripping for the first time in an effort to save some money over air travel
1. Cost. You might think that taking a road trip will save you tons of money over other types of
travel, but before you move ahead on this assumption you need to sit down and tally up the actual
costs to make sure that you’re on the right track. Calculate the price for gas, lodgings, food, and
any other expenses between home and your destination (then double it to account for the return
trip). Compare it to the cost of airline travel just to make sure that you’re actually saving money if
that is your goal. And consider that it may be worth paying slightly for the speed and convenience
of air travel.
2. Logistics. Planning is everything when it comes to a road trip. Even though it is impossible to plan
for everything, you at least need options when it comes to rest stops, dining, and lodgings along
each leg of your journey. That could be as simple as plotting a route, circling towns on the map
that you will hit every couple of hours, and seeking campgrounds that fall towards the end of your
daily mileage. Careful planning isn’t essential, but it’s a heck of a lot better than finding yourself in
the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night with no place to stop.
3. Weather. This is something you should be aware of when you travel for a couple of reasons.
First, although weather forecasts are subject to change, you need to try to pack for the type of
conditions (temperature, storms, etc.) you are likely to face. Second, certain areas are prone to
certain meteorological phenomena at certain times of year. For example, deserts of the American
southwest might see flash floods during the spring, something you definitely need to be aware
of if you happen to be passing through. So keep an eye on the weather and learn about particular
patterns that are common to areas you’ll traverse on your trip.
4. Technology. There are all kinds of technological devices to assist travelers these days, from GPS
navigation to smartphones full of apps, but keep in mind that it never hurts to have a backup (like
a paper map) when you’re on the open road and subject to loss of battery life and satellite service.
5. The state of your car. Before you hit the road it behooves you to have a top-to-bottom inspection
done on your car. While you probably won’t have to drop in a replacement engine before you go,
you might want to rotate the tires, top off the oil, replace the wiper blades, and perform the basic
maintenance that will ensure a hassle-free drive from start to finish.