June 02, 2011

Sometimes, you just need to get away. With the sunshine pouring through the windows, it’s quite easy to daydream about hitting the road for a summer road trip. If this is on your agenda for this season, make sure you plan ahead so that you can have fun and save!

Pick your destination: How far are you able to travel? In some cases, it might remain within Missouri, or even to one of our neighboring states like Illinois, Iowa or Arkansas. If you’re planning a trip with a longer time span, your options for distance travel greatly increase. Choose your destination on ease of travel, activities to do while you’re there, and how long you and your travel companions can stay sane in the car!

Estimate costs: For taking a road trip, one of the most important things to account for is fuel. Because gas prices have been pretty high so far this year, your destination may be closer rather than farther. Other important costs to consider are food, lodging and activities. When selecting your destination, a facet of that choice is based on what you can do while there. There may be a lot of places to go or games to see or amusement parks to visit, but entrance fees and ticket prices must also be taken into account. This goes hand in hand with food: You’ll likely be eating out for all meals, so pick your restaurants based on how much you are willing to spend. If you are staying in a place that is equipped with a kitchen, this can also help reduce costs.

Pack effectively: Unfortunately, cars don’t offer the extra space that airplanes do, in terms of packing. Make sure everyone traveling is taking what they need, and is not packing excessively. The extra weight can also make the car heavier, reducing gas mileage. Everyone (and everything) should be able to fit in your vehicle. Other things to pack include food, drink and snacks for the car; navigational materials (a map or GPS); music and, of course, your camera!

Account for emergencies: It’s always better to plan ahead in case of emergencies, especially if you’re going to be in unfamiliar territory. Make sure you have your spare tire (and that it’s properly inflated) and keep a first aid/emergency kit in your trunk. This should include:

  • Blanket (one or more, depending on the number of travelers)
  • Batteries
  • Flashlight
  • First-aid kit (bandages, tape, pain reliever, antacids, etc.)
  • Important phone numbers for family members, friends and medical care

It’s also a good idea to check to make sure your auto insurance is up to date, and that you have towing services available, just in case. Also, packing a few extra snacks and bottles of water is great for delays or traffic jams.  If you travel with a debit or credit card, it’s a good idea to have the bank’s emergency number on hand with you and with someone back home in case something happens to the card and you have to report it lost or stolen. You should also contact your bank to let them know you will be leaving your regular area (and where you will be headed), so that your card is not reported as stolen or for having fraudulent activity. It’s also a good idea to have some cash on hand for emergencies – just make sure you secure it safely!

Where are you headed this summer?