Budget Traveler: How to Plan an Epic Road Trip
We all have the constant struggle – the urge to travel against our ability (or willingness) to shell out the money to do it. As a student, a budget traveler, you feel that struggle even harder, between tuition costs and seeing friends going on exchanges or summers abroad. But this summer, I discovered what I believe to be the best and most affordable remedy for the travel bug- road trips!
You can drive from Ontario to British Columbia in summer, staying with your family or friends along the way and seeing local attractions in each city. The cost of gas round trip is about the price of a single plane ticket to Vancouver- and two people go on the trip, meaning you basically get 50% off the cost of your trip, plus a way more unique and exciting experience!
But planning such a robust trip can certainly be intimidating. There’s a lot of driving and a lot of places to see. But, with my experience of a cross country road trip under my belt (plus many other road trips- I’m kind of a fanatic) I thought I could share my tips and tricks for planning a fun and adventurous road trip – while still making sure you make it to your destination on time.
1) Decide on a route.
The evident first step to road trip planning is deciding where you want to go. Obviously this will depend on your time frame and your interests, and possibly where you have connections- which we’ll get to in the next point. It’s best to start brainstorming places that you might want to be your final destination (for me it was Vancouver) and then find locations of interest in between. This way, you can punctuate your long days of driving with some active moments in between. For me, this was stopping for a day layover in Winnipeg, Saskatoon and Calgary before reaching Vancouver. Deciding how far apart the cities you visit are will totally depend on the overall length of your road trip.
2) Find people to stay with.
My number one tip for an inexpensive, but also more fun and enlightening travel experience, is to find people to stay with. Skip the expense of a hotel, and track down some long lost relative or grade school friends. Not only will it be so much cheaper than staying in a hotel, you’ll get to hear the local perspective on places to shop and eat along the way.
3) Make a list of attractions.
Once you have a route determined and accommodations lined up, it’s time to decide what you want to see. Look into local tourism websites, or the official websites of the province or state. Better yet, check out what travel bloggers have to say! I’ve found some really great round up posts through Pinterest of locations of interests all over the place. Alternatively, look for bloggers who are from the places you want to visit. Just like the locals you plan to stay with, they’ll be a way better resource than any tourism website.
4) Don’t forget your sense of adventure.
As much as it’s important to budget your time, and have a solid plan before you set out, it’s also essential that you don’t become overly focused on following your plans. Leave room for inspiration! If you change your plans last minute, it’s no big deal. In fact, you’re more likely to learn more and have more fun if you take ideas and inspiration from interesting locals and quirky places you find along the way.
5) Get packing!
The final (and probably one of the most important) step is to pack! It’s quite simple: think about what you will actually need. Like, actually. We all like to over plan and overestimate, but really try to keep it simple. There’s no need to be stressing about clothes while traveling, it will take away from your experience. My quick guide: the number of days you’re traveling = the number of tops you will need. A third of that number is the number of bottoms. From there, fill in as necessary.
And that’s it! Now you’re ready to embark on your adventure. There’s a lot to see, even in our own backyards. I hope your future road trip is as wonderful and enlighting and adventurous as you have always dreamed – and that it isn’t anything like those terrible family road trip movies.