TRAVEL MORE Part II: Road Trips
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A couple of weekends ago hubby and I took a small road trip through Napa Valley to enjoy the beautiful Autumn leaves. We stopped several times along the way to explore and take photos, and I was feeling quite grateful for living nearby so many amazing areas we can visit over weekends. We've put a good amount of mileage on our car just in California, and when the time comes to move away I think I'll feel pretty good about taking advantage of our time here.
Although I've enjoyed plenty of successful road trips in general, unfortunately I think I've only ever had fails on holiday road trips. One year we did a 14-hour journey up to Washington to visit the in-laws, and beyond the stress of 28 hours on the road, you can imagine how treacherous the mountain passes are that time of year for two people in a small sedan no longer accustomed to snow. Needless to say, we vowed never to attempt that again. And let me tell you about last year: hubby didn't have any time off of work beyond the actual holidays, so we decided to try driving the 9 hours to my parents' on Christmas Eve. Except that we both became sick and ended up sleeping all day. We woke up late at night and impulsively decided to try driving through the night and arrive on Christmas morning. We packed, loaded up two cars (hubby had to be back earlier than I), took one cat each, and headed off. Two and a half hours into the drive I just couldn't handle it anymore. I was sick, tired, and just felt plain awful. So we turned back, and the worst part of it (beyond the five useless hours of driving) was that neither of us could rest on the return drive since we'd brought both cars. It was a big #HolidayFail and we laugh about it now (insert laugh-crying emoji), but I'm hoping that with these simple tips I can help prevent some #fails for you.
The thing is, unless perhaps you're taking a short trip with one of those $19 flights between SFO and Long Beach, road trips are almost always cheaper than flying. And there are other benefits to staying on the ground: you have the convenience of your own car for the duration of your trip, you get some quality time with loved ones, you can stop at fun places along the way, it's easier to take your pet with you, etc. There are plenty of benefits to opting for a road trip, but that's not what I'm talking about today. Today I'm sharing these few simple tips that will ease the stress of your next road trip, mentally and financially. Hopefully you will find these tips helpful as the holidays get closer.
1. Road Trip Prep: there's a quote that says "it's better to prepare and prevent than it is to repair and repent." Basically, make sure you and your car are ready for the trip. You could save yourself big bucks and big headaches that way, and it can be as simple as: get that oil change you've been putting off. Luckily my hubs is very good about getting our oil changes on time, and we always use full synthetic just because we believe it's worth the investment. We recently stopped by Walmart and used Pennzoil® Platinum Full Synthetic Motor Oil. That stuff keeps pistons up to 20% cleaner than required by the toughest industry standard and keeps your engine cleaner than any leading synthetic oil. Plus it's on Rollback at Walmart through Dec 27 ($49.88 --> $44.88).
- pack your own meals and snacks. This may be common sense when trying to cut costs, but it's something I have trouble thinking ahead to do most of the time. And then I feel like crap on the road because I've been eating fast food for meals and snacking on gummy bears to keep myself awake. This could all be avoided with a bit of prep, and I even have some healthy road trip recipes in the archives that I love.
- use gas apps that tell you where the cheapest gas is from your current location. Handy, huh?
3. Cheap Accommodations:
- first option: if you have a friend in the area, obvi stay with them.
- camping can be either free or cheap, and a lot of larger camp areas also have showers. We stayed at a great one with showers in Big Sur.
- have you ever tried couch surfing sites? Never done it myself but have friends who swear by it.
- I have, though, used air bnb a few times and that is a great option especially in large cities with few cheap options.
- I personally wouldn't recommend using points for hotels. I feel that they're generally more valuable if they can be saved and transferred to airline miles, but more on that in the next few posts.
- parking costs can seriously add up. While in cities, consider leaving you car behind and using public transportation to save that moolah. You'll have to gauge if that's worth it depending on your city and situation, but as an example, I actually enjoy renting or bringing a bike to San Francisco to get around.
- Facebook is a great way to find free or cheap events: just type "events near xxx" in the search bar and you'll know everything that's going on.
- find the cheapest restaurants near you with high ratings by using restaurant apps. These apps will often have restaurant offers like a free appetizer, etc. Seriously, technology is everything.