In a few months Mr K & I will embark upon our longest road trip to date – taking in 8 states between Texas and Florida. It’s a trip that’s been almost 1 year in the planning and we’re so excited to explore more of the Deep South.
We’re no strangers to road trips or far-flung destinations, we’re the sort of tourists who integrate with the local thing, and we’ve picked up some good habits for travelling along the way.
I thought today would be a good time to share a few tips for the entire booking process which I’ll be blogging about in the coming weeks/months, starting with today’s – things to think about before you book.
1. Pick a Start & End Point.
This makes everything so much easier. We do this by playing around with a few options – we pick 1 arrival airport and skirt around a few return airports to find the cheapest option. This could change last minute so remember to be flexible too. Up until the day before we booked, we were planning to fly home from Atlanta, GA – but Orlando, FL came in almost £300 cheaper at the last minute.
Keep your arrival & departure airport far enough away from one another that it makes sense to make plenty of visits inbetween.
2. List your Must-See & Wouldn’t Mind Places.
This is one of my favourite steps. I like to mark out all the places I don’t want to miss, then pencil in the places that I’d like to see if we can fit them in. Then I join the dots to make a route.
Sometimes things get missed off, sometimes you find new things.
Discovering places of interest on your route can be hard, but there are some great forums like Road Trip America which are filled with helpful folk just waiting to point you in the right direction.
3. Plan your Events.
If you’re going to date-specific events, it becomes a little harder to curate a good route. It’s not impossible, though. We’ve managed to fit in a launch at NASA, Jazzfest in New Orleans, a live music event in Clarksdale, Memphis in May festival and a special event at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. We’ve also managed to avoid a big race weekend at Talladega, which we’ll be passing through. It’s important to know what’s going on.
4. Calculate the Mileage & be Realistic.
Seriously this is important. Add up all the mileage you expect to do (use the Roadtrippers app- its really helpful) and add 100 miles per week for wrong turns and detours.
If you’re not a very confident driver but you pencil in a few days of 400 mile drives you’re not going to have a good time. If you’re unsure whether you can manage it, plan a few drives in the UK to match the distance of your longest journeys. If you can do it here in the drizzle then you can do it over there with your holiday spirit.
5. Choose your Weapon.
When I say weapon, I mean vehicle. A Nissan Micra might be budget friendly but your legs, back and luggage will hate you after 3,000 miles across a sweaty desert. We’ve opted for an SUV and cruise control is an absolute must. Treat yourself.
If you’re worried about the roads, driving style or cars then I’d recommend test driving an automatic over here. You can rent a manual (stickshift) over there but it’s my understanding that the insurance increases considerably.
6. Do the maths.
It’s not cheap travelling from city to city and it takes time. Fuel costs mount up, toll roads, extra airport tax when you do multi-centre plus when you’re only in hotels for 1 or 2 nights you rarely get the benefit of special offers.
Don’t be tempted to skimp on comfort in hotels or driving – it’s the trip of a lifetime, right?
Do bare in mind that you can get some amazing deals staying in national park where log cabins and huts are surprisingly cheap in comparison with the same thing over here.
To fit everything in you want to do it can sometimes require several weeks off work. If you have an understanding employer and generous income then good for you – but if not it’s time to start making cuts to your itinerary!
7. Think about protection.
In general, I’m not a fan of booking with travel agents. It’s often more expensive than booking yourself and your choice is limited. However, for a road trip or any adventure with several stops each relying on the success of transportation in your previous leg, a travel agent is a good option. Our flights take us from Manchester to Schiphol then on to Houston – so the peace of mind that the travel agents have us covered if our first leg is delayed is priceless. It’s also normally cheaper to get car hire in this way, plus they deal with all the insurance junk that they try to oversell you when you pick up at the airport when you’re gross and groggy.
So those are my best before-you-book tips. I’m sure there are heaps of other questions people will have that I might have left out, so lets have a dialogue!
With just under 3 months until our departure I’m surprised I’m still able to type effectively enough…