Summer is here and that means summer vacation! If you’ve never had the opportunity to take a road trip with friends, I high recommend it!
There are many different ways to go a road trip. Some like to take the movie-esque approach and throw a dart at a map and drive; Some like to have a general idea of where they are going and just stop at the “cool” sites along the way, but I like to plan. I am generally not a planner at all, but when it comes to vacations, I want to see as much as possible in the time allotted, and planning really helps with that.
Due to some friends getting married in central California, my road trip buddies and I had the opportunity to fly from North Carolina to California and take 10 days to adventure around.
Step 1: Figure out where and what you want to see
I had never been to the Grand Canyon so the road trip generally revolved around exploring it and places nearby. I spent a few hours on google maps looking at different routes and trying to figure out the best way to pack everything in. I researched National Parks at https://www.nps.gov/index.htm and figured out their fees and tried to find free things to do around the area as well.
Step 2: Research. Research. Research. Google is your friend!
We are all working college students who needed to make this trip as cheap as possible. I researched campsites, hotels, car rentals, airbnb as well as the best route to take, the places to see along the way, the weather, etc. I researched blogs about the Grand Canyon and what hikes to go on and off the beaten path things to do as well as the touristy aspects.
Step 3: Book things
Since this was a 1/2 road trip 1/2 airplane ride, we booked our flights when they were at their cheapest using the Hopper app hopper.com Hopper predicts when flights will be their cheapest and lets you track them. We ended up getting $250 round trip flights from North Carolina to Los Angeles, which is cheap for American flights! We also booked a rental car through www.enterprise.com and got an awesome deal to upgrade to a minivan. This ended up being the most expensive part of the trip, but well worth it.
Camping is cheaper than hotels, and www.reserveamerica.com is a great way to check out different campsites and reserve them online. Its very easy and user friendly and we had no trouble with our reservations. A few nights we stayed at an awesome AirBnB place and booked a cheap motel in Vegas through www.booking.com
Step 4: Make an Itinerary
It can be a super well planned itinerary like mine or just a rough sketch of the spots you might want to hit. Its up to you and your personality, but having a general plan is a good idea, and having a detailed plan is smart if you want to see a lot in a little amount of time!
Making an itinerary also helps with planning a budget
(which is a good idea even though I didn’t add it to the steps) and sticking to that budget.
I gave my friends a pretty good estimate of how much everything would cost so they could save and plan accordingly.
Step 5: Pack the Essentials
- Tent- We got a huge 8 person Coleman tent and brought it as one of our carry ons. Don’t forget Sleeping Bags/Camping Pillows
2. Coleman Grill, Pots and Pans, utensils, and of course RollaRoasters!
3. Clothes-Try to keep it to a minimal. Camping means t-shirts and shorts and comfy attire. We also had to pack an outfit for the wedding, but we made it work. Also when going to California and the Grand Canyon, pack some warm clothes, even in June it gets chilly! Don’t forget your swimsuit!
4. Toiletries- There are Walmarts and other stores all over, so we opted to buy soaps, etc. when we got there to save space and weight on the plane.
5. Towel-Important for when the campsites have showers or if you’re just getting out of a chilly lake.
6. Sunscreen- Don’t let the beautiful sun damage your pretty skin!
- Cards/Game- Its not a necessity, but its fun to have for nights around the campfire or chill times.
- Hammocks- With Enos being so easily packable, why not?
- Cameras- You’re going on an epic road trip with friends, so document it! We had a Canon DSLR, a go pro, and a few i-phones/androids to capture our adventures.
I also snuck my penny board in for some beachside cruising! 🙂
Step 6: Be Flexible!
An important thing I learned is to relax. If things don’t go as planned, it’s ok! It’s all part of the experience. One day we left way later than I planned, but we ended up having an amazing experience meeting new people and getting to wakesurf on Lake Powell. Totally unplanned and way off the itinerary, but it ended up being one of my favorite parts of the trip!!
These are just a few practical tips to help out. Stay tuned to see the actual road trip! Coming soon!