As some of you know, R and I are headed to New Orleans for FinCon. So by the time you’re reading this, hopefully we’ll be halfway there! (As it is, there’s about 4 hours till our alarm goes off…why do I have to be a night owl?! Pro tip – don’t prepare for a trip by blogging about it.)
Am I the only one who worries constantly that I’ve forgotten something when packing for a trip? I write up an extensive list of everything we need to take with us, and I refer back to it once it’s time to pack, but I can never shake that feeling that I left something behind.
While packing, I figured I would write about how I prepare for a road trip. Why? Mostly because forgetting things is never fun, and that means you have to buy what you forgot to bring once you get to your destination. It might not always be the biggest hit to your wallet, but it still sucks.
Along with that, I just wanted to offer a few tips on how to prepare, as I find preparing is probably the best way to save money in almost every situation.
So here are some things to take into consideration when preparing for your next road trip!
Double check your inventory
I try to make sure everything is in order before we leave. Is there anything we’re close to running out of that we’ll need on the trip? Getting there, losing your contacts, and then realizing you only have one spare pair left is not good (this happened to me, oops). Make sure you bring back-ups of things you really need to function.
I have more than enough contacts to last me right now, but I tried on my pair of back-up glasses a few days ago, and realized that I can barely see out of them. Not good. Don’t let this happen to you.
I don’t think it needs to be said, but I find that making a list helps me feel less anxious. Yesterday, my mind was running a mile a minute trying to think of everything I needed to pack. Toothbrush, chargers, camera, notepad, book, makeup, flats…Writing it all down quieted my inner-voice for a bit!
Get your vehicle serviced
We secured an oil change for the car, as that was my biggest concern going into this trip. Besides that, my dad looked all the other fluids over when we last visited, and topped off the ones that needed it.
It’s not a good idea to push your car through hundreds of miles when you have doubts about how it’s running. If you’ve been noticing any weird noises, you should get it looked at before you leave! Maybe you’ve been putting it off for one reason or another, but do you really want to end up stranded on the side of the road with no cell reception? (This is starting to sound like a scene from a scary movie…)
Additionally, give your tires a look over. When we went for the oil change, we were told my two front tires really needed to be replaced. We were told my car wouldn’t have passed inspection with the state the tires were in. So we went ahead and made the purchase, and I’m much less worried now! This was accounted for in the budget, as I had known my car was due for tires.
Lastly, be sure to test your lights out and make sure they’re all working! You don’t need to get pulled over on account of this.
Clean out the fridge
Are you going to be gone for a while? Try and clear out your fridge before you leave. Have a few dinners consisting of leftovers (or force them on your significant other for lunch, like I do!). It’s okay to mix everything up once in a while. I’d rather eat three mini-meals than see our food go to waste.
On top of this, try and plan your meals before you leave, if you don’t already do. I held off on going grocery shopping, and we pulled through with what we had in our apartment. I didn’t feel like returning to a bunch of food gone bad in our absence.
Alternatively, you can use this as an opportunity to clean out the pantry! Just remember to go shopping when you come back from your trip, or at least leave yourself something to eat. I know that after driving 10 hours, R and I are not going to feel like going to the store!
Pack some snacks
I decided to borrow a large cooler that my parents have in order to bring some food along with us. This is mostly because R is not attending the conference with me, and won’t have access to free breakfast or lunch. Assuming your hotel has a fridge, why not pack up whatever you have and eat it there? This way, your food still doesn’t go to waste, and you’ll spend less on your vacation.
I know New Orleans is famous for good food, but we’re trying to keep costs down. Plus, it allows us to bring sandwiches and drinks along with us in case we get hungry on the drive. I try to keep stopping to a minimal when going on trips. I know that’s not possible with kids, but you could do what the Frugal Rules family did, and pack goodie bags for your kids to look forward to!
Which brings me to my last point. You need something to do while you’re in the car for an extended period of time. I just updated all my podcasts for my iPod, so that we’ll have something to listen to. If that fails, I’ve got hours upon hours of music on there.
I’ll also be looking into audio books or ebooks in general, as I like to read on my Kindle. I’m bringing a notepad in case ideas strike me at weird times, especially post-conference. But you never know when a podcast will spark something.
If you have some little ones in tow, check out Lauren’s post on how to stay sane. She targets flights, but I think many of her tips are applicable to car rides as well, especially if you have a roomy vehicle.
Look over a map
Yeah yeah, I know, who actually uses maps these days? Most of us rely on the GPS in our phones, or use a stand-alone device. Well, I’m with Republic Wireless, and they just made a change regarding roaming data. So just in case I don’t have a strong signal, I don’t want to be lost with no clue of where we’re going.
As a back-up plan, I printed out directions, and I also studied the map to see where we can stop along the way. We might not be able to make the 10 hour drive on Saturday night (as I’ll have next to no chance to sleep), so I marked down some cities we can potentially stop in to stay overnight if need be. I went a step further and researched average prices of hotels in each city.
Bonus tips: turn off your thermostat (or adjust it slightly if you have pets) to save on energy costs while away, and make sure you’re properly rested and driving safely!
I think I’ve covered everything, but if you have anything to add, please let us know your tips in the comments!