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Road Trippin’ on a Budget

Today my sister and I will embark on an eight-hour drive to sunny Los Angeles. Although I’ve been on dozens of road trips, this will be the first time she and I will be heading out on our own. Just two gals, a few mix CDs, and a car. And because yesterday was my last day at my Tucson job and I have yet to start my LA job search, I’m feeling especially free. For the first time in my life I’m not sure when I’m returning home, and it’s kind of exhilarating.

Because I enjoy traveling, but have an extremely tight budget to work with, I thought I’d share some of my tips. Please be sure to share any additional travel suggestions you have by commenting below!

→ Make sure your vehicle is in tip-top condition before hitting the road. Remember, anything that can go wrong will. I was once on a trip where our tire blew out and we were delayed by six hours. Shit happens, but you can do your best to ensure that certain problems will be less likely to happen. Don’t forget to put air in your tires, which many tire repair shops do for free

→ Over-packing oftentimes turns out to be a hassle, but don’t forget to bring the essentials. Extra water and sunscreen never hurts, and it’s always smart to bring an actual map with you just incase you find yourself somewhere that Siri can’t reach you. If you’re a AAA member, head to your local office and request a few free maps.

Pack healthy snacks and plenty of agua. Buying every meal on your trip can get outrageously expensive, and eating out isn’t always the healthiest option. Bring food that you don’t have to refrigerate such as nuts, apples, Clif Bars, and carrots. PB&J’s are also perfect for a road trip lunch or dinner.

→ Plan the basics, but keep your schedule loose. You’ll want to make a few solid plans, but keep most things flexible incase something new comes up that you’d like to explore.

→ Don’t over spend on lodging. If you have friends or family where you’re visiting, see if you can stay with them for a few days and do dishes or make dinner in exchange. If that’s not an option, you can also look for nearby hostels or check out rental sites such as Home Away and Airbnb. If you want to stay at a nice hotel, be sure to book early and use a travel site such as Expedia to find the best deals. The less money you spend on lodging, the more you have to do other things.

→ Show up prepared. Before every trip I compile a list of places I want to go and things I want to do. I make sure that I have all of the addresses written down, from the hotel to the video store I’d like to check out if I have time, along with the general area of each destination. That way, if I’m at the beach in Santa Monica and want to check out a restaurant in downtown LA for dinner, I know it may take a while to get there and instead I’ll go somewhere in Venice. Ya dig?

→ Don’t try to do too much. Traveling can be exhausting, and usually the point of a vacation is to relax while escaping the monotony of day-to-day life, so take a few naps if you feel like it and don’t do more than you can handle. Enjoy yourself.

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What are some of your essential travel tips?

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