I wrote an article a few months ago on this topic for Round The World Experts. I wan to expand on that here and cover all the bases with how I planned the USA trip that starts next week. Somehow in between paying the bills and working hard you’ve managed to save some money for a long holiday. Maybe you are lucky enough to have an employer that will let you take a month off. Either way the world is now your oyster. For a few years I’ve had this system in place and it works wonders. My latest road trip is to the US in September so I’ll use this as an example.
Where To Go?
Ignoring cost at this point I want you to make a list of places you’ve always wanted to see but haven’t yet. It’s a road trip so it can be more than one country. You might want to go to Eastern Europe? All you need to decide here is what part of the globe you will lay down some rubber in. If like me that’s like picking your favourite song or film then make a shortlist. We wanted a US road trip so we printed out a map and marked the cities we wanted to see. A few goes at on Google Maps brought us to a route which started In San Francisco and ended in Chicago. But before we could put together an itinerary we had to get the time off.
Before going overboard adding activities you need to put together an essential to do list. On this will be flights, transportation, hotels (where needed), insurance, fuel, etc. These are non-negotiable and should be the first thing you organize. Flights can be the most expensive part of the trip which isn’t helped by countless website offering the lowest price. The one I have found best for road trip flights is www.travelpack.com. We got tickets direct London-San Francisco, returning Chicago-London for £600 each. Though it can’t hurt to see if anyone offers flight+car. When it comes to car rental, price comparison sites are always a good bet. Prices get increased if you book through a UK based website. If a local website to where you are going lets you book from the UK you will get a lower price. When booking motor homes it is important to shop around. Try to find a special offer on miles as many companies charge you 20 pence a mile over a stated limit. When traveling hundreds of miles that adds up.
When picking activities I tend to get them from 4 places:
Personal Dreams – Where have you always wanted to go? Since I was a kid I’ve always wanted to go to the Grand Canyon.
Friends & Family – Our friends visited San Francisco and raved about a place on Fisherman’s Wharf so that went on there. Another friend recommended a restaurant in Los Angeles so we are going there too. Online Advice – I always look up the tips from fellow travelers on the www.gapyear.com forums. One website good for finding gems popular with travelers is www.tripadvisor.com. . It covers hotels, hostel, restaurants and activities which is good for small cities as well as it saves you getting ripped off. Never underestimate local websites for local people. A good example of this is http://www.eymet.co/. It is a small town in France in the wine region I visit every year which was made for locals but has recently expanded to give information to tourists without the hard sell.
Unusual Routes –You have you list of places to eat, places to stay, museums to see. But what’s there that is unusual? Wikipedia is a great tool for finding historical sites in a readable list. Search for “List of world heritage sites in ******”. I also found many great place to visit though local historical societies. Failing that there will be a wealth of websites offering ideas if you search Google for “unusual things to do in *****”. That’s how I found this beauty http://www.roadsideamerica.com/.
You can never cost a whole trip out to the penny but the spreadsheet will help you reduce the chance of overspending. Petrol costs for the country you are going http://www.mytravelcost.com/petrol-prices/. That website is also good for working out hotel and food prices. Once you have the essentials list sorted move onto activities. Don’t guess these prices, put in the time and effort to find exact costs. Finally create an emergency fund. I always put in 20% to cover extra costs or things that crop up during the trip. Once everything is done and booked just remember to pack something…..