As I embark on what will be the first of four road trips this year, I take solace in knowing that I’m prepared for whatever life throws at me. Equipped with camping supplies, a spare tire, a cooler full of food, and a gas card, I can take care of my basic needs easily on my cross country road trip from Kansas to California and back this month.
I’ve created a budget for myself of $50 a day. All incidentals are factored into this total. Gas, food, lodging, and entertainment mustn’t exceed my daily budget of cash or my first 2013 cross country road trip will be my last 2013 road trip. This won’t be an easy task considering even the run-of-the-mill motels across the country charge anywhere from $30-$70 a night but I’m up for the challenge. If there ever was one to stretch a dollar, it would be me.
My plan for this trip involves avoiding high priced restaurants and mainstream tourist traps. There’s only so many of those a person can afford and/or tolerate. Instead, I look forward to brownbag lunches and national parks thanks to my America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass which gives me “access to more than 2,000 recreation areas managed by five Federal agencies, with up to 100% of the proceeds being used to improve and enhance visitor recreation services.”
The $80 pass is worth its weight in gold because one trip into the Grand Canyon can cost $25 which is exceptionally steep considering how many national and state parks I plan on visiting this year. A handful of days at Joshua Tree and Yosemite will recoup the cost of the pass making it one of the best investments I made this year.
Although I love the idea of spontaneity when it comes to traveling, I’m the type of person that scouts out the area ahead of time just to make sure I can avoid any snafus along the way. With that being said, I find the following six iPhone apps indispensable when traveling on the road:
- MapQuest. If you don’t have a GPS for your vehicle, MapQuest is a fine substitute. Get voice-guided, turn-by-turn directions from Point A to Point B for free. Some other notable features include cheap gas prices, live traffic cameras, and walking directions for people who prefer to hoof it to their final destination. Many people prefer Google Maps but I personally like MapQuest. Keep a Road Atlas on hand just in case you lose your signal. I learned this the hard way on one of my trips.
- GasBuddy. Find the best gas prices in the cities you’re traveling to. You can perform a search by City, State or Zip. You can report prices, earn points, and enter drawings for free gas cards. I like this app because it tells you exactly how far away the next gas station is in miles.
- Fuelculator. This road trip calculator calculates exactly how much it will cost you to get from point A to point B. Plug in gas prices and the city that you’re traveling to and get an estimate in dollars of your fuel consumption.
- Rest Area Finder. Rest areas are often hard to come by in certain areas of the United States. Plan accordingly by using this handy app. Learn where there are places to stop, rest, and fill up with gas.
- Airbnb. If hotels and motels don’t appeal to you, try sleeping on a sailboat or in a treehouse. Airbnb is amazing. Listings fit your budget and range from traditional to outrageous. Who doesn’t want to sleep in an old airplane or caboose?
- BLM and USFC Campgrounds. There are plenty of free campgrounds to choose from throughout the United States. The Bureau of Land Management and the US Forestry note that you can stay on one piece of property for free for up to 14 days at a time. You cannot, however, return to that same piece of land until 30 days has passed. This app tells you exactly where to find free campgrounds in whatever state you’re traveling through.
I love road trips. There is nothing quite like getting out on the open road and with all of the apps and road trip calculators it makes it easier than ever to figure out how much it will cost you.
Is there a road trip app you like to use?
Charissa is into frugal living and saving money.