Few things in life will leave you feeling quite as fulfilled as a road trip. There’s something incredibly invigorating about just being out on the open road, watching the highway unfold before you. It’s moments like those where you discover what’s truly important in life. It’s something that everybody should experience at least once.
If you’ve never been on a road trip, I can’t recommend enough that you take the opportunity to do so. More importantly, take it with the people who mean the most to you. Bring all of your family, including your extended family, along for the ride. We don’t truly realize what we have until it’s gone, so take the time to appreciate and cherish these people while you still have them.
That being said, taking an interstate road trip is a serious undertaking. It takes a lot of forethought, planning, and investment on your part. But the juice is well worth the squeeze. To help you get started, here are seven key considerations you need to make before you launch on your incredible journey across the country
1. What Route(s) You’ll Be Taking
One of the most time-consuming portions of your planning process will be selecting the route. There’s plenty of places you could go, and plenty of things you could do. No one can stay on the road forever, though. How do you pick a route that lets you enjoy some amazing things while staying feasible? There are a few things to consider:
The Time You Have Available
More than anything, the time that you have to commit to your trip will dictate the type of route you take. Depending on how long you have, an interstate journey can last as little as a week or as long as a month.
If you have more time, you can afford to a less linear path and really explore some hidden gems off of the beaten trail. If you’re more limited, you may need to use a more circular or out-and-back type of route.
The Money Available
Second to time in importance is the funding available. Obviously, if you have more to spend, you can afford to stay out on the road longer. If you can’t afford as much, you’ll need a shorter route to stay within your budget.
What You Want to See Most
Finally, what will help determine the route you want to take is what sort of sites or attractions you and your family want to see. You won’t be able to squeeze everything into a single trip, so you need to prioritize it. What’s often helpful is to select one or two regions of your country of choice, and focus on the offerings available.
For example, if you were planning on traveling through the American Midwest, you might prioritize the Historic Bourbon Trail, the World War I Museum, Mount Rushmore, and the Badlands National Park.
2. How You’ll Transport Yourself
Under normal circumstances, your own vehicle would probably be enough for you and your immediate family. However, since we want to include as much of your family as possible, you’re going to have to accommodate more people than normal. When it comes down to it, there are really only two options to achieve this.
Travel By Caravan
Your first option is to travel in a caravan style, with many vehicles staying close together along the same route. While this is feasible, there’s a lot of risks involved. Factors you need to consider include:
More gas consumption
The risk of being separated
Increased risk of an automobile accident
Lack of family engagement during your drive
With all this stacked against it, a caravan is probably not the best option.
Charter a Bus
Your second option and one I personally recommend is to charter your own bus to make the journey. With this option, you’ll eliminate the majority of the risks you take by traveling via caravan. You can also save a lot of money too. When you factor in gas costs, not to mention the added mileage you’ll have to address with maintenance and services, you’ll probably find it’s a much cheaper investment too.
To help you gauge how much money you stand to save, US Coachways provided a handy bus rental cost estimation calculator that you can use to gauge how much you’d spend traveling by charter bus.
3. How You’ll Budget for Your Trip
We touched on money before, but I want to emphasize just how much planning you need to devote to cost alone. In particular, there are several key aspects to address:
What will be your total budget for the trip?
How will you pay primarily? Cash, card or check?
Will your costs be split evenly, or will different family members make certain purchases?
How will you fund any emergency expenses, such as a vehicle breakdown or emergency medical care?
In addition, there are several things you’ll have to do in order to prepare your finances for your trip. There are several ways you can fund a road trip like this.
Start a Savings Fund
If you’re planning on starting a savings fund for your trip, determine how much you’ll be able to set aside within a given period. From there, count back to how much time you’ll need to save the necessary amount.
Take Out a Loan
If you’re planning on taking out a loan to fund your trip, give yourself plenty of time to prepare for it. You’ll need anywhere from four to six months prior to your trip. That will give you plenty of time to raise your credit score and get better rates, shop to find the best lender, and allow plenty of time for your money to come in.
Host a Garage/Yard Sale
This is a great way to not only raise funds but clear out some clutter too. You’ll want to host your sale anywhere from four to six months before your first payment on your trip is due. That way, you have time to host another sale or get more money if you don’t raise enough.
To help make your sale more successful, stick with items that are more likely to appeal to yard sale shoppers. Popular items include sports and exercise equipment, furniture, baby clothes, books, antiques, collectibles, and dishware.
4. How You’ll Split Activities
Though you want your family to do as much together as possible, everyone needs some time for themselves. Since this is inevitable, you should go ahead and give some thought to where and when you’re going to divide your group and enjoy different activities.
In particular, you need to decide:
Meeting times and locations
Who will be traveling together when the group splits up
How you’ll stay in contact
What to do in case of an emergency
By taking the time to plan this out, your family can enjoy their own pursuits without worrying about leaving something unplanned for. There are plenty of pre-made templates you can use to plan this out.
5. What Your Accommodations Will Be Like
Even within a single family, everyone’s situation is different. You may have a group of cousins that no one likes, or you may have a brand new mother who is breastfeeding. When it comes to where you’ll be staying, you need to bear all of these factors in mind.
There are a couple of different ways to approach this.
Stay in the Same Hotel, and Share Rooms
With this option, your family is, by and large, together. It makes communications easier, makes it easier to coordinate activities, and can save you a lot of money. However, you also lose a lot of privacy and this could lead to tensions flaring over down the line.
Stay in the Same Hotel, but Have Separate Rooms
If you opt to do this, you ensure that everyone has a comfortable level of privacy, while still being able to communicate and coordinate fairly easily. The risk you run is that some members of your family may have trouble affording the hotel’s rates, and may need help covering expenses.
Stay in Different Hotels
This options maximizes privacy and allows your family members to select a hotel they can comfortably afford. However, it can be more difficult to communicate and coordinate your activities. You need to have a clear plan of how you’ll react if something unexpected happens and you’re not immediately available to help.
6. Who is Responsible for What
One of the key things you’ll need to do is divide up the workload to plan and manage your trip. The more family members willing to chip in, the better. In particular, determine who will:
Set up hotel arrangements
Plan the route
Manage budget and expenses
Keep the group informed of changes and updates
Drive (if you’re caravaning)
By approaching your plan this way, you ensure that no one is overburdened but everyone is engaged. This can also make the trip more enjoyable for the entire family because it truly becomes your family trip.
7. How Much Work You Want to Do
Since such a large group is going, regular work may factor into the equation. While some of your family may be retired or have plenty of vacation time, others may need to do some work on the road. If this is the case, you’ll need to ensure that you have ample means to get their workload done.
Things you’ll need include:
Private space to concentrate
Time to work
No one likes the idea of having to work during a family getaway. But if you want to include as much of your family as possible during this special time, you need to be prepared to make accommodations.