1. Don’t try to go too far in a short time. If you have a destination and you have to drive straight through a long distance to get there, that’s not a road trip. That’s a destination drive, and it has a different set of parameters.
2. Take the scenic route. Be willing to make side trips. If you’re driving along and you see a sign for “Paul Bunyan’s Forest” check it out. You’ll see tons of cool things the average traveler misses.
3. Avoid rough terrain unless you are equipped for it. If Paul Bunyan’s Forest turns out to be up a pitted road, don’t do it in a compact car. It’s just not worth the damage.
4. Pack lots of snacks and water. You’ll save money by not buying treats at every overpriced mini-mart you see. Eat from grocery stores, not restaurants. You can explore new foods—an exotic cheese here or a starfruit there—and still eat for less than the cost of restaurants.
5. Get travel insurance or roadside assistance insurance. It’s usually available for very little cost, often attached to your auto policy, and can save you major headaches if you do break down.
6. Find out where the locals buy gas. A drive down a side street or a little further into town may save you 10 or 15 cents a gallon. That doesn’t not seem like much, until you consider the cost of 10 or 15 gallons to fill your tank. If your car breaks down, ask the locals where to get repairs done. Stop at the nearest grocery or other stores and ask questions. They will know who is good in town, or overpriced, or gives prompt service.
7. Plan on stopping frequently. Drink plenty of water and watch for rest stops where you can use the facilities and walk around freely without feeling like you have to buy something for the privilege.
8. If you have relatives nearby, arrange to stop and say hi. Don’t ask anything of them but their time and have a friendly visit.