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How to Plan a Budget-Friendly Post-College Road Trip

RoadTripCollege may be coming to a close, but there’s still time to bond with your friends after you’ve all turned your tassels on graduation day. Many memories can be made on a cross-country road trip before you each set out on your individual journeys. So, pack your bags and your friends, and plan a road trip with the following tips:

Save Your Money

The first step in planning your road trip should be to save money. Think about saving well in advance to the date of your anticipated road trip, whether you’re using a bank account or a change jar. For multi-week or month-long trips, start saving six months before.

Set a savings goal by writing out all of the expenses you think you may encounter, including supplies, food, hotels or campsite fees, gas and any souvenirs you may buy along the trip. Be creative when thinking of ways to save money. For example, cutting coupons instead of paying full price, ending your cable subscription or giving up your gym membership are all viable opportunities.

If you have routine bills like your rent or phone bill, be sure that you have enough to pay them while you’re gone and consider setting up auto pay so you don’t miss any payments.

Plan Your Route

Drive on the most iconic American highway, the famous Route 66, to experience the culture of eight diverse states, including Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. Learn about the history of each state and make lasting memories along the way.

Consider a road trip that takes you along the Pacific Coast Highway. Discover the sandy beaches off of California’s Highway 1, explore Oregon’s national forests and witness the scenic views along the Columbia River Highway. Let Washington’s wilderness wash over you as you head north, and be sure to visit Washington’s capital, Seattle, at the end of your trip.

If nature is calling, plan a trip that winds through Glacier National Park, Montana. Take a dip in St. Mary Lake, and make a stop at Virginia Falls. Or, head to the Southwest to explore Arizona’s red rock country by following State Route 179 from Phoenix to Sedona.

Use a tool like Discover America’s trip planner to outline your route. And, of course, pack maps and a GPS device just in case you take a wrong turn.

Drive a Road Trip-Worthy Car

If your current vehicle is a gas guzzler or you’re skeptical that your aging car can’t quite make it across the country, upgrade to a new set of wheels. Use an online resource like KBB to compare vehicles, and learn which cars get the best gas mileage. Popular Mechanics recommends the Jeep Grand Cherokee Eco-Diesel, Mazda 6, Chevy Impala and the Honda Crosstour.

Document Your Experience

Document your road trip by journaling in a notebook or online. And, of course, be sure to take plenty of photographs along the way. If you’re bringing a camera, make sure to pack all of your different lenses and plenty of battery packs. Mountable cameras, such as the GoPro Hero, can be attached to the outside of your car to capture all of the sights you see along your trip as well.

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