4 Tips to Budget and Plan for a 2021 Road Trip

4 Tips to Budget and Plan for a 2021 Road Trip. If you hit the road in 2020, you probably discovered that some things cost more, some cost less, and some options weren’t available due to the pandemic. These fluctuations, added to the normal seasonal price variations involved in travel, probably made it even more of a challenge than usual to plan and budget for a trip.

With the virus likely to be a factor through much of the coming year, you’ll have to stay on top of the planning process even more than usual during the months ahead. Here are some things to keep in mind that can help you do so.

Map out your journey

How much time do you have, and where do you want to go? It’s easy to underestimate how long it will take to get somewhere, so you end up missing all the scenery that whooshes past as you zoom down the highway.

Check Google Maps or an app like Waze to make sure you leave enough time to travel safely without rushing. The Roadside America app can point you toward offbeat sights and roadside attractions. And take along a paper map as a backup.

One of the few bright spots about the pandemic has been the reduced cost of gas, but remember: Fuel costs can vary widely from state to state, thanks to taxes, availability, and other factors. GasBuddy can help you find the cheapest gas wherever you are. 

Make your breaks count

The fewer places you stop, the less likely you’ll be to expose yourself to virus hotspots. And the more food you stock up on before you leave, the better you’ll be able to budget. Plus, you can save money by using coupons that are good at your local supermarket.

When you do have to stop, seek out one-stop shops like travel plazas that can offer you gas, food, and other provisions all in one place. Pilot, Flying J, Petro, TA, and Love’s are just a few to look for. Many offer membership cards that can mean additional savings.

You might not have thought about it, but the isolation principle applies at rest stops, too. Instead of using permanent facilities with large, shared restrooms, think about making use of single-person porta-potties, which many rest stops have added during the pandemic. They’re cleaned and sanitized regularly and can carry less risk of spreading germs.  

Hit the road prepared

In addition to food, stove, and cooking utensils, be sure to take along an emergency road kit, first-aid kit, snow chains (if you’re traveling in winter weather), a jack and lug-nut wrench,  face masks, disinfecting wipes, toilet paper, a flashlight, and other essentials. 

Being prepared also means having the right insurance in place, in case of a breakdown or other emergency. Roadside assistance is a great insurance option for road trips, and you’ll want to be sure your coverage matches your road-trip needs.  

You’ll also want enough credit to give you a cushion if you find yourself stranded or need more money than you’ve budgeted. And, let’s face it: No matter how well you plan, there’s always some expense you didn’t expect — even if it’s just a “must-have” souvenir or a chance to jump on that once-in-a-lifetime rafting trip.

The time of spontaneity for road trips may return someday, when you can once again just toss some stuff in your back seat and hit the road. But while the new normal still holds, knowing your insurance needs, your credit rating, and how much room you have on your card(s) are all essential parts of getting ready for your big adventure.

Scope out deals

Many destinations have offered sweet deals to lure travelers in 2020, and that’s likely to continue through at least the first part of 2021 amid continued lockdowns and ever-evolving advice from the CDC concerning travel. Check online for coupons and discounts that may be available in your chosen destinations and nearby attractions.

There are many ways to stretch your dollars when embarking on your road-trip adventure. All it takes is a little planning, some budgeting, and knowing where to look for deals and discounts. It may seem like a lot of work at first, but it will make the play that follows much more rewarding — and stress-free.

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