The Call of the Highway: Road Trips Are Back in Style

2 months ago
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The days of packing up the family station wagon — now more likely an SUV — and hitting the road are coming back. The American Survey, reports about 25% of Americans plan on taking a road trip in 2024.

Why are Americans getting back on the road? It helps that gas prices are down an average of 26% across the country since September.

The jury is out on whether it’s cheaper to take a road trip or fly. A lot depends factors like the destination and how many people are traveling.

It’s probably cheaper to drive a 300-mile trip to a town without a nearby airport, especially if the whole family is in for the ride. A flight might appear cheaper at first blush, but once travelers factor in the cost of the plane ticket, rental car fees in the destination town, and travel time from the airport, they haven’t saved much money.

On the other hand, a 2,000-mile flight is probably cheaper for one or two people if their destination is near an airport and it’s the only place they want to go.

However, the journey road trips offer isn’t the same when you’re flying over the best roadside destinations.

One of the best ways to take cross-country family trips across the United States is by road-tripping in a recreational vehicle. Hotels aren’t cheap. Towing a camper or taking a motorhome cross country consumes more gas, but vacationers save money by being able to cook their own food and skip a hotel room. Some people even tow a personal vehicle behind their motorhomes so they can park in the campground and drive the smaller vehicle around the area.

Ashlee Fechino, with The Happiness Function, says, “My preferred method of travel is road-tripping with our Aliner RV. My husband and I love that we have the comfort of our own tiny house on wheels. We can take the dog and all of our own comforts from home.”

Although it seems like a mundane chore, a good trip starts with a budget. How much can you spend overall? What portion of the budget should be set aside for meals, gas, hotels, entrance/excursion fees, and even souvenirs? Nail down these numbers so you know how much trip you can afford.

“Road trips and camping are such a practical solution for families looking to get out and explore on a budget,” says JayDee Vykoukal of Mom Blog Life. “Our family of four loves to get out to the forests and national parks in the summer months to reset and fully immerse ourselves in nature.”

Many trip-planning websites can help you arrange your itinerary, stops, etc. These sites can also help you figure out where to stay and nearby activities. All you do is enter your starting point, destination, and the time you can spend on the road. The websites will create a custom itinerary for you, including your drive time between stops, suggested hotels, and attractions.

If you’re an international traveler wanting to travel cross-country, remember that the U.S. is a big place. It takes several days to drive from coast to coast. You can drive from London to Paris or Amsterdam in a few hours, but you can’t drive from New York City to Miami, Florida, that quickly. That one trip takes at least 20 hours without breaks. Be prepared to drive for at least three or four days if you plan to travel across multiple states.

Where do you want to go? Are you driving to Walt Disney World, or want to see parts of Route 66? If you have kids, Walt Disney World is a popular choice, but it’s an expensive one. If you’re on a budget but want to do an amusement park, check out other, smaller regional amusement parks like Dollywood in Tennessee, Cedar Point in Ohio, or Kennywood and Hershey Park, both in Pennsylvania.

Maybe there’s a graduate in the family who wants to visit several prospective schools. If they’re within a reasonable driving distance, this could also be the basis for a fun family road trip. Most college towns have a lot to do, so they’re great for keeping the younger kids occupied while the college student explores the campus.

Some families have a dream destination, like the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, or Yellowstone. If that’s the case, these U.S. National Parks have websites treasure with a trove of resources so travelers can plan an enjoyable visit to their preferred park. If you want to travel to a national park, you should consult the park’s website for information about road closings, construction, fire hazards, etc.

Safety is important on the open road. Don’t drink and drive, ever. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports one person in the U.S. dies every 39 minutes in a drunk-driving accident. While a first DUI is a misdemeanor in most states, it can still incur fines, jail time, and restrictions on one’s driving privileges.

Stay off the cell phone. In some states, it’s illegal to drive and hold a cell phone in your hand. Distracted driving is a problem in the U.S. According to the NHTSA, more 3,000 people died in distracted driving accidents in 2022 — the latest year figures are available. If you need to consult your cell phone, find a place to pull over safely.

Some states have cell phone areas where motorists can park so they can safely use their phones. Phones can be useful for notifying drivers where there are accidents or road construction. However, with traveling families, someone else can find that information besides the driver.

Stay awake. According to AAA, 18% of all traffic fatalities between 2017 and 2021 were caused by a drowsy driver. Driving drowsy can cause impaired judgment. Worse, the driver could fall asleep behind the wheel. Avoid this by getting enough rest. Take a break about every 100 miles. Switch drivers if one of you feels tired. If you need to, pull over in a safe place for a nap.

If possible, drivers should avoid traveling during the holiday rush days to avoid the heaviest traffic and the resulting accidents.…Read more by Bella Bucchiotti

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