How to Rock Out Your Own Extended Road Trip: Part II {The Preparation}

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After you’ve completed The Planning, your next step in rocking out your own extended road trip is the preparation. Whether your trip will be a month long, or last an entire year, you’ll need to get your ish in order.

My road trip was a little over 3 months and I quit working and moved out of my place when I left, so there was a lot I had to accomplish before I hit the road. It took me about 5 1/2 months to prepare and save money before I left. Depending on the length of your trip and your current situation, here are some things you might want to take into consideration:

{Dealing With Your Current Expenses} 

If you’re retired, have invested successfully, or can make money remotely, you can skip this part… but the rest of us have to worry about how we’re going to pay our bills whilst not working for an extended period of time. The best way to ensure a non-financially-stressed road trip is to get your expenses down as much as possible before you head out.

Paying off any debt you have before you leave is always a good idea (I mean… paying it all off in general is a good idea). If you pay rent, see if you can time your departure with the end of your lease so you’re not out any early termination fees. Some people decide to sell things before they leave, but if you want your stuff to be there when you return, throw all your things into a storage unit. Finding somebody to rent out your space is also helpful for renters and home owners alike.

Add up your current monthly bills and see what you can shave off before and after you leave. Being able to spend your money on your trip, not bills, is way more fun.

>> I was renting from a friend so I was able to move out and put all my things in a storage unit. I paid my 6 month car insurance premium as I left so that would be one less bill to worry about. Once I was on the road, my monthly bills consisted of just my health insurance, phone bill, gas, food, and camping fees. It was pretty sweet.

 

{Vehicle Prep} 

Whatever you’re using for your trip needs to be able to handle however many miles or crazy terrain you’re going to put it through. Maybe you just need an oil change and a tire rotation. Maybe your vehicle needs quite a bit more. Whatever you need, find out soon so you have time to save money to pay for it and get the labor done. If you’re planning on building out your vehicle to sleep/live in it, you’ll need a little bit of time to get your plan together, purchase the materials, and do the construction. (There’s a great article on that here.)

>> My car was paid off, but I needed a new catalytic converter ($1300), new tires, an oil change, and a couple lights replaced. Since I have minimal car maintenance skills, I needed to have these things dealt with before I left town. The catalytic converter took about a month to come in (they didn’t make that kind anymore so it had to be specially ordered from across the country) and setting aside the money for it took a little while longer than I’d had planned. I was glad I had people I trust do the work for me! (#shoutout to my local mechanic, Jim at Motor Works on Newburg, my brother Nathan, and his buddy, Twig!) Because of this, I had total peace of mind when I drove out of town.

 

{Kid/Pet Prep}

Kids: You may think having children prohibits you from extended travel until they’re older and out of the house , but if you really want to give your family the opportunity and experience travel provides (and you totally should) there’s always a way to work it out. If you have kids and are wanting to travel during the school year, you’ll have to check with your child’s school. They may need to be set up on a certain program so they’ll be able to keep up with their assignment while you’re on the road. Get all that figured out before you leave (and so they have time to come to terms with the fact that they might have to do homework while on vacation) and make a plan to stick with it while you’re away. If you’re doing any international travel, the kids will need passports (obviously). If you’re separated/divorced, you will also need the written consent of the other parent to take kids across any borders. All of these things take time, so make sure you start the processes early!

Pets: If you have a pet, you will want to make sure they’re up to date on all their shots. Also, if they take monthly heart worm/flea and tick medication, you’ll want to stock up. If you’re crossing any borders you’ll need to check that country’s customs regulations to see what you’ll need to bring to transport your pet across country lines.

>> I don’t have children so I didn’t have to deal with any of that, but I do know a few people that have done long trips with younger and older kids alike, so I know it’s completely do-able! For my dog, Tango we went to the vet about a month before we left to get all of his shots and to purchase 3 months worth of meds. I didn’t want to risk him getting fleas (especially since we’d be sharing a tent) or heart worm and having to find an emergency vet in unfamiliar towns. Since we were traveling to Canada as well, I needed to have his rabies records handy. I had the vet print off his last year’s treatment and stored his entire file in the back pocket of my driver’s seat in my car. We were never asked for it at the border, but I liked having it ready just in case. Also, because I had to board him twice while I was teaching all day workshops in Colorado, the dog daycare needed certain paperwork to accept him. I didn’t happen to have print outs of what they needed so had to call my vet at home to get them to fax it over. Luckily they were able to quickly, but I would have been screwed if the time zones had been reversed. Make sure you have copies of those papers too, just in case. < – Side note: If you’re planning on visiting National Parks, know that most of the most popular trails and attractions are not dog friendly. However, a lot of them have information on local boarding facilities so you can make separate arrangements for your dog while you explore the park. You’ll need to bring their records!

 

{Sh** You Might Want to Get}

I’ll be getting into “the gear” in the next post, but there are some other things you might want to grab before you leave. Will you need health insurance if you’re not working? Do you need/want a AAA membership? What about a National Parks Pass? Insurance to cover the things you’ll have in your car in the case of a break-in? Most of this you can get while you’re on the road, but if you’re like me, you want to have these things checked off the list before you leave… while you’re still making a paycheck.

>> I’ve always had to pay my own health insurance, since I’m self-employed so nothing had to change there. I did, however, need to stock up on my medication before I traveled into Canada, since my health insurance only covers me internationally in emergencies. Getting medication before you’re scheduled to pick it up took a couple extra phone calls to my health insurance company and the pharmacy. I went ahead and paid for a AAA membership for the first time since I didn’t want to be stuck in the middle of nowhere without assistance. (I mean… I know how to change a tire, but anything bigger than that and I’d be screwed. Plus, it was only $49.) If you’re traveling thru, or camping in any national parks, or forest service land, you should totally purchase a National Parks Pass. It’s $80 for the entire year and gets you free entry into so many fee collecting areas. It also gets you discounts on camping fees in some areas! This pass paid for itself by my 3rd week into my trip and I used it well after. It’s totally unnecessary to purchase this beforehand…  (you can purchase one when you actually pull up to the booth at any park location) BUT, if you just want to feel prepared, you can order one online here, just know it takes about 7-10 days for it to arrive.

and lastly…

{Trip Budget} 

The budge… the “not as fun part” of trip planning, but, if you do it right, you’re in for a way more fun trip! The more money you need, the longer you’ll need to save for it (damn it). Once I knew how much I had to pay in bills each month, I got to work on the rest of the trip expenses and calculated how long it would take me to save up.

Everybody’s trip budget will differ depending on their monthly bills, lodging preferences, food preferences, and entertainment habits.  You’ll want to know appx. how far you’ll be driving (ballpark) to plan for gas and oil changes along the way. You’ll need to decide if you’re spending money on camping fees or hotel rooms (and will want to google different places and dates to check their rates). If you’re able to sleep inside your vehicle, you’ll save money, but may still have to pay to park in some areas. <– Out west you can park for free in many places, but not so much in the south and east. What kind of food will you eat and how will you store and prepare it? When it comes to entertainment, will you need money for tours, rental equipment, child/dog care, tourist attraction fees, guides or souvenirs?

Once you’ve got a good idea of what you’ll need on a daily/weekly/monthly basis, you’ll want to give yourself some cushion, if possible. I didn’t want to be penny pinching my entire trip so I added a few hundred dollars extra to each month for some peace of mind.

>> I had no debt and only needed $300 per month for my health insurance and phone bill. I’d planned on staying with some friends along the way but I wanted to be prepared in case anything didn’t work out with schedules. Although most camping can be $10-$15 per night, I over-estimated $20 per night for camping fees to be on the safe side. (Afterwards I learned about a ton of free camping options, so my next budget can be a little smaller.) I chose to continue a small monthly contribution to my Roth IRA, so I worked that in too… because responsibilities. I was able to teach a few workshops in the cities I was traveling through along the way, so that gave me a tiny bit of income once or twice a month.  It wasn’t much, but since I had so few bills, it actually took care of a big portion so I had a little more freedom with the cash I’d set aside. After everything I budgeted $1500 per month, (even though I knew I could do it for way cheaper than that). It was nice padding to have so that I could enjoy the trip without financial stress.

 

I’ve had some people say they loved watching my trip unfold as I posted photos on social media along the way. Some also said they were inspired to plan their own trips that they never previously thought were possible. Your situation may be more or less complicated than mine was, but I hope that if you do have some logistics you’re trying to figure out, this post helps in some way.

 

Stay tuned for Part III: The Gear!

Part I: The Planning here.

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