Article by Brad
The American southwest is one of the classic road trip destinations. You’ve got National Parks, Wild West landscapes, Native American history and Route 66 roadside kitsch – all along the roads that criss-cross the states of Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico. Try to soak up as much of it as you possibly can. You will cover about 2500 miles worth of the southwest’s tarmac while trying not to blow the budget on the way. This area’s got plenty of natural attractions that don’t cost much to see. Here are a few tips on how to save money on the road, as well as some general tips which will hopefully help you get the most out of a southwest USA road trip.
DON’T TRY AND DO TOO MUCH
The great thing about doing a road trip is that you can see so much, but it’s easy to overdo it and end up spending your whole time in the car. The US’s huge size means you’d need years to see it all. Try to limit the number of long driving days. Generally doing 200 rather than 500 miles in a day is better. There could be a couple of seven-hour driving days, but they willl be followed by at least two nights in one place afterwards. Mostly try to stay multiple nights in each place so you not constantly packing up every day and actually go see a bit of the places you stop at.
DON’T ALWAYS FOLLOW THE GPS
Are you known for your sense of direction? Use a GPS, downloading maps onto your devive. It will be incredibly useful in big cities like Las Vegas and Phoenix. But outside that it’s worth doing your own route planning as the GPS will usually take you the quickest, not the most interesting, route. Guidebooks and blogs (like this one) are great for suggesting scenic routes or interesting stops along the way.
ALLOW EXTRA TIME
If the GPS said three hours, you should allowe for four. Although most of the time your journeys will go to plan, you will hit a couple of snags like roadworks, thunderstorms and on one occasion the traffic being stopped to let a huge paddle-steamer being carried on a truck go past. You want to be arriving into a new town in the daylight, so aim to arrive around 3pm when check-in opens. One thing to beware of is the time differences in the southwest. All states except Nevada use Mountain Standard Time (GMT -7) but Arizona doesn’t use daylight savings in summer so you will always be a hour behind the others.
MIX IT UP A BIT
The southwest is known for it’s amazing natural beauty, but after days of nothing but National Parks and scenic drives you can get a bit blasé about yet more gorgeous scenery. So try to mix up the itinerary a bit with a few different experiences, like volunteering at an animal sanctuary, going wine tasting and visiting quirky attractions like a museum of old Western film sets.
BOOK IN ADVANCE
Some places it’s easy enough to just arrive in town and find a room for the night. But the southwest can get really busy, especially at weekends, so you take the chance of either not finding somewhere or having to pay up for a really expensive room. Book in advance (www.yourvacationgurus.mtravel.com) to find good places to stay in within your budget, at leasta a couple of months ahead. So even if you don’t want to book ahead it’s worth checking out our prices and availability before you go to make your budget.
LOOK FOR ACCOMMODATION WITH EXTRAS
With so many hotels competing for business we can often get extras thrown in for free. Just about everywhere you stay when booking at yourvacationgurus.mtravel.com along with many other perks.
Some hotel’s offere free international phone calls, and guest laundry service. Most will offer free breakfasts and afternoon happy hour.
BUY A COOLER
You can pick up a small cooler for $15 from CVS or Walmart, or get a foil-lined bag with while shopping for a couple of dollars. If you have freezer blocks then most hotels have fridges with freezer compartments where you can refreeze them. Otherwise there are usually ice machines or ice bags available – You can also put a sponge in your bag of ice so that when it melts the sponge soaks up the water and stops it from leaking out.
STOCK UP AT THE SUPERMARKET
Having a cooler means you can buy drinks, snacks and make your own picnic lunches to save eating out twice a day. Also buy some porridge sachets and teabags you can make your own breakfast where its not provided provided. There were Albertsons and City Market supermarkets in most big towns and gas stations selling drinks, milk etc everywhere else.
COOK YOUR OWN FOOD
Hotels/motels aren’t the only accommodation option. You can also staye in rental homes– and Resort type accommodations. All will have full kitchens with ovens, so you can cook your own meals.. Even if you don’t have a kitchen you can always get a takeaout to get a break from eating out. Places with good salad bars are in most health food stores and every town seems to have at least one pizza place.
BULK BUY WATER
The most environmentally friendly way to stay hydrated would be to buy a refillable water bottle and top it up, but otherwise you can pick up a slab of 36 small water bottles for about $5 at supermarkets. Keep them in the shade in the trunk of the car and put a few at a time into the cooler. Even in April the air can be dry dry. You need to keep drinking constantly to stop from getting dehydrated.
INVEST IN A NATIONAL PARKS PASS
If you’re planning on visiting a few National Parks then it’s worth buying an America the Beautiful Pass. The pass covers the whole car, no matter how many people are in it’s around $80. Each park charges $10–$25 so it can be a decent saving. You can put two names on the pass, so you can always share it with someone else planning a road trip.
Now give us a call or email us, and let us get your Road Trip planned. We cover all the details so you don’t need to.
Your Vacation Gurus Travel
Tel 615 219-5831