How to Travel on the Weekend for Cheap

It’s Thursday and the only thing on the calendar for the weekend is that closet needing to be cleaned out. But who wants to clean a closet? Forget the chores, get out of town! Within a few hours of your home there’s bound to be places you’ve not seen, or even heard about. Isn’t it about time you found out about them? What else do you have to do, clean house? Nah!

The first thing that pops into most folks’ minds are variations on these few words: I can’t afford it. Sure you can. All you have to do is squeeze every buck till it squeals and do a little planning. Your biggest expense will be a few bucks for a tank of gasâÂ?¦ ok, quite a few bucks. But you can handle that with some juggling. You might want to splurge on a room somewhere. We’re not talking five-star fancy, just a bunk for the night. There are alternatives to motels, too. The only other expense is food, which doesn’t figure anyway because no matter where you are you have to eat. So, what do you say? See some open spaces or crawl in a closet?

Open spaces? Good choice. Now, here’s how to make it work. First, figure how far one tank of gas your car will get you, round trip. Multiply the miles-per-gallon times the gallons the tank holds. (If you don’t know the mileage look it up online, a search of your model and the word mileage will probably get you the answer.) That’s your limit. By setting that distance you don’t spend too much on gas and you’re not going to be driving all weekend. A little farther is ok, might be necessary to see what you want to see, but not too much. Never more than two tanks!

Get a map of your area or go online to a map website. See what’s within your driving distance from home. Check out the towns, look at the routes, and while you’re doing this decide what you like to do: sports, leisure, museums, whatever. Now, choose one or two things to do and see what’s out there. When you have an idea of where you can go, do a search of the places, even the little towns, on a search engine. Your official state travel site will probably be a good place to go. For example, the official Texas site, www.traveltex.com, lists every town in the state, over nine hundred of them. Look all the towns up within your travel radius to see if there’s something interesting. You’ll probably be surprised at what you find.

Check out parks, museums, amusements, events. You might discover a town is having a Pioneer Days celebration, sporting event or local festival that would be lots of fun. Many towns have small museums or attractions that are interesting and free to the public. Think different, think fun, think quirky! Cities have all kinds of things that are free if you look for them. The key is “free!” Don’t fret about the over-priced theme park you can’t afford. You and your kids can have just as much fun in at a playground or drifting through a local festival for far less money. Choose one or two options you could blow a day at. Now all you have to do is plan the route and decide on accommodations.

For a room, if you’re going to-or through-a big city, try priceline.com. Use the “name your price” option, start at the low end, work your way up slowly. Start with a low price and one are two areas, then add an area each time you go up on your bid. Otherwise the site won’t let you try again. Be DARN sure the date is right. If priceline.com didn’t work look up local motels in the yellow pages, they won’t show up online on travel sites. One star motels and local motels sometimes have affordable beds. Make a few calls and make a reservation. Safer that way. If you wait to look for a room when you get there you might find yourself out of luck.

Cars are not the most comfy places to sleep but for an over-nighter it’s a cost saving choice to sleep in the car, especially for one or two people or if your vehicle is big enough to drop seats down for the kids. Yes, sounds kind’f cheap and dangerous but it’s not such a bad idea. Remember, you’re looking for adventure. All you’re going to do is catch a few hours sleep anyway. Take a few precautions and you’ll be fine. You can park for the night in a local camping area. Who said you need a tent to camp? Alternatively you might choose a slot in a darker corner of a truck stop or all-night restaurant. The latter is only a good idea if all you’re going to do is let the seat back and you don’t have kids. Do NOT leaving the vehicle running. Lock the doors. Crack the windows a bit for air. Kick back and nap. Pretend you’re a PI on stakeout! When the sun wakes you a couple of ibuprofen for stiff joints and some caffeine will get you going right away.

A third option is a day trip. Don’t go to far, though, it’s no fun trying to stay awake and drive home all night. Which ever choice you make, pack light. A change of clothes, tooth brush and paste, few other things. Grunge is good! Make some tea or instant drinks for the kids, load it in the cooler with snacks, sandwiches, etc., to take the place of expensive diners. Nibbling on the road and sandwiches at a park are more fun for the kids than trying to sit quietly in a fancy restaurant. Cheaper, too! Don’t forget the camera!

Last thing to do is plan the route, put it all on paper and get the heck out of there. The route is the key to this whole adventure. Forget the freeways! Study the map and take local roads and back roads. It helps if you know how your local road system works but it’s not an absolute requisite. Just study the maps and make sure the roads come out somewhere. Plan the trip through every little town you can. There’s always things in little towns that’s worth seeing.

So, wrapping it all up, decide the closet can wait on Thursday. Plan the trip on Friday. Look up where to go, decide on over night or day trip, where to sleep, and what kinds of sandwiches to munch on. Plan your travel route. Write everything down! It’s important to have it all on paper! Skip the late-night movie, get some sleep, force yourself to get up early on Saturday (Ugh!). Make the sandwiches, toss your over-night bag and the camera into the car, and you’re done!

So what are you waiting for? Get lost! Well, maybe not lost, but get on the road. If you take your time, look out the window a lot, poke around some, play “Born to be Wild” on the CD, and stick to your plan, instead of having a totally forgettable weekend discarding old sports gear and mowing the lawn you just might have an experience you’ll remember, talk about, and cherish for years to come!

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