Somewhere along my most recent three-week vacation, I started to compare it to last year’s three-week road trip. I began to make a list of the little things that make a big difference when it comes to the price, cost, or value on vacation. Here are 20 lessons that I have learned.
1. If you don’t pack everything in your bathroom to take with you, you still won’t miss what you left behind.
2. Some luxuries are necessary. Long hot showers and a hot tub are worth every penny. So are large beds, two sinks, and windows that open.
3. Own a thermal coffee pot or thermos. Hotel coffee isn’t a coffee snob’s dream, and brewing your own means you can fill your pot and take it with you. Oh, and clean the hotel coffee maker first.
4. Dining local versus sticking with safe chains is more satisfying and gives your more of a feel for the dynamics of a locale, especially if local fare is different than at home.
5. Buy road maps. State, city, park…buy them. Otherwise, you just might run out of gas trying to find a town with a gas station.
6. Check your tire pressure every so often. The right tire pressure can give you better gas mileage and a smoother ride, and changes in altitude need to be accounted for.
7. Even free cable sucks.
8. Don’t skimp on quality TP.
9. Buy a cooler and a sleeping bag. Having a place to nap and a cold soda wherever you go is a luxury that will keep your head on straight during your vacation. (Plus, the melted ice is perfect for keeping your radiator cool in an emergency.)
10. Have a job or a side job that you can do from anywhere. It’s an under appreciated freedom.
11. Make sure your cell phone plan doesn’t have roaming charges.
12. Leave with a zero balance on all your credit cards, and carry at least one MasterCard or Visa.
13. No matter how many plastic bags you leave home with, you will need to take the laundry and extra trash bags from the hotel.
14. Souvenirs are best bought from the people who made them. Or, find them yourself. But don’t buy a zebra from the Texas History Museum. Zebras don’t have much of a spot in Texas culture.
15. Have multiple memory cards. You don’t want to miss that photo op because you’re dumping your card onto your laptop, and if you’re doing that, you’re missing the experience.
16. Run a quick video or take some photos of the outside and major open areas of your home before you leave. That way, when you come home to a screen falling out of the window, you know whether you left it that way and didn’t notice.
17. Bring dish soap. You can wash your own road cups in the hotel sink and feel comfortable using them every day for three weeks.
18. Research crops and seasons where you’re traveling. It’s nice to know you’re going through Pecan country at harvest time. Then, you can buy pecans.
19. Know the weather forecast of your route. Avoiding a mountain snowstorm is impossible unless you plan ahead enough to avoid the mountain range.
20. Travelers checks are a really good idea.
It would be nice to have a shorter list of money tips that I didn’t learn the hard way, but it makes for some good stories. It also makes a pile of lessons well-learned.
Image courtesy of flavijus