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5 Tips for Hitting the Road Instead of the Skies in 2021

By published July 13, 2021

By Molly Barnes, Digital Nomad Life

Most of the trips we took in 2020 were on the ground, thanks to COVID. Airlines were all but deserted in response to CDC guidelines recommending against travel in confined spaces, and the same was true for cruise ships.

Now, airlines are flying again — but even if you can fly, that doesn’t mean it’s your best option, especially with airline prices significantly higher now. Airfares rose a record 10.2% in April, and airports are quickly becoming crowded, with passengers standing in long TSA lines to board cramped planes just to get where they’re going.

Who needs any of that? For my money (and yours!), the best way to go is still a road trip. You’ll save the headaches of flying and get to see a ton of great scenery you’d otherwise miss. If you do choose to hit the road in 2021, here are some things to keep in mind.


Get your car ready to go

Even if you’re not quite due for an oil change, get one anyway. You don’t want to see the oil light start flashing halfway through your trip, forcing you to waste half a day getting an oil change (if you can get an appointment). Besides, it’s best to be safe.

While you’re at it, check your fluids, filters, and brakes. Get your tires rotated, have a tune-up if necessary, and check your tires for bulging sidewalls and worn tread so you can replace them if you need to. The last thing you need is a blowout on the highway.


Obey the rules of the road

Speed limits can change from state to state, and not always the way you might expect. Montana and South Dakota are sparsely populated states that allow you to hit 80 on rural interstates, but big ol’ Alaska sets the limit at 65.

Whatever state you’re in, be sure to buckle up. It’s not just the law, it’ll keep you a lot safer in the event of an accident. According to the most recent seat belt data available, restraints saved nearly 15,000 lives in 2017.

And if you are in an accident, be prepared by knowing the steps to take, from exchanging insurance information to taking pictures and calling your insurance company.



Be financially prepared

It’s important to start budgeting well before you go, so you can have enough money in the bank to cover your expenses. Map out your route and create an itinerary so you know roughly what it will cost. Remember to factor in things like regional gas prices and weekend hotel rates. Then put enough money aside each paycheck to cover your anticipated costs.

At the same time, check your credit to make sure you’re in good shape. If it’s not, you can improve it, but it will take some time, so it’s best to start right away. 

Consider a secured credit card, which can give you access to a line of credit with a deposit that’s only used if you don’t make your payments. The idea, of course, is to make regular payments, just as you would on any credit card, which will help you boost your credit score.


Get your digital game on

Gone are the days of paper maps that you can unfold but somehow never can fold back up easily. You might want to take one along as a backup, but a digital app can tell you far more, like road closures and construction, traffic jams and toll roads to avoid.

Download a reliable weather app, too: one that enables you to track weather in multiple cities and has an extended forecast and storm radar, too.

And once you’ve done all that, ensure you stay connected with an extra charging cord and adapter, as well as a WiFi signal booster if you plan to head too far away from civilization.



Be ready for emergencies

Before you leave on any road trip, you should check to see that you have two kinds of emergency kits: One for yourself (a first aid kit) and another for your car.

Your first aid kit should include things like gauze, bandages, antiseptic, motion sickness pills, tweezers, aspirin, hand sanitizer, thermometer and scissors. Don’t forget prescription meds, your doctor’s contact info and your health insurance card.

For your car, have a spare tire and jack with a lug wrench to change it if necessary. Take jumper cables, a flashlight, fire extinguisher, wire cutters, pliers and other essentials. If you’re traveling in winter or cold climates, add snow chains, an ice scraper, cat sand (for traction), gloves and a blanket to your list. 

With COVID-19 and its contagious Delta variant still out there, take along masks and disinfecting wipes, too. Load up on nonperishable snacks for the road to save money and time on stopping at convenience stores.

If you plan it all out, a road trip can be so much more enjoyable than an airplane flight. You’ll see more, have more legroom, and save money, too. Ready to plan your own road trip? Check out all of our Chicago Southland road trip itineraries here! Happy travels! 

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