The road trip is the classic American vacation; most of us recall piling in the car and heading out to explore the vast array of landscapes and adventures to be found on the open road.
Road trips are popular family vacations because they are budget-friendly, but if you aren’t careful that cheap road trip you planned can become both expensive as well as less than green in a hurry. Fortunately, it just takes a little forethought to plan an eco-friendly road trip that is affordable and a lot of fun as well.
Road Trip Ideas for Meals
One of the simplest ways to keep your road trip under budget while being friendly to the planet is to pack your own food. You will avoid wasting money on overpriced restaurant meals and at the same time skip a lot of food wrappers from fast food that can pile up in landfills. Fill a cooler with the basics – fresh fruit and vegetables, quick fixings for sandwiches, and other foods that don’t require a lot of cooking. Keep snacks on hand such as trail mix, and bake a batch of homemade cookies before you go for an on-the-road treat. Snacks are another big source of packaging that winds up in the trash, so bring your own from home to avoid this.
Road Trip Ideas for Lodging
Another great eco-friendly way to plan a cheap road trip is to consider camping. Instead of paying for a hotel room, where vast quantities of water, electricity and detergent are used every day to wash bedding and towels in between guests, stop at a campground. Tents are affordable and easily portable, and let you set up your bed wherever you wind up. A campsite is also a perfect place to cook your own meals, whether over a campfire or on a portable barbeque. As an added benefit, camping is a great opportunity to spend some time close to nature and teach children about taking care of the planet. Make cleaning up your campsite before you leave a chance for a lesson in protecting and caring for the earth.
What to Pack for Your Road Trip
Packing wisely for your road trip can save you a lot of money as well, and what you bring can help keep your vacation more eco-friendly. Bring your own shampoo, soap and other toiletries; you will not only save money, but you can ensure you are using green products. This is especially important if you are camping, where things like dish soap will likely wind up on the ground. Protect the earth by using safe, green cleaning products even on the road. If you refill small travel bottles, you will save a lot of money over buying travel-sized items again.
If you do decide to stay in hotels on your road trip, bringing your own towels can save all those towels at the hotel from being washed after a one-night stay. You can take your towel with you to ensure it is used more than once before it requires washing. Using those toiletries you brought with you can also save all of those small bottles in the hotel from ending up in the trash.
Road Trip Ideas for Destinations
Eco-friendly as well as affordable road trip destinations are easy to find in North America. The country is full of beautiful National and State Parks just waiting to be explored. If your road trip will take you through more than one park, consider purchasing a pass that allows you to enter as many parks as you want without paying a separate fee at each one. This saves a great deal of money over daily passes.
When you visit any park, remember the simple rule to keep your stay eco-friendly: take only pictures, and leave only footprints. Whether you spend time hiking, mountain biking or picnicking, be sure to take with you everything you brought into the park. Don’t ever leave trash behind, and make sure to be cautious with campfires – they should be fully doused before you leave the area. Don’t upset the delicate ecosystems of our forests and other landscapes – animals, flowers and other plants should be left right where they are to flourish and be enjoyed by all who pass by.
Road Trip Ideas for Entertainment
For cheap road trip entertainment, take a look at the Park Services’ schedule of events before you go. There are often plenty of free guided tours, interpretive centers with excellent presentations and programs, and chances to get closer to nature with the help of an expert. There is no better way to put a green spin on your vacation than to spend time exploring our beautiful planet more deeply, while learning about the local flora and fauna.
As you travel, look for locally run farmers markets featuring organic and sustainable foods you can purchase to replace your stock of food. Supporting local, sustainable agriculture while on the road will not only keep your trip eco-friendly, but also keep the best tasting and freshest foods at your fingertips. Many of these markets are also a great time, offering free entertainment and all kinds of vendors where you can purchase not just food, but souvenirs of your trip that are more meaningful as well as more eco-friendly than mass produced souvenir shop items.
Before You Go…
One of the most important things to keep in mind when taking a road trip is that your car needs to be in top shape before you go. Keeping your car running at its best will mean better fuel economy and less polluting emissions. Have your mechanic give the car a check up before you go. You will lessen the chance of a breakdown on the road, save money on gas and keep your trip a lot greener in the process.
It’s easy to plan a cheap road trip that is good for the planet as well. If you plan ahead, take advantage of natural resources and local products, and make sure you don’t waste any more than necessary, you can have a great, green vacation everyone will truly enjoy. Your trip will be enjoyable, affordable and best of all, eco-friendly as well.