A Budget Road Trip along the Appalachian Mountains
With the sun gleaming and the longer days coming to a close, I still feel a desire for adventure. Looking back, I realize just how lucky I was to travel so often during the past few months. In the thick of summer, a small group of friends and I took to the road on what turned out to be one of the most memorable road trips we ever had.
We planned a long weekend along the Appalachian Mountains, the six of us. Having been separated all year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we were itching for an excuse to reunite our adventure-seeking hearts on a wanderlust-filled road trip. But before the fun could truly begin, the trip started at my desk. We were all on a limited budget, so it was essential to find a way to keep it cheap while getting the most out of our trip.
Why Budget Is Important
A properly planned budget is key to a successful adventure, and a successful adventure often produces the best memories. By creating a budget prior to starting a road trip, you eliminate the worry of running out of money before the fun is over. Knowing how much you’ll need to set aside for your summer outing also helps you manage your money, both leading up to and following the trip. It’ll allow you to identify areas that are uncompromising and those that are more flexible. Trust me—your wallet will thank you.
A Bigger Budget Doesn’t Always Mean More Fun
In the case of our travel budgets, higher prices don’t always lead to more enjoyment. It helps to look at your budget as a tool to make the most of your adventure rather than a means to denying entertainment. Keep the focus on the potential of your trip and use that budget to pack in as many experiences and activities—so you and your crew have tons to look forward to.
Driving up along the East Coast, my friends and I set off on daily hikes to fill our days with exploration and sightseeing. As opposed to more costly daytime activities, these hikes were a highlight of our trip—bringing us closer together in experiencing some of the most beautiful sights.
To end each night, we would sit around a small campfire with a late-night supper and talk about the potential of the upcoming day. Jokes were had, and stories were told. It brought out the best in all of us. It’s safe to say, no matter where you go or what you do, enjoying your traveling experiences to the fullest can make any activity unbelievably fun.
What Are Budget Necessities?
In order to guide your budget, a good rule of thumb is to account for fixed costs first before planning your trip’s itinerary activities. Necessities like gas (for those long drives), groceries, accommodations, and essential travel and safety gear are non-negotiable when budgeting. Of course, these costs can add up quickly, so it’s often a smart idea to pool these costs to reduce everyone’s bottom line.
Take advantage of free activities like self-guided tours and free concerts, which allow you to pack your itinerary without impacting your wallet. This is how we broke it down when our crew decided to explore the Appalachian mountains.
None of us were in any position to spend hundreds of dollars for a weekend away, so our choice in destination came with what gear we already had: i.e., tents, sleeping pads & bags, headlamps.
We only needed to figure out the costs for gas, campsite passes, groceries, and side quests. By choosing to camp and make do with the gear we had, we could cover everything for $75 per person. With our overall budget being $150 per person, we cut costs so we'd have money left for a few extra activities.
Activity Suggestions Depending on Your Budget
● Take an off-road trail hike (the internet is a good place to start when mapping out which trails are easiest to hardest at your destination)
● Embark on an overnight backpacking adventure
● Grab specific ingredients for a homemade group dinner
● Tell (or listen to) a campfire story
● Explore the local towns (bonus points if you find a free museum)
● Swim in a nearby stream or lake
● Catch sunrise or sunset (or both!)
● Camp under the stars
● Eat at a local restaurant
● Sign-up for a local wine tasting
● Shop for souvenirs or keepsakes
● Rent a kayak or canoe
● Hire a local tour guide to give you the rundown on the town and its historical points
● Attend a musical performance
● Experience the local nightlife
● Take to the sky on an aerial tour
Now that you’ve hashed out the details of your budget and travel itinerary, it’s time to get your road trip adventure underway and enjoy the most unforgettable experiences that are yet to come! Your next task is simple: embrace each moment on the road with the people you care about the most. Live up every last laugh and take in the extraordinary sights. And most importantly, don’t forget to take pictures–lots of them! Happy Exploring!