Road trips are a staple of college life, but pulling off one that is both cheap and fun is harder than it might first appear. The Daily Lobo sat down with UNM students Angela Hammell and Jean Orosco, who took an RV to the South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin, Texas with 10 other people during spring break. We asked them how they planned their most recent road trip in order to get advice on how students can plan their next adventure.

Step 1: Create a group

Finding a group of friends who have similar goals/destinations for their spring break is the first important step in preparing for a fun and cost effective road trip. By forming a group, every member can chip in on gas and other miscellaneous expenses and lessen the overall cost of the trip.

The Energy Department’s weekly survey of service stations reported that the average price of a gallon of regular gasoline in the United States as of Monday is $3.897, making it more important than ever to caravan with a group of friends to reduce costs. Orosco said it is important to plan on stopping in towns where gas is cheaper.

Orosco said besides banning together for transportation, it is also smart for road trippers to share the cost of food by chipping in to a collective “pot.” The UNM students who participated in the trip decided to “stock up” on food from La Posada before departing on their trip so that they had less to pay for while staying in Austin.

In bringing an RV along, the group also had a generator with which it could cook Ramen noodles and other soups. After returning from its adventure, the group added all of their expenses up and divided it evenly, calculating that each person paid around $185 to fund their entire trip.

Step 2: Pack

The downside to a large group is having to take into consideration everybody’s opinions and dealing with a lot of organizing. The larger the group, the more complicated packing and living arrangements become.

“When traveling with a big group of people, we learned it is important for everybody to pack lightly, live simply, and stay clean,” Hammell said.

Hammell said because traveling always requires a lot of walking, everybody needs to have the right kind of shoes as well. It is also important that everyone in the group brings any special clothing or equipment that might be needed such as skis or a swimsuit. Hammell said first-aid equipment is also essential.

“It’s a plus if you have a medical kit and are ready for emergencies,” Hammell said. “I decided to bring band aids along, and I am glad I did, because we ended up needing them at one point.”

Members of the group brought musical instruments to “busk” or play music for money for food. Although the group only busked a few times on the trip, the road trippers were able to scrape up enough money to buy each of them a few meals.

“One member of our group brought a washboard to play along with,” Hammell said.

Step 3: Know where to stay

Preparing for a road trip and getting to a destination is one thing, but figuring out where to stay when you get there is another issue entirely.

Although Hammell, Orosco, and their group of friends caravanned in an RV and planned to stay at their destination in an RV park, Hammell said students have to be ready to stay anywhere when taking a road trip.

Orosco said they were able to connect with locals and friends in the area who gave them places to stay. This helped the group save money on admission to an RV park.

People who already live in the cities you are travelling to might not only be able to offer you a couch to crash on, but might also have inside advice on what to do while you are visiting.

Step 4: Stay open-minded

Although planning for road trips is crucial, you must also be comfortable with spontaneity and going with the flow.

“The most important thing for students to remember when traveling is to make the most of every moment and to be open-minded toward every situation,” Orosco said. “We had to be ready for anything to happen when we were in Austin.”

Working out problems as a group without getting too upset is easier said than done, but compromising is probably the most important part of making a trip a success. For example, the generator in the group’s RV failed to operate a few times on the trip, which meant were not able to boil water to make their soup.
“In the end, we ended up eating Ramen raw,” Orosco said. “We were ready for everything.”

Places to visit:

447 miles to Denver, Colo.
572 miles to Las Vegas, Nev.
694 miles to Austin, Texas
1,085 miles to San Francisco, Calif.
1,998 miles to New York City, N.Y.

Distances according to Google Maps.