Courtesy Brandie Raasch

Courtesy Brandie Raasch

This summer, take a trip with your friends that doesn’t require a lot of planning or extra money. Try some of these ideas for quick and easy excursions.

The road trip is the quintessential American teenage summer experience. While you may not be able to coast down Route 66 in a convertible, you can still have a great time on the road. Expenses for this trip will include gas, food and lodging, depending on how long your trip is. Expect to spend roughly 10 cents per mile on gas, at $5 to $15 per meal and $100 per night for the average hotel room.

Start planning your trip by consulting a calendar. Your schedule will determine whether you can ramble across the country or take a quick weekend trip. Brainstorm places you want to visit—standard options include visiting friends, hitting the beach, going to a state or national park, trekking to the nearest big city and going to a theme park. You don’t need a destination—you could just want to take a scenic drive.

But once you have destination in mind, you can start planning your route. Online trip planning services or mapping utilities like Rand McNally’s Road Trip Planner or Google Maps can help you find the best route as well as local attractions to visit. Keep a map in the car, though, just in case. Be sure to make lodging reservations ahead of time once you have determined when you will be stopping. Since this will probably be the most expensive part of the trip, look into discount travel sites like Travelocity and Orbitz , or consider camping.

When it’s time to hit the road, make sure you’re taking a reliable car. Pack emergency road supplies and plenty of snacks, especially healthy ones. While on the road, alternate drivers and take breaks every few hours.

Camping

Sleeping under the stars is a perfect way to enjoy the summer. Even if camping reminds you of bugs and bears, at least consider this trip for its incredible affordability and amount of fun. If you don’t have it already, expenses for this trip include the campsite, food and gear. Expect to pay around $15-$35 per night for a campsite and $5-$10 per meal.

The biggest part of planning a camping trip is finding a campsite. Local state parks are probably the best bet for finding a scenic and convenient campsite, although the more popular ones may require reservations months in advance. Check online campground reviews like CampRate and CampgroundReport to find one with the amenities and activities you prefer—utilities, for example, are more expensive, but may make novice campers more comfortable. Make reservations as early as possible, since sites can fill up quickly during peak season. Most reservations can be made through ReserveAmerica.

Cooking outdoors when camping can be quite fun, but make sure to plan ahead of time so you have everything you need. Set a menu and divide up cooking and cleaning duties. If you plan to bring groceries with you, be sure to pack plenty of coolers to store everything. Look for creative camping recipes such as silver turtles and campfire cake on sites like CampRecipes.

Having the right gear is also important. Buy—or, ideally, borrow—a tent that’s large enough to fit everyone. If you’re planning on cooking, bring utensils and perhaps a stove.

Beach

If sleeping on the ground is too rustic, consider a beach getaway. Whether for a day trip or longer stay, the beach is a perfect place to retreat to with your friends. Expenses for this trip include gas, food and lodging for extended trips. Expect to pay round 10 cents per mile for gas, $5 to $15 per meal and several hundred dollars per night for a beach house.

The most affordable beach trip is a quick day jaunt if you’re lucky enough to live near water. Get an early start to beat the crowd and avoid traffic—plus, you’ll maximize your time on the water. For a day trip, pack lunch and snacks to avoid overpriced boardwalk fare. Pack plenty of fluids as well, so you can stay hydrated in the heat, and be sure to apply sunscreen liberally.

If you have time for a longer trip, look into renting a house with a group of friends. Get a large group together to keep it as cost effective as possible, but make sure it doesn’t get too crowded and crazy. Check sites like VacationRentals to find a deal on lodging. Plan to cook your own meals instead of eating out to save money. Split up cooking duties and make a menu ahead of time.

What trips are you planning this summer? Let us know and share tips with other readers in the comment section.

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