If you’re planning a trip this spring or summer, this week’s post from guest blogger Ellen Howard is worth the read!

road-trip-925859__180Ellen writes: Traveling with friends is fun, but it’s not easy, and things almost never go perfectly. So, here is my amateur’s guide to planning last minute trips.

First, get the hotel, stat. Hotels, especially in prime vacation areas, tend to fill up in advance, and the deals go first. If you’re on a tight budget, getting the hotel as quickly as possible is vital. Also, keep your reservation number as well as your confirmation number in case you later realize that you accidentally booked for the wrong month and have to go back and cancel.

Next, raid your friends’ family trees. One of the best possible money savers is to grandmother hop. Recently, my friends and I stayed with two different grandmothers on our trip to Florida, and it saved us a ton of money. Not only is the housing free, but there is hardly a grandmother alive who will let anyone pass through her house unfed. We went days without spending a dime on either food or lodging. Admittedly, the ham in someone’s grandma’s fridge isn’t quite the same as a gourmet French restaurant in Epcot, but if you save on the meals en route, then you can actually afford more than a single baguette when you get to Epcot.

Third, take a physical map with you. I rely on my GPS as much as the next person. navigation-1048294__180.jpgWhen people start giving me directions, I hear Charlie Brown’s mom, so my Garmin, named Johnson, is my best friend when I drive. But, on a road trip you need a backup for your GPS. My ever faithful Johnson tried to take us to the wrong state at one point, and the girls not driving had to scramble to figure out where we were and where we were going.

Next, if you’re going to a theme park, get your tickets online ahead of time, get the wait time apps, and go in with a plan. Even on a busy day, you can conquer a lot of theme park ground if you’re smart about it. Talk to your friends ahead of time about what you want to do and move with purpose. You can twist the plan as necessary once you’re there, but do not go in blind. ferris-wheel-1031279__180

Finally, go with people you love. Getting lost in Alabama (when you’re supposed to be in Georgia), having to wait after a ride breaks down for the third time since you’ve been in line, and discovering that you forgot one of the air mattresses would not normally be considered the highlights of your trip. But you’d be amazed at how much fun even the most annoying things can be when you’re with the right people. Ultimately, it’s not the sights on a travel brochure that will make the trip. It’s the people you travel with.