(BPT) - Americans enjoy the fun and relaxation of traveling: 77 percent of domestic trips are for leisure purposes, according to the U.S. Travel Association. If you want to vacation with friends or family, hitting the pavement for a road trip can't be beat, and with a few money-saving tips and organization tricks, you'll plan an awesome trip packed with memories.
Step 1: Get everyone on board
Planning a group-travel trip can be complicated when it comes to deciding on a destination. Start with a brainstorming session where everyone offers an idea of where he or she would like to go. Research different destinations and visit websites dedicated to travel, such as www.LiveLifeLocal.com. With a focus on car, RV, boat and motorcycle travel, the site makes it easy to search for fun locations - whether an hour or a day's drive away. It's a breeze to search by geography, vehicle and tags - for example, you can search for information on boating in the San Diego area, but designate only fishing-related posts. You'll find valuable content from everyday users as well as authors and bloggers passionate about travel.
Step 2: Build an itinerary and save travel documents
Once everyone agrees on a location, it's time to get organized. Whether camping or staying at a hotel, make reservations well ahead of time to avoid the seasonal rush. When you call, ask about available discounts. Many places offer deals to lure visitors and win your business. Whether you're traveling locally or cross-country, create a folder and save all travel documents for easy access.
Step 3: Drive smart and slash gas costs
Getting there is half the fun of a road trip, but if you're traveling a long distance, it can also mean expensive trips to fill the tank. Slash your gas costs with a few important tips. Start by only filling up in bigger towns - remote gas stations often have higher prices. Utilize your cruise control - it's convenient plus it regulates gas usage. And remember to use air conditioning sparingly because it is a huge gas guzzler. Crack those windows and enjoy the breeze and open road.
Step 4: Create a meal plan
Eating out is one of the most expensive parts of traveling. Save cash by planning meals ahead of time. If you're camping or staying in an RV, pack easy-to-cook foods like pasta, stew and canned vegetables. Then pack a cooler with basic necessities, like cold cuts, cheese and milk. A little forethought with food can mean hundreds of dollars in savings, plus it can be a lot of fun to cook in the great outdoors. If you're staying at a hotel, you can still cut down on meal costs by packing bags of snacks and a small cooler with basics for breakfast or lunch. Plus, look for a hotel that offers free continental breakfast.
Step 5: Be a compact packer
No matter what type of vehicle you drive, the more you haul the more you'll pay. Reduce how much you pack and you'll reduce how hard your vehicle has to work to get it there, conserving on fuel. Pack what you need, but don't go overboard - you can probably survive on two pairs of shoes rather than five. Pack multipurpose items, such as a coffee maker that also makes hot water for tea, and a sleeping bag that also works as a picnic blanket. Vacuum bags work well for bulky pillows and jackets to save space and provide you and your family a more comfortable ride.
No matter where you go, a few proactive steps and planning tricks will ensure you have an awesome vacation. Whether it's your adventures on the road or the memories you make when you arrive at your destination, 2013 offers unlimited travel potential.