Exactly four years after packing up to drive out to San Diego, I decided to drive back. I could have shipped my car, but I felt like I needed my adventure to go full circle. There are so many places to road trip around our beautiful country, but it is not too often that people drive from coast to coast unless it is for a move. When driving out West, I had my best friend Jenn as my co-pilot; on the way back East, my sister Kiley came along for the journey. I wanted to put together a list of tips for you other road trippers out there!
1) Map your journey out online on a site like Roadtrippers. Roadtrippers is an awesome site that let’s you plug in exactly where you want to stop along your route. It will tell you the distance and show you hotels & attractions close by. We used this initially, but then used Yelp for restaurants & Trip Advisor for lodging.
2) Calculate driving time. This is a continuation to #1: you want to figure out how long it is going to take your to get from one location to another. For example. If you are driving from Austin, TX to New Orleans, LA (7hr 45mi) and you leave at 7am, you may not get there until early evening, or later depending on traffic and food stops. If you were planning to leave the next morning to head somewhere else, this may not leave you much time to explore. If you are not on a time constraint, this may no matter, but definitely keep timing in mind! (Also take into considering if you are driving through time zones).
3) Plan, but don’t plan. I’ll admit it, I am a planner. I usually like to know all details about my trips and enjoy making itineraries. While some planning is fine to do, don’t hold yourself to a strict schedule. You may be tired and want to crash in a different location that you originally thought. Keep lodging in mind but don’t book until you are 100% certain (don’t forget your AAA discount! A lot of places offer great rates for AAA members. Hostels can be good options too).
4) Pick a good travel buddy. Being in close quarters with someone can be hard sometimes, so make sure that you have an understanding and both have the same goals for the trip. Even those of us who like to be on a schedule may need to loosen up a bit when hitting the open road. My sister and I had our moments but still had a great time!
5) Crash with people. You would be surprised how many connections you may have around the country. If you know someone in a city, don’t hesitate to ask them if you can stay there for a night! A lot of people love playing tour guide in their own city, so you may get even more than you bargained for. We stayed with a mutual past co-worker in Charleston, SC and got to see so many cool places that we would never have known about (restaurants, farmers markets etc.)
6) Talk to people. Let friends and family know your list of destinations because you never know who might have a suggestion. Our cousin suggested a cool outdoor mall in Scottsdale & aunt told us to check out the “bat bridge” in Austin.
7) Keep organized. This probably wouldn’t be a problem for most, but since my car was packed to the brim with my life, we had to make sure we had our stuff organized in the back seat for when we stopped. Also a good idea to keep a “road trip” bag with snacks, journal/pen, hand sanitizer, baby wipes, pepper spray (for late night gas stops), Advil and water.
8) Be weary when driving at night. Two blonde chicks driving through West Texas in the dark with no cell phone service and deer jumping out from every direction=scary! We had made a 16 hour drive, and due to the time change, it was later than we expected. Everything was fine, but a little eerie at night. I would advise to not drive long distances in the dark. Things like a flat tire are a lot harder to deal with in the middle of the night.
9) Check alternate routes. We used my Garmin most of the time to guide us, but would always put in our iMaps to see what routes were suggested. You may want to go another way if you are looking for a more scenic route, or to avoid tolls or traffic during rush hour.
10) Have fun. This one is obvious, but you are taking your trip to see some cool places and have an experience. Enjoy it!