Though a lot has changed over time in America, the next decades as different from the ones before, there is one thing that still rings true: no matter where and no matter when, a roadtrip can be one of the most thrilling and unique experiences a person can have. The freedom that comes with being able to drive across North America, from coast to coast, from the Canadian border to the edge of Mexico… anywhere there is an open road is anywhere you can go.
Fresh air rolling in through the open windows, blasting vintage music from the speakers, taking pictures next to state signs – there are so many exciting moments to be shared with family and friends. Whether you are on a mission to make it to The Museum Of Modern Art to see Van Gogh’s The Starry Night or down to Walt Disney World in Florida, the continental United States offers many amazing and one-of-a-kind things for everyone to enjoy. Adventure awaits, so here are 10 tips for a successful all-American roadtrip!
1. Reliable Transportation
I can proudly say that I have always owned a used car. There is absolutely nothing wrong with choosing a used car, (even when it is more than a couple years old). It can easily be what is best for you, given your price range and estimated daily use. When it comes to something as big as a roadtrip, however, where you are solely reliant on the car you are driving, it is time to take stock of how reliable your car is. Will this car get you everywhere you need to go? Will this car be good on both the highway and city streets? With this car will you be spending a lot on gas? These are just some of the serious questions you need to ask yourself and ask whether it might be better to use another car, (of someone else on the roadtrip with you). Before you leave, too, it is important to make sure whatever car you do pick is in tip-top shape: full tank of gas, fresh oil change, air in the tires, has good wipers, etc., and, most important, the car insurance is valid and someone on the trip has roadside assistance.
2. I’m The Map
It is Dora The Explorer time because what is a roadtrip without a map? And yes, it is still possible to find physical maps of cities, stages, and the whole of North America. Though in our daily driving we are used to and take advantage of Google Maps for just about every turn, in a multi-state or cross-country adventure, you really need to have a backup. Yes, today with our 5G everything just about everywhere we go, the only time we notice a change is if we switch to Wi-Fi. With a roadtrip, however, there are going to plenty of dead zones where the GPS on your phone loses service. Here is looking at you, West Virginia, for even my physical GPS unit, (one of those plugged into the car), lost its navigation. Even if you don’t want a physical map, it would be extremely smart and safe to write down your path and the exits you need to take. That way, even if your devices fail you, you can keep an eye out for the exit numbers and keep on your path, and though it may seem intimidating, it is not that hard to count exits – they are either counting down or counting up in number and you just look for the one you need.
3. Pick One Gas Station
Now that you are ready to get going, there is one thing you will need the entire way: gas. I find it easier and safer to pick one nationwide gas station to keep stopping at. BP, for example, is always near the highway, always well lit, has clean bathrooms, and plenty of snack options. So, when it was getting towards the time of needing to fill up with gas, I would look at the exit sign to find a BP. (Yes, your co-pilot could use their Google Maps, too, but it can be important to learn how to read highway signs.) With a nationwide option, too, you know you will always be able to find it and it will always have a good price. Plus, if you have it in mind that you stop at BP, (for example), then when you get into the habit of needing a bathroom stop, food break, or to stretch your legs, it becomes second nature to recognize the logo.
4. Overnight Driving
Especially with others, driving overnight can be one of the best decisions you make on your way to your destination. It can be the best time to drive because of the lack of traffic. Even in some of the most crowded cities–like Atlanta or Orlando–driving at night can leave you with an open road. It is easy to put your car on cruise control and have a smooth ride for miles upon miles. In addition, you can trade off napping with your travel buddies and not have to pay for a hotel. I have driven straight through Florida to Ohio/Ohio to Florida many times over the years and driving at night is my favorite. It is oddly peaceful and way less stressful–only rarely would I run into other drivers, and they were mostly semis. I will say though, of course, safety first: if you are too tired to drive it is more important to switch with someone or stop at a rest stop or hotel than to keep going.
5. Sleep Isn’t For The Weak
That brings me to the next point… if you do not want to drive overnight or the trip is so long it would be best to stay at hotels on the way, that is a great choice, too. This might be a better option for those who are not used to driving long ways or have to take medicine every night before bed. It is whatever you are comfortable with and what is safest for you. With that said, if you do plan to stop somewhere and sleep overnight, it is best to book a hotel right off the highway in advance. There are many cheap but safe hotels along the major exits and breaking up the driving into bite-sized pieces can be very beneficial.
6. Phantom Toll Roads
There are many options for how to get from point A to point B. When it comes to highway driving, you will be faced with a pretty critical question: tolls or no tolls? Many states in North American give you an option to travel without tolls, with minimal added time. However, there can be states like West Virginia, where it can add between one to three hours if you avoid tolls. This is an example where investing in the tolls is way more worth saving time than saving money. Unfortunately, tolls cost what tolls cost, but maybe if there are more of you in the travel group, it can be split. So, that is something to keep in mind: the “worth it” ratio between time and money.
7. Food & Drink
Whether you are driving at night or during the day, on a long stretch of highway, or through a city, one of the most important parts of a roadtrip is the food! Before you go, you can always stop at Walmart and on your way, there are plenty of gas stations and fast-food places to stop into. I do have a few tips, however, because staying alert while driving is the most important aspect of this kind of travel. Therefore, anything with caffeine is always a good choice. It does not have to be an energy drink or coffee, but just a little bit of caffeine can help ebb of the tiredness that might come with being stuck in traffic or staring ahead at an empty road for long periods of time. (With the lack of movement in your seat, your body can start to overly relax and your mind wanders–caffeine is a good way to fend this off.) Speaking of tiredness, too, having not eaten enough or eating too much can cause an unwanted sleepy reaction in the body. Make sure to balance stopping for meals and snacking on your way.
8. That’s My Jam
Another drastically important part of a roadtrip? Entertainment! You will be spending plenty of hours in the car, so make sure to pack or download a lot of options! Options, too, that you can use if your cell phone goes out of service. Music is always a fantastic option. CDs, iPods, your phone, even the radio can give you plenty of options to jam out to or have options that are overall loud and dynamic. To keep your head bobbing and heart pumping, this will help you stay awake and alert, as well – I would stay away from classical music and anything with a soft melody that could bring your mood down or body sleepy. As an alternative, funny or enthralling podcasts or audiobooks are pretty awesome.
9. Comfortable Clothes
I am not ashamed to say that I like my life to be ‘gram-able. From how I look to where I live and such activities as vacations, I take pride in how everything looks just so. Living authentically to myself, I have developed my own standards for my appearance, (physically and publicly, thanks to my Navy upbringing and Leo nature). With that said, there had been great trial and error when it comes to what to wear when traveling, and more specifically, on roadtrips. Roadtrips are the perfect time to break out your favorite athleisure look, something cute but way comfortable. Sports bras and yoga pants with flip-flops can be perfectly adorable and functional for this experience. You will be sitting for long stretches of time, so it is important to be comfortable in your clothes and footwear. Something you can change positions in and even twisted like a pretzel, you are fine. Worst comes to worst, you can always change in a gas station before you get to the destination.
10. Tag, You’re It
Then, simply, the last tip for the All-American Roadtrip is to keep someone outside of the trip updated on your whereabouts. Yes, updating Facebook and Instagram is all fine a good, but it is important to keep a love-one updated on where you are and how far you have left. Keeping someone on top of this is not just to make them feel better that you are safe, but is also for your safety, in case anything goes wrong. In case there is traffic, a tire blows, or worse, there is someone who can help you! With the magic of the internet and cell phones, anyone can do just about anything from anywhere, and that includes helping you if your car won’t start or you get lost.
They say that life is about the journey, not the destination, but why can’t it be both? With roadtrips you are amidst the best of both worlds, having an amazing time on the journey to a fantastic destination. As long as you remember the 10 tips above, it is smooth but wonderous sailing for you and your loved ones. Comment below with any other tips or your favorite roadtrip memories!
Author | English Major | #RealLifeBelle | Academic Romance | "This was no accident, this was a therapeutic chain of events." | www.TheMousyGirl.com