Just about everyone has dreams of driving across the country in an epic, Great American Road Trip. There's something so undeniably cool about cruising down the highway, out in the middle of nowhere, with your windows down, and music blasting from speakers. The miles roll under your tires, taking you farther and farther from the stress and grind of daily living.
Not every road trip can be cross-country, but wherever you’re going can be epic, if you do it right. We’ve put together some “DO’s” and “DON’T’s” that will make your road trip as epic a quest as it can be.
DO: have a plan. Sure, some of the greatest experiences are spontaneous, but having a plan can make the difference between a legendary trip and a disaster. Having a rough itinerary will definitely help. Certainly you have some idea of what you want to see along the way, perhaps even stops you’d like to make. This means there’s likely an amount of time you want to allocate to such stops as you cruise along – and this will also help with budgeting (see below!). But . . .
DON’T: get too caught up in your itinerary. If you plan too much, you won't be able to take detours or make random stops at places you happen upon. Be sure to factor in some flexibility to allow for spontaneity.
DO: your research. Certain times of year are busier and more crowded than others. Summer means amusement parks and nature areas are most likely crowded. Lodging will be harder and more expensive. If you’re traveling in winter, some roads are hazardous or even closed. Knowing such things in advance can save you a ton of trouble.
DON’T: neglect risks and hazards. For example, it might be an excellent idea to invest some time researching the various laws of the states and localities you’ll be passing through. Such laws vary widely throughout the US. For example, any speed over 80 mph is considered a criminal offense here in Virginia. Know the laws on radar detectors and firearms if you plan to bring any on the trip. Know how these laws are enforced in the states and localities you’ll be visiting. It might save you a lot of time and money
DO: buy some old-fashioned maps. Yes, you’ll undoubtedly have your smartphone, a GPS or other tools, but there’s still areas in the US that have poor cell service. In dead zones, having a map can be a literal lifesaver.
DO: have a budget. The US is a beautiful place, but it ain’t a cheap place to travel. Gas, food, lodging, all can be expensive, and prices can vary dramatically from location to location. Investigating these things in advance might save you some heartache. But . . .
DON’T: freak out if you spend more than you have budgeted. A little flexibility is necessary to keep the trip from being a totally unspontaneous drag. Make a budget, and bring a little extra for incidentals and emergencies.
DON’T: expect to blow into town and find a room. This goes along with the planning recommendation. For example, if you’re planning to visit a small city that becomes a tourist hot-spot at the time of year you’ll be there, booking ahead is essential.
DO: take a cooler, filled with food and water. You’ll stay hydrated and save money on restaurants – and you can keep moving more easily.
DO: get your car inspected beforehand. If you’re taking your own car or borrowing one from someone you know, get it checked out before you leave. This doesn’t guarantee you won’t break down, but it helps. Keep an eye on things like tire pressure, as it can help you get better gas mileage.
And finally, DON’T let small setbacks rob you of the fun of a road trip. Snags are inevitable, but sometimes the most memorable stories come out of less-than-ideal situations. Learn to go with the flow – isn’t that what a road trip is really all about?