Categorized | Travel

Road Trip Tips

Posted on 21 September 2008

If you’re looking for a fun experience for your first summer after college, hop in a car and look no further than the open road. Start from virtually anywhere in the country, drive in any direction for several days, and you’ll begin to experience the great diversity of this country’s cultures and landscapes.

I have crossed the United States by car four times, taking four different routes. Each time, I have been amazed at the range of beauty this country has to offer. From the snow-capped Rockies enclosing small towns along Colorado’s I-70 to the forested coastline of Michigan’s upper peninsula, every part of the country has a different and uniquely beautiful look.

The main advantage of road tripping is that it’s not hard to cross the country relatively cheaply. The secret lies in finding inexpensive lodging along the way. My favorite method is to bring along my sleeping bag and tent. Camping in the many national forests spread across the country is free, and costs less than $10 per night in most state parks. In addition, being free to stop virtually anywhere you like each night allows for a great deal of spontaneity over the course of the trip.

Before leaving, there are a few preparations that will make your journey much more enjoyable. First and foremost is to ensure the health of your car. During a trip two years ago, I put over 6,000 miles on my car in two weeks. Preparing your car for such a trip isn’t difficult and doesn’t have to be expensive. If your car is at all touchy, you may want to bring it in for a pre-trip check-up, but new oil and plenty of engine coolant will probably suffice. In the same way, keep yourself in good shape by having enough water in the car to make it through those hot, sunny days. A current road atlas is an indispensable tool on an extended road trip, not only for finding the nearest campsite or town, but also for exploring. While you can see a great deal of the country from interstate highways, smaller roads often reveal the greatest treasures. Secondary highways, otherwise known as scenic routes, have led me through the Grand Canyon, Arches National Park, Carlsbad Caverns, and large tracts of National Forest land. Take turns driving so you have the chance to drink in your surroundings and appreciate the gorgeous landscapes. One of the most enjoyable aspects of planning a road trip is selecting the route. Being spontaneous, I never like to pin myself down to an exact itinerary ahead of time. However, before the trip begins, it’s a good idea to pull out a map, and select one or more main goals of the trip. On my last trip from Boston, my goal was to visit Yellowstone National Park.

My friends and I highlighted a route across the country that seemed feasible and started our drive along this path. However, a spontaneous trip to Niagara Falls pushed our route up into Ontario before rejoining our proposed route in Michigan two days later. We eventually reached Yellowstone, experiencing a beautiful, star-filled night in Wyoming and an amazing stop at the Utah salt flats in Utah along the way.

The bottom line for getting the most enjoyment out of your cross-country drive is to take your time. Stop and explore the interesting places you find along the way. Eat at diners. Read roadside historical markers. And most importantly, talk to the locals. Whether you’re eating a hero or a grinder, covering your ice cream in jimmies or sprinkles, or punctuating your speech with “y’all” or “ayuh,” you’ll be speaking American.

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1 Comments For This Post

  1. dating double says:

    My friends and I did a west coast trip where our mode of travel was based what was cheapest, we took planes, trains, buses, rental car. It was great.

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