When we think of road trips, we usually think of more than one person, or a couple, having the time of their lives exploring the beautiful scenery while engaging in fun conversations and sing-a-longs. It sounds like it would be more fun, and easy on the driving if you were to have somebody riding with you. But what about the rest of others who travel alone on the road, whether it be career-related, moving away for school, or simply for adventures? There are also many big differences between driving within a state and driving across the many states that most don’t realize. Here are some useful tips for those who are about to drive across the states.
- Plan ahead!
This sounds like “duh,” but it’s amazing how much people don’t actually plan that much, in terms of giving themselves slacks in time management. It’s quite troublesome to find yourself driving late at night, without a destination in mind, while you’re in the middle of nowhere.
You need to have your destination in mind for every day that you are driving, even if you are an adventurous person. It’s not so adventurous anymore when you find yourself having a flat tire or out of gas and the closest motel is twenty miles away.
- Map it out.
First, buy a US map. Don’t just rely on internet maps that you print out in specific to the places you drive across. If you are lost, you will have a backup map to find your way.
You can go to googlemaps or similar websites and calculate the hours it takes to get to your destination. Then figure out how many hours you can crank out driving per day. Don’t expect to be able to drive 18 hours straight per day, especially when you are the only driver. You will find your eyes and your shoulders give up much sooner than that, especially if your trip takes more than a few days. It’s not safe and uncomfortable. Strive for less than 12 hours. Once you figure out how many hours you can drive per day, than you will know how many days it takes to get there.
- Book motels/hotels ahead.
Motels are much more convenient in terms of cost as well as having many locations. It is much better to have reservation of a motel for the day that you’re driving instead of driving late at night trying to look for a motel. You will be surprised how far it is between one location to another, and that’s not including if there are rooms available. If your trip, for example, takes four days, and you plan to sleep four nights, than book for four motels ahead. It is very convenient because you can drive here and there, but at the end of the day, you know where are going to sleep.
Money Tip: Take advantage of the motels’ websites. For example, let’s say you plan to stay with a certain motel company, like Motel 6, and you know there are several branches along the road. Don’t just pick any location. Instead look at all of them and you’ll be glad to see the price differences between a city and a town that is just forty miles away. Of course, make sure it’s within your hours of driving per day. Also, popular cities usually have bigger prices and fewer available rooms.
- Make good use of rest areas!
The number of rest areas may depend on the area you’re driving. Make good use of them, because you will be surprised to find out quite a lot of them can be closed occasionally due to construction or weather, etc. The more often you visit the rest areas, the more comfortable you will feel. You will actually spend much less overall time on rest areas if your rests are frequent and short. If the time between rest areas is too long, then you will find yourself spending too much time recuperating, which means less fun traveling time.
- Gas stations.
Gas stations are often overlooked by drivers because they usually think there will be another one coming up when their fuel meter is approaching “Empty.” Many actually find themselves stranded because of thinking this way. Better be safe than sorry. If you have an extra gallon of gas in your trunk, it is still not a good guarantee, especially if you are driving on unpopular roads. Make sure to look for gas stations when your fuel meter is a bit more than half empty, not when it is on the last notch. Also, if you have GPS, it will tell you ahead of time the next available gas station.
- Food and water.
Get boxes of 24 water bottles, about a box for every four days. You’ll find that you need more water than you think. As for foods, stick with packaged or convenient food until you can find a restaurant/shop. Fruits are great energizer, but they can be messy and be prepared to be checked by officials when you cross some state borders.
- Emergency items.
Before heading the road, always have at least some basic oil change and other services like radiator fluid and battery check.
Unless you are traveling on a popular road, do not depend on the availability of roadside assistance or the coverage of your cellular phone. If you don’t know how to change a flat tire, or cool down an engine, or check leaked oil, then it is better to stick with popular roads, like the freeway.
You will definitely need a spare tire, or at least a tire repair kit along with an air pump.
You will definitely need an extra fuel container.
You will need blankets, flashlights, and jumper cables.
You will need extra food and water.
Those are the basic things you need. Of course, there are many gadgets nowadays that can accommodate whatever you need for your car. But if you’re on a budget, at least get those mentioned above.
- Check the weather conditions!
Why? Many people actually forget that US is a very big country. Driving from Washington to Arizona is a huge difference in terms of weather. There are many routes to drive from your departure to your destination, but make sure to not just rely on whichever route is the shortest. Instead, pick the route with the best weather conditions.
For example, driving from Washington to Louisiana can have many routes. If you take the routes along the Rocky Mountains, you will find yourself crossing the so-called “thunder plains” and “tornado-zones” states. The weather in those states can be very tricky depending on the seasons. Anything can happen and it may delay your trip to your destination. If you were to take the Pacific coast route, it will be a bit longer, but the road conditions and the weather is much milder, leading to better time management.
So there you go. It is very different when you drive by yourself. You really have to obey the “be safe than sorry” rule. That way, road trips can be very fun and safe; even when you’re the only driver. You can go anywhere you want. Take as much pictures as you like. You can eat anything you like. And don’t forget those vista points along the road! Have fun and be safe.