I set out on my road trip on Sunday! Having done my fair amount of road tripping over the past seven years, I can say with confidence that planning is often the most daunting task, so I wanted to share some tips. While I wish I could say that this advice applicable to other countries, I don’t know that for certain since I’ve only done road trips in the United States. Hence these tips will be mostly for long distance driving adventures in the good ole US of A.
#1: Don’t try to see everything. You will fail. Miserably
The United States is 3.806 million miles. You will not see it all. Do not try to see it all. Even if you spent a year on the road, you would fail. Instead look at your road trip as America: Part 1 (or whatever part you’re on). Ask yourself what you’re interested in and how you want to spend your time. As I mentioned in my last post, right now I’m super into Presidential libraries. Last time I did a road trip, I was more into visiting friends and doing nature things along the way. Whatever you’re interested in, research attractions along the way.
#2: Have a plan of some sort.
I’m sure there are some people who go only where the wind takes them, and that’s fine. But for most of us, having a plan, at least for the first week or so, gives confidence. With a play you won’t feel like you’re wasting your time if you have it at least a few things planned for each stop. On my last trip two years ago, I tediously planned out the first week and a half from Boston, MA to Aspen, CO. It was reassuring to know where to stop, what to do, where to stay.
#3: Throw your plan out the window. Or at least accept that this will happen at some point.
Your road trip will not be perfect. Your plans might fly out the window. Two years ago a friend was supposed to meet me in New Mexico, but three days before her flight, she cancelled. I got this message while in a hotel near the Grand Canyon, and OK, I was upset. At that point I hadn’t seen a single person I knew in two weeks, which was a very weird feeling for me. Longing for familiarity, I scrolled through my phone until I found an old co-worker in San Francisco. Luckily he was willing to put me up for a few days, so my trip took a detour. Life goes on. I had a great time driving through California. Lake Tahoe? Gorgeous. Big Sur? Stunning. I wouldn’t have seen any of it if I stuck to my plan.
#4: Know your driving limits or learn them fast.
You will want to learn your driving limits and fast. Driving tired is a potentially deadly decision. Don’t push yourself. In my experience, you can safely drive 5 or 6 hours per day. Could you do more? Sure, but it wouldn’t be safe because driving is monotonous and mentally tiring. You don’t want to wear yourself out. If you have a driving partner or two (or three), great! You will have more flexibility on how long you can drive every day. About six years ago, I drove with my aunt from Pittsburgh to Seattle. We switched off driving responsibilities every two hours and that worked pretty well.
Check back tomorrow for my post on how to plan a city day trip while traveling!