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Road Trip Tips

country road

[tarasov_vl] / [iStock] / Thinkstock

My Grandparents weren’t from the U.S. Hailing from England, they resettled to the U.S. after WW2 and moved around from state to state before my Grandfather accepted a job in Illinois. With my Dad and I settled comfortably in California, summer was the time I headed toward the land of wolf spiders and humidity in order to visit my Grandparents. After every summer, my Grandmother insisted that they drive me back to California. And every time she insisted my Grandfather take a different route. This is the primary explanation for why I have visited over 30 states and seen riveting attractions like the world’s tallest thermometer, the home of Daniel Boone, and more Motel 6’s than I care to remember.

It’s also the reason I have come to adore road trips. I know, I know. It’s not the most ecological or economical way to explore and the train is always a superior choice. That said, piling into a car with an awesome play list on the ‘ole iPod, some good friends, a audio books, and a stack of maps, gives one the sense of setting off into the unknown. Just a couple of intrepid explorers, their AAA maps, and some snacks.

Setting out on your own road trip adventure this summer? Here’s what to bring and how not to die of boredom while driving through Kansas. Sorry, Kansas. It’s not you…it’s…um, actually…it is you.

While it’s possible to drive across the country using only the Google map application on your iPhone, it’s always good to have some maps in the car. You know, those paper things with squiggly lines on them? If you’re a AAA member (highly recommended), you can swing by and pick up as many maps as you want for freeeeee! A GPS is (usually) great for finding the most efficient way from point A to point B, but it’s not as conducive to exploring. Maps are great for that. Especially when your navigator can’t read them very well.

Take Your Time
Yes, you could drive from SF to DC in three days and enjoy none of it. Or you could devote a week or two (or three) and use the opportunity to explore new areas, have some adventures, visit old friends, make some new ones, and catch up on all those books on tape you’ve been wanting to listen to. Nothing ruins a road trip more than a tight schedule. Leave room for adventure or it will just be a whole lot of driving and that gets old.

Weird Attractions
Because all of your Facebook friends will appreciate it when you “check into” the world’s largest ball of twine. Yes, it does exist (Thank you, Kansas).

The U.S. has miles and miles of stunning national and state parks. Take advantage of this. Cruising on the highway is fun, but it gets tedious after awhile. Mixing it up with some physical activity is always a good idea. Whether you take some time to explore Yosemite, Moab, or the Ozark Mountains, make sure you get off the freeway and out of the car from time to time.

Audio Books
Awesome if you’re traveling alone or if your traveling companions get carsick while reading.

Stay with Friends (or friends of friends)
Hotels and camping are nice, but try and branch out. Visit old friends or make some new ones by asking friends if they would be willing to introduce you to family or friends they might have spread out across the country. It can break up the trip a little and encourage a few scenic detours to places you might not have considered.

Okay, not to sound like your mom (or your dad), but stop when you’re tired, always carry a spare tire, and it’s a good idea to get a AAA membership so you have access to roadside assistance should you need it. Flares, chains, and oil are also good idea as well as emergency supplies like food, water, first aid kit, etc.

When you stick to the freeway, there’s not exactly a whole lot of diversity in the food department. Use apps like Yelp and Urbanspoon to find places other than McDonald’s and Denny’s. After awhile all those snacks at the gas stations start to look the same so it’s nice to map out grocery stores or pack some healthy snacks. After a week of fast food, you’ll long for a carrot stick. Alternatively you could research places ahead of time online or you could even do it the old-fashioned way and ask someone. Just saying.

By Nikki Hodgson


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