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If you’re on a road trip you’re going to have a lot of time to think, explore, and enjoy the big wide road. Lots of time means lots of decisions, both good and bad. Exit here for gas or hold off until the next service station? McDonald’s or that local place across the street that looks a little beat up but my stomach can’t take anymore McDonald’s? The trip is made (or broken) by your decisions. We’re here to share some of the ‘do’s and dont’s’ of Cross-Country travel in the interest of making your journey a little smoother.
Stop for Gas
The “let’s stay on the road as long as possible and push this gas tank to the limit” mentality can get you burned! As you pass through the more rural western and middle states, gas stations become rare. Traveling for a couple of hours without passing a service station is nothing unusual. Erring on the side of caution should be the approach to refueling. Fill up your tank when you’re down to just 25% of the tank — trust us, you might live to regret it if you don’t! It’s also worth bringing an extra canister of gas with you, just in case. This will give you more flexibility if you want to go off route and explore.
A rested driver is a better driver. Taking three or four-hour shifts will serve you well. The driver trying to push through fatigue might just put the whole crew in danger. Mixing up drivers also means you can mix-up the in-car DJ. Plus, everyone is on vacation (including the driver) so it’s not fair that one person is putting in all the work while the others get to soak in the view without a care in the world.
Drink Plenty of Water
We think about hydration when preparing for demanding physical activity or when battling heat, but not so much when it comes to long car rides. When that headache kicks in after a few hours of driving you’ll wish you planned differently. Have a water bottle handy at all times. Drinking water is also a good way to keep yourself alert while on the road.
Bring a Paper Map
While we live in a digital era, never head on a cross-country trip without a physical paper map. While cell phones are awesome for navigating, researching areas, and routes, they also rely on battery power and signal, which are two things that you can’t guarantee you’ll have. Bring a proper map with you, just in case. It’s also worth bringing a sharpie pen to draw out the route.
Buy a Gas Card
As you’re going to be stopping for a lot of gas along the way, buy a gas card. It can help you earn points and save money.
Whether you’re into CDs or have a playlist on Spotify downloaded, make sure you’ve got plenty of music for your trip. Bring more than you think you’ll need so you don’t get sick of some of your favorites songs or artists.
Bring a Spare Car Key
Always bring a spare car key with you — just in case you lose one.
Stock Up on Snacks
What road trip is complete without car snacks? Be sure to stock up on snacks. If you’ve got a long drive between destinations it’s nice to snack on one of your favorite foods to break things up and it will provide an energy boost.
Put the Workout Plan on Timeout
Sitting in a chair all day and eating fast food is not what your body needs. Hitting the gym or going for a run after a day of driving will keep you on track and maybe even shake off the daze that comes with staring at the road all day. The beauty of cross-country travel is that you’ll pass through beautiful areas of wilderness. Why not pull over for 30 minutes and explore some of the stunning natural scenery on foot. It will be nice to stretch your legs!
Get Adventurous with the Food Choices
Sometimes you can hit the jackpot and stop at a food joint in the middle of nowhere that serves up excellent cuisine. Other times, you won’t be so lucky and you might get sick, or just feel really unsatisfied. Having a bad stomach while on the road is definitely not ideal, especially if you’re a long way from a bathroom. If you’re in a restaurant in a remote area, stick to plain food that you know, and don’t be too adventurous with your food choice!
Rearrange Your Luggage at Every Stop
When you’re pulling up to a hotel, it’s tempting to bring all your luggage in with you. One of the best parts about having a car while on vacation is that you can leave stuff in the boot and walk into a hotel as if you’re traveling light. Have a separate bag with the things you need in the hotel. You can just nip back out to the car to bring in anything specific if you need to.
While it’s tempting to plan out your whole trip town-by-town, it’s also nice to just ‘see how things go.’ Maybe you’ll pass a beautiful destination and want to stop for the night. It’s nice to have flexibility on a road trip.
If you love the idea of an international road trip, check out the 10 best road trip destinations in the world!