If you were to ask your friends for a list of things they want to accomplish in life, chances are some would say, “go on a cross-country road trip.” It’s a common entry on bucket lists, and for good reason. Cross-country road tripping, like skydiving, makes a person sound instantly cooler. You know what I’m talking about – “That one time, on my cross-country road trip….”
Well, my friend Aline is one of those cool people. She packed her bags, hopped in a car and drove more than 2,000 miles from Cincinnati to L.A. Here’s some of the valuable lessons she learned along the way:
Top 10 Tips for the Cross-Country Traveler:
- Make sure you can tolerate who you’re in the car with. There is nothing worse then being stuck in the middle of the desert, in a tiny car, with no escape route. Make sure that the person you’ll be traveling with for hours on end, is someone you can tolerate. Trust me.
- Map out your trip around landmarks and be aware of their hours of operation. You want to know what’s the worst feeling? Going four hours out of your way only to realize the Four Corners is closed, it’s 1 a.m., and you still have a three hour drive ahead of you. Please don’t let this happen to you.
- Give yourself enough time to enjoy the sights. If you want to make the most out of a cross country trip, give yourself plenty of time to make stops and really experience the country. An 11 a.m. start time for a 12 hour drive day? It’s a waste of a day. “The early bird gets the worm” phrase applies to road trips.
- Come up with car rules before you hit the road. You might assume that car etiquette is commonly known. Although, you know what they say when you assume? Exactly. Establish the rules before the trip begins to avoid unnecessary conflicts. For example, let the driver pick the music. This is America after all.
- Route 66 does still exist, so follow it! There is nothing cooler than driving through a deserted town. What’s even cooler is having the opportunity to take a picture in front of the historic Route 66 sign. Plus, (after days and numerous hours spent in a car) the end of the trail leads you to a gorgeous view of the Pacific Ocean at Santa Monica Pier!
- If you are about to lose it and go off on the person you are traveling with, wait until you get to civilization. There is nothing worse then getting into an argument in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the night, with no escape. Wait until you get to the hotel where there is at least a bathroom you can hide in until things settle down.
- After a couple of days of eating crappy food, you will crave fresh food. For me, it was fruit. Don’t worry, I was able to find a gas station with fresh grapes in New Mexico. But, just in case you don’t have that luck, pack a cooler with some healthy eats. You won’t regret it.
- Sunscreen is your best friend. You won’t believe it, but after sitting in a car for 12 hours, with the windows up, driving through the desert, without a cloud in the sky, you will find that yes, you still managed to get a sun burn.
- Selfies will become your best friend. Even if you’ve sworn you’d never jump on the selfie bandwagon, you will succumb to the pop culture phenomenon. I now have a selfie in front of the Grand Canyon that I will cherish forever. In all of its tilted, terribly-angled glory.
- Last but not least, do not forget to live in the moment. It’s too easy to focus on the destination. It is after all, the finish line of your trip. However, I encourage you to try and live in the moment. There’s nothing better than the peacefulness of the open road. It’s truly a once-in-a-lifetime, beautiful experience!
And one last tip, for good measure – Whether you’re planning a four hour drive or a 24 hour drive, be sure to check out Roadtrippers. They’re a super cool Cincinnati start-up (with national recognition). Their site and app allow to you search along a route to find hip restaurants, attractions and other noteworthy destinations.
Have you been on a cross-country road trip before? What are some of your tips?