After 8,235 miles on the road over 4+ months, we have a few opinions about how to take a road trip. “How hard can it be?” you ask. We know you thought that all you had to do was point the car in the right direction, turn the volume up on your favorite tunes, get on the highway, put your pedal to the metal, and GO! Well, that is one way to do it, but listen up.
Our travel style veered in a different direction. We tried a different way. We took our time. Explored. Enjoyed. Even with a plan that we thought would work perfectly well, we still made some changes as the trip went along, and we believe that a combination of good planning and flexibility resulted in a stellar trip.
Here are a few tips for anyone contemplating a similar trip. Feel encouraged to add your own by leaving us a comment:
1. Staying in place helps. We made sure not to drive everyday or many days in a row. We added extra days to our schedule to enjoy National Parks and to visit great museums in big cities along our route. For example, stayed in Big Bend National Park for 4 days and in Cedar Key, FL for 5 days, and the museums in Houston and LA made us want to return for more.
2. Remember, you’re not a professional driver. You’re not making money per mile driven. We limited driving time on the days that we drove to less than 3 hours. We slept in, had time to make stops on the way, and arrived at our destination early. No rush hour traffic.
3. “Eat healthy, and eat small portions.” Take advantage of your trip by eating at local cafes to enjoy regional foods. We followed the mantra “eat real food, not too much, mostly plants” when dining out. Generally we ordered one entrée and an extra salad to share. That was enough.
4. Get off the treadmill. Stopping at every tourist attraction along the way is not required. We tried to pace ourselves, did only what we really wanted to do, and made sure we had enough time to kick back and enjoy.
5. Used public libraries. We used them all the way across the country, especially for wifi. (More on this in a follow-up blog.)
6. Get your app on. We consulted Tripadvisor and Yelp for suggestions where to eat. That worked well, though we kind of wish reviewers would say that the dining options are so bad here that you should just skip this town (as this would have been helpful in a few places).
7. We single night stays we booked Microtel Inns & Suites as our budget choice. They were good relative to the price, and some were almost as inexpensive as a few of the places we camped. Their Houston location was a disappointing exception proving that nothing is perfect. We also stayed at a number of La Quinta Hotels and they were terrific – but, alas, pricier. For multi-day stays we turned to AirBnB. Again, it’s not perfect but we stayed at a lot of wonderful places we’d definitely recommend.
8. Enjoy the scenery. We thought we’d listen to audio books whenever we drove but discovered that we were usually happier to observe and enjoy the ride and not be distracted. We did listen as we drove long stretches on interstate highways. Finished two books.
We’re looking forward to our next road trip in the month of July. We will travel up the Pacific Coast to Vancouver Island and then back to Portland, OR. Stay tuned…