1. Get off of the Interstate
Almost all of the United States looks the same from the highway. Invest in a great atlas and, whenever possible, route yourself off of the Interstate and onto U.S. Highways or Scenic Byways (marked by blue lines on the map). County roads almost never fail to disappoint. When you take these lesser-travelled roads you get a taste of the area of the country you are travelling in, including some of the local culture and cuisine.
2. Give yourself time to stop at roadside attractions
The U.S. is famous for its’ quirky roadside attractions, like the World’s Largest Brick (Alabama), the World’s Largest Jack-in-the-Box (Connecticut), and the World’s Biggest Beagle (Idaho). Although visiting the World’s Largest Ball of Twine (Kansas) might seem a little silly in the moment, we promise that the memory will stick with you long after you’ve returned home and unpacked your bags (also, think of the pictures).
3. Keep healthy snacks within arm’s reach
If you resort to fast food stops and gas station snacks to fuel you on a road trip you will come home feeling terrible and probably a little heavier than when you started. Keep healthy snacks like dried and fresh fruit, nuts and water in the car with you at all times and turn to them when your stomach starts to grumble. Stock up at local grocery stores and skip the fast food and gas station junk altogether.
4. Carry cash for tolls
There’s a good chance you’ll hit toll roads on your road trip, especially if you are travelling in the eastern part of the United States. Many toll roads don’t allow you to pay in anything other than cash (not even credit cards). If you don’t have cash you’ll have to jump through hoops to receive and pay a bill within ten days—not too feasible if you’ve come from out of the country. Carry cash in the glove box of your vehicle to pay the tolls.
5. If you’re camping on your road trip remember these golden rules:
A) The best way to find state, county and regional camping is to look at an atlas (look for the tent symbol). Once you’ve found a park in the area where you want to go, give them a call or look them up online to see if they’ve got any spots available.
B) If you’re driving an RV private campgrounds are great, but if you’re tent camping you’ll likely feel like you’re sleeping in a mobile home park instead of the great outdoors. Private campgrounds can also be expensive. The upside is that they almost always have a laundry room, warm showers and even free Wi-Fi.
C) If you’re tent camping, state and regional parks are usually the way to go. These parks are often quite affordable and offer great amenities such as warm showers and electricity. However, most campsites must be reserved in advance, so make sure that there is space available before you make the trip.
6. If you’re staying in hotels during your road trip, follow these rules:
A) Sign up for a hotel rewards program, either through a booking site like hotels.com or through the hotel directly. Depending on the length of your road trip, a rewards’ program like hotels.com will probably give you the best bang for your buck—every tenth stay booked through their system is free.
B) Pick up coupons for local hotels and restaurants at each state’s visitor’s centre, usually located just over the state line. These free “magazines” are filled with regional discounts.
C) Make your dollar stretch by making sure that your hotel has free Wi-Fi and a free continental breakfast each morning. While attending the free breakfast make sure to eat your fill and tuck a few pieces of fruit into your bag for later. Hey, you paid $70+ for that “free” meal!