At this point, most of us have probably seen plenty of articles about how to plan the “Best Road Trip Ever”. We've all fantasized about following those lines on the map, and might be getting especially restless now that summer is (say it ain't so!) in its last month. While personally I hate driving most of the time, driving for the sake of pleasure and adventure makes me feel giddy — just the idea of a road trip spurs excitement and a sense of possibility.
Road trips have always been appealing to those of us who dream about leaving our responsibilities in the rear view mirror and going toward more exciting prospects. We think about sticking our feet out the window while someone else drives, exploring different cuisine from cities across the country, and all the great photos we’ll get to take.
So last week, when I moved from Southern California to New York City, I decided to take the plunge. Even though it would’ve been a more time-efficient choice to have flown, I made the decision to drive instead. I hit the road with my boyfriend, Dane, and my dog, Milo. We did the trip in a quick five days — and loved every minute of it. It was not only an amazing trip, it was also informative; I learned a few important things about how to have a successful (and fun!) road trip along the way. Here are my top seven tips.
1. Wear a (dry) swimsuit as underwear.
Depending on your route, of course, you may pass by some beautiful (and tempting!) bodies of water. It’s such a hassle to change out of your clothes and into a swimsuit at a rest stop, so why not skip a step and put your suit on first thing in the morning? I learned this the hard way when we stopped to jump in the Colorado River. I had to change in the front seat of our rental car, and I’m pretty sure a stranger saw my butt. Never again!
2. Bring plenty of cash for the toll roads.
I paid about $65 to drive across the country, just in toll fees. After the first three, I started to call them “troll booths” because I began to feel like I was the butt of some sort of cosmic joke. I hadn’t factored the tolls into my budget, which was a bit of a mistake. Before you leave, look at your route and try to assess how many booths you’ll pass through so you have some idea of how much to include in your trip budget, and pull some cash out before you leave to avoid extraneous ATM fees along the way.
3. Camp or stay with friends whenever possible.
My road trip was for a purpose — to head out toward a new life chapter. Because of this, I wanted to find a balance between having fun and saving money. It turned out that those things were not mutually exclusive! I plotted out the route and then immediately booked campsites along the way. We also stayed with a friend one night and got a reasonably priced hotel the last night, in which I gave my dog a bath — (sorry, Red Roof Inn, Toledo)! Breaking up the cost of hotels with camping was fun and cost-efficient, and it was a good idea to sleep in a bed the last night and arrive to our destination well-rested.
4. Download your podcasts ahead of time.
No matter where you’re going, you may hit some areas with no service. We had the foresight to have some podcast episodes and music downloaded on our phones, rather than relying on streaming content. Our favorite podcast to listen to this trip was The Ethicist; though we didn’t always agree with the answers they gave to some of the dilemmas people asked about, each episode sparked great conversation and made the miles fly by.
5. Bring a dog. Duh.
Part of the reason why we drove was because we needed to get my dog, Milo, across the country, and the idea of flying him in a crate made me nervous. He loved the drive, and the trip was so much more fun with him around. He especially loved camping, and would vigilantly stare out the window panels of the tent each morning to make sure no squirrel or rabbit passed by unseen. I highly recommend traveling with a pup, as long as the dog does well in the car and you are willing to stop and hike around every so often to keep them healthy and happy.
6. You need less clothes — but more socks — than you think.
Confession: I am a chronic over-packer. I bring way too many clothes on any trip I take, even if it’s just overnight, because I always think, “Maybe, just maybe, I’ll need to wear this printed jumpsuit while hiking somewhere in Utah.” I am always wrong, and each day I end up in my trusty cut-offs and a t-shirt.
My advice to you is this: bring less clothes than you think you’ll need, and bring more socks than you think you’ll need. If you’re going to be hiking around and jumping in rivers (and why wouldn’t you?!) your feet are going to end up dirty, and it’s possible you’ll go through more than a pair a day. Bonus tip: pack your things in Ikea bags, so that everything is accessible and you don’t get expensive luggage dirty. Extra bonus tip: here are some road trip essentials Vogue has rounded up. I highly recommend the make-up wipes and the dry shampoo.
7. Grocery stores are your friend.
One of the best parts about traveling is exploring food from different places. However, that can get expensive, and I highly recommend being choosy about your food purchases. It can be hard to eat both healthy and cheap food when you don’t have access to a kitchen, but many grocery stores have bulk bins, pre-cut fruit, and salad bars now, so you can grab a cheap snack along the way that you’ll feel good about.
Images: Stocksnap, Giphy