We have spent countless hours on the road in our lives, both separately and together, as children and adults and as drivers and passengers. Long journeys by car or bus are something we have come to love and look forward to and recently we had the opportunity to do the road-trip of a lifetime – Southern California, Joshua Tree National Park and part of Route 66! As seasoned travelers we had no apprehension about undertaking this journey, just excited about getting behind the wheel, meeting new people and seeing stunning landscapes unfolding before our eyes. Road trips like this do however require some preparation and knowledge to enjoy them to the full, and neglecting vital details before rushing out on the road can quickly turn a dream trip into a nightmare.
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We’ve compiled some of our experiences and tips to not only survive but get the most out of your road trip in the USA. Check out below tips:
1.Travel in style and comfort
Whether traveling as a couple, a family or a group of friends, why not try traveling by camper van. This allows you to move at your own pace, on a small budget and often gives you access to experiences those in motels and hotels often aren’t exposed to like waking up in the middle of the desert to a gorgeous sunrise or BBQ’s under the stars! Your vehicle is your home so if your journey takes longer than expected, you break-down mid-way, or you simply want to enjoy a spot a little longer you can set up camp wherever you like. On our recent journey in the , we loved the communal atmosphere of sharing car parks, lay-byes or campsites with other road-trippers and met a lot of new friends eager to swap stories and tips on where to head next. The camping lifestyle always brings back childhood memories for me, where the smallest things like tea or coffee prepared on the portable gas stove offer great comfort! Once you’ve survived most of your journey, you’ll have saved plenty of money to splash out on a final night in a luxury hotel if you’re craving some well-deserved home comforts, but we doubt you’ll want to! Be sure to pack some essential supplies to cook up simple meals although we relied mostly on the classic diners along the way.
2. Stay connected with a portable wifi
If like us your job requires you to be constantly connected to social media or you want to use the time to catch up on some emails or work online, don’t risk expensive data roaming charges or loss of connection while working on the road. Generally we buy a local SIM card in every new country we go to but of course, this only covers one phone, and unless it offers unlimited data it doesn’t always cover what we need.
For our recent road trip to Las Vegas and Joshua Tree National Park, we registered in advance with , a company that provides a personal, portable wireless router which connects to local networks or 3G as you move. We received a small device that shows the network name and password and two batteries each providing 5 hours battery life when fully charged. This may not sound like much, but for its intended use between other points of available Wi-Fi, 5 hours is plenty. You can always recharge them directly from your laptop if an extra burst is needed. For us, this was extremely helpful while on the road, as you can connect five devices at once meaning both our smartphones and laptops could be used all at once!
We did find that like any wireless or 3G connection, in very rural areas this can become weak while searching but you just have to save work regularly as always. Another tip to conserve the battery life and retain connection speed is to close all unnecessary apps.
If you are relying on working on the move and being continuously connected, then the option to buy the TEP device may be your best bet, where you pay only $9.95 per day for unlimited internet. This is the option we chose – called Frequent Traveller – and we only pay for single days when we know we need it. If you only need portable WiFi for a one-off trip, then consider the option of renting the TEP, which costs $9.95 per day for unlimited internet, but remember that you do not own the TEP device or accessories.
The connection reaches devices within 15 meters, and only you have the login details so you can rest assured the connection is completely safe, we won’t hesitate to use this again in the future for staying anywhere remote or without available wifi like the beach or long waits in airports and bus or train stations. If you don’t want to buy it, you can rent it!
3. Choose a cool road trip buddy
Whatever the length of your USA road trip you are likely to be spending several hours a day in very close proximity to whoever you share that journey with and an easy-going approach will help you sustain a good relationship. Make sure you know in advance if only one person will be doing all the driving but if not, agree to do driving shifts, ideally swapping every four hours on long stretches, as well as being flexible with your itinerary if you come across unexpected places of interest along the way. Those little surprises are what road trips are all about! As children, we used to spend hours and hours squashed up next to each other in cars driving the length of England on a regular basis, and so we learned that a good sense of humor and patience go a long way.
Boring as they may sound, everyone secretly loves travel games which can always be relied on to pass the time or turn a seemingly dull landscape into a challenging competition between kids, or adults! You can check out some online travel games on sites like the . You can also use this time to discover new things you never knew about each other or if you don’t share the same taste in music take it in turns to be DJ and you may discover something new that you like. Alternatively, local radio stations often provide a fascinating insight into an area and its people. Finally, while traveling in a car can be a very relaxing experience, try not to fall asleep! You will miss out on seeing the scenery of each place as it passes by and the driver will either get lonely and bored or might even do the same, both options best avoided by staying awake and keeping them entertained.
4. Precaution versus spontaneity
Anyone setting off on a USA road trip has the romantic vision of driving off into the sunset down Route 66, carefree and relaxed leaving behind all the worries of a normal life even if just for a few days. While of course, this is a realistic dream you still need to take sensible precautions and do a little bit of preparation before hitting the road, starting with checking your car or campervan. As you would on any long drive do all the necessary checks to ensure you won’t have any nasty surprises along the way and remember to pack a tool kit, spare tire, water, oil, and fuel. While you may only have a rough itinerary of where you are heading and if you, like us, plan to use a you shouldn’t rely on this entirely for navigation. While flexibility and spontaneity are all part of the experience, it’s worthwhile making a rough plan beforehand knowing where your important gas stops will be, with a list of those on other routes in case plans change, pack an old-fashioned route map in case technology fails and of course breakdown cover if the worst happens and you need to be towed somewhere. Be realistic when it comes to packing, life is always simpler when packing light and also saves on fuel consumption so go for practicality rather than style, you can always give your clothes a quick wash if you stop over at a motel or campsite! With less space used up in clothes, you can spread out, put your feet up and enjoy the ride.
5. Make friends on the road
Once all the practical things are taken care of, and you’re on your way you may even spot hitchhikers. We would always lean on the sensitive side having been hitchhikers ourselves many a time in many a country, and it is, of course, all part of the classic road-trip experience. I would never recommend picking up a hitchhiker if you’re driving alone for any distance in a country you don’t know very well but on a road trip like ours, if your judgement, instinct, and knowledge of the area tells you it’s safe then go for it, you may make a great new friend! Our trip was defined by the characters we met along the way from those in roadside diners and fuel stations, fellow campers and particularly those living in remote, isolated communities like the Salton Sea near Joshua Tree National Park.
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