Everybody loves a good road-trip! Clay and I have had the pleasure of four cross-country road trips to date, and there is still so much more of the country to see. Working seasonally (April – October) at Wet Planet Whitewater in the Pacific Northwest both required and allowed us to make the journey westward each spring season and the return trip home each fall. I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to explore the country on wheels, and to thoroughly fine-tune and refine my road-tripping skills during each journey. With four cross-country road trips under our belt – I can confidently say that we have it dialed! Whether you are hitting the road with your significant other, your best buds, or even solo – here are some tips and tricks to make it the best road trip yet!
Encompass a wide-range of accommodation
While road-tripping (especially on longer road-trips), make sure to mix it up! Keep the journey interesting by combining camping, bunking with friends, and staying in hotel rooms.
Camping is a fun, adventurous, and low-cost way to spend your evenings as you road-trip towards your destination. If you’re looking for an all-encompassing campsite (fees included) those are easily found. The more challenging camping to find – the kind that Clay and I prefer – is the free, legal land to camp on. This is when the Bureau of Land Management website comes in handy, as this agency administers millions of acres of public land in the US. Go to the website freecampsites.net and find the nearest free campsite! BLM land has provided us with awesome camp sites. This source was especially helpful on a visit to Zion National Park when we found all of the campsites within the park to be reserved. Not twenty minutes outside the park was a quiet, private, and free place to camp, complete with stunning views of the nighttime sky. Occasionally, camping on free, BLM land can be less quiet but lead to great stories, like that time Clay and I woke up to the sound of mooing cows only to find ourselves in the middle of a cow pasture. We were lucky to not lay out our sleeping bags on cow pies in the dark!
If you have friends dispersed across the country – let them know you’ll be passing through! Depending on how much they like you (and this is a great indicator :P), they may offer you a place to stay and show you around their neck of the woods! Even if you need to find your own sleeping accommodations, friends are the best go-to for recommendations on things to do and good eats. If they’re your friends, you’re likely to have similar tastes – they won’t steer you wrong! (Hey Durango friends – thanks for always being so hospitable. We can’t wait to come back for a visit!)
In my experience, a nice bed and hot shower are most appealing after several nights of camping and being on the road! My go-to tool for booking hotel rooms is hotwire.com. With this website, you’re bound to get a deal, and I’ve never been disappointed! The most memorable time that Clay and I have used Hotwire was on a last-minute stop-over in the city of Las Vegas. After about a week on the road at that point, visiting Crater Lake, Merced, Yosemite, and Death Valley, we were eager for a hot meal and shower. A night on the town in Vegas was a bonus! That following morning, we enjoyed lounging by the roof-top pool and a continental breakfast. Before we knew it we were rested and refreshed – ready to hit the road once again!
Utilize your Smart Phone in all of it’s Glory
There are a couple of must-have aps that make for a most successful road trip. Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives is a fun and often delicious way to choose restaurants along the way. Before a road trip, I like to both upload new music to my iPhone and refresh my podcasts. Podcasts are another road trip essential, as they entertain, educate, and help to keep the driver alert! A few of my favorites to listen to are Radiolab, Freakanomics, Ted Talks, and Planet Money. Download the podcasts that you want for the trip prior to hittin’ the road to prevent burning through that precious data. Update your music library simultaneously, as Pandora is a data eating machine!
Always keep snacks on Deck to keep the cost Low
Road trips often tend to be more expensive than we imagine them being. With gas here, Starbucks there, and another Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives pit-stop, expenses add up quickly. Clay and I always keep snacks and PB&J ingredients on hand. Oatmeal packets or instant oats are an inexpensive and easy breakfast on the road.
– Keep extra water in the car to use to refill your water bottles and in case of emergency
– Always have TP on hand. In this sense, BLM land does not provide!
– Camping doesn’t have to be extravagant. Often when Clay and I camp on BLM land to grab some zzz’s, we throw out sleeping pads and bags. No tent needed!