I recently had the opportunity to go on my first real road trip. This is something I had always talked about with high school friends, and when the opportunity presented itself, I said yes! Road trips can be a mix of emotions: excitement, exhaustion, bliss, etc. After a 40-hour drive from Atlanta, Georgia to Los Angeles, California, I am ready to share my tips and tricks for surviving long road trips. If you are prepping yourself for an upcoming ride, whether it be in the United States or not, make sure to follow my rules to have the best time possible!
1. Download funny audiobooks
When driving long distances, it can be easy to start to feel drowsy, especially on stretches without much to look at. My friend and I found (through trial and error) that funny audiobooks are the best way to keep yourself entertained and awake to drive safely. We started the drive by listening to historical podcasts, however, although these are interesting, the narrator’s voice is typically more monotone and less entertaining.
My recommendation for a great audiobook? Bossy Pants by Tina Fey. This audiobook is guaranteed to make you laugh out loud. When you try an Audible 30-day trial, you can even get the audiobook for free!
Sidenote: It’s important to make sure that you bring along a cable to hook up your phone to the car stereo system.
2. Make sure to get out of the car at each stop
Even if you are stopping for five minutes to get gas, get out of the car and stretch! Hours in the car without much movement can lead to some serious back pain. Keep yourself moving, even if it’s only for a little while. In addition, photo ops can be a great opportunity for a short stop.
3. Don’t book your hotels ahead of time
I’m extremely type A, so believe me, I don’t usually recommend procrastinating. Nonetheless, in the case of road trips, you never know where you’re going to end up each day. In fact, the unknown is kind of the fun part. It’s hard to predict exactly how many hours you’ll be okay to drive each day. Instead of reserving your hotels before leaving, book them the day of using Hotwire. My friend and I were able to save some serious cash by waiting for last-minute deals.
4. Research fun places to eat along the way
For days when you don’t have an exciting stop planned (the Grand Canyon, White Sands National Monument, etc.), it’s important to still be looking forward to something. I loved using Yelp to find quirky restaurants in the towns that we passed through. This was particularly useful on our first day when we tackled the 12-hour drive from Atlanta, Georgia to Dallas, Texas. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Dallas has a charming area with food trucks! It seems like such a small thing, but choosing exciting locations for food can really help keep spirits up on days without much of a panorama.
5. Be open to adding in last-minute stops
Once again, ignore your type A instincts. If you see a road sign for an exciting stop along the drive, take it! Some of my favourite stops of the trip were the impromptu ones. In line with this advice, make sure that you always leave some buffer room (if you can). This way, you’ll have time for these unplanned adventures.
What are your travel tips for surviving long road trips?
Great tips! And super useful too – I’m actually heading off on a US road trip on Monday, so I will definitely be using this advice. We’ve actually booked some things in advance, because there were things that we knew we didn’t want to miss. And I do love to have an itinerary for a road trip – though I fully expect that itinerary to go out of the window once we actually get driving!
We’re driving up the west coast, from LA to Vancouver – any suggestions of any favourites…?
These are great tips. I hadn’t heard of Hotwire before. Must check it out! Thanks!
Before I had the means to travel, this was my ultimate dream – going on some serious roadtrips (big thanks to road tripping flicks from the 90’s!). But when I started to hike and camp, I had completely forgotten about this. Maybe it’s about time to condition my car again! 🙂 Thanks for the reminder though. 🙂
I love adding last minute additions to the journey… Heading down a road because it looks interesting has led me to some great discoveries and adventures! Great tips!
Great tips! Most of the fun of a road trip is the spontaneity of it. I love finding the random family-owned restaurant in a small town.
Wonderful tips! I’ve had to make multiple 12+ hour trips and one from Tampa to San Diego. After a while you really learn what’s important in life ?. So clever! I’ve never thought about comedy audiobooks- putting a comedian on Pandora works as well. Another recommendation is the app Waze, which lets you communicate with other drives regarding road and traffic conditions. Glad you survived ?
Road tripping is my favourite!
Take real maps with you, or buy them as you go. GPS’s are not always going to work. My favourite is the Back Road Atlas of ____. I picked up the Back Road Atlas of Ontario for my trip around Lake Huron. These maps have every single road on them. If it’s not on the map, it’s not a real road! (Story on that later)
Get off the beaten path! Take that map book and find the scenic route, rather than the fastest route by highway. Find some tiny little town with an interesting name and check it out. Follow that road named Bunny Trail, it’ll be awesome, trust me!
Take a cooler full of drinks and snacks. Pick up sandwich fixings at a grocery store and have a picnic at a random location.
Make sure your vehicle is in good shape before you leave. Take it to a trusted mechanic at least a couple of weeks before hand and tell them you’re going on a road trip. They can check everything out and make sure you’re safe to go. Break downs happen, but a well maintained vehicle will be more reliable. Keep your gas tank filled if you’re heading into a remote area. Know how to change a flat tire!! If you don’t know how, learn.
Listen to the local radio, check out a towns tourist information, or ask the locals if there’s anything special happening in the area. While the girls and I were on a camping/road trip to Kentucky, we were listening to the radio as we drove through the Louisville area. The state fair was on and they were talking about the free concerts that were going on at the fair. One of our absolute favourite bands was playing the next night! We instantly decided that we were going to that concert. The best part of that trip was going to the fair and that concert that night. And we ate deep fried Kool-aid, and all got sugar highs for the drive back to the campground.
Back roads: While on my trip around Lake Huron, I decided to tour around St. Josephs island. I found one road that looked interesting, so I took it. Soon the GPS had no idea where I was, it just showed me driving through a blank space. I checked my back roads atlas and it that the road ended at a swamp. But I was on some sort of road, so I kept driving. It was really remote, just a single lane gravel path with swamp and forest on either side. The only life I saw was a big porcupine wandering down the road in front of me. Eventually I got to the end of the “road” and discovered that I had been driving on an OFSC snowmobiling trail!
Don’t wait for a “reason” to go on a road trip. Pack a bag and go!