I’ve taken 7 major road trips in my lifetime, spanning from 2011 to 2021, and I have learned many lessons along the way. Three were cross-country, from Indiana to California/Arizona, and the other four also encompassed a multidate of states (one was 16 states total) and stops. Now, I’d like to share those lessons with you! Whether you agree or disagree with my “5 rules of road trips”, that’s ok! These are simply the things I have personally learned along the way and now adhere to in my road trip travels.
So, without further ado, here are 5 important lessons I learned from my time on the open road:
- Rule #1: Don’t be cheap on the hotels. It’s enticing, because – if you think like I did – you’re only sleeping there, right??? Why would you need a fancy, schmancy hotel room for one single night, in which you’ll probably spend 15 hours, max? Well, cheap hotels are exactly that – CHEAP. You will get what you pay for.
- Rule #2: If you think one, full day is enough time to see any major U.S. city – it’s not. Any large city like N.Y.C., Philly, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas, Miami (even cities like Phoenix or Myrtle Beach), will all require a minimum of 3 full days. The people, the traffic, the lines to the attractions – causes everything to take forever. If you do only have one, full day, prioritize the 3 main things you want to see/do and stick to that. If you have extra time to see/do other things, great!
- Rule #3: Never drive more than 8 hours a day. After 8 hours, everyone in the car gets a bit crabby and cramped, especially when driving through traffic congestion or areas with tons of construction – of which highways tend to have a lot. 8 hours is usually the limit for many people.
- Rule #4: Don’t try to cram a bunch of things into one day, no matter how minor or un-time consuming they may appear. You may think, “Oh, we’re gonna be driving and can stop whenever we want, for however long we want, why not plan all these things?” Well, because, you will not, without a doubt, get to even half of those things and someone in your car is going to drive away disappointed. Guaranteed. It’s best to plan a select number of big stops/things, *and if you have time*, do the other little things.
- Rule #5: Don’t pre-book your hotel. The last rule is strictly for road trips – if you’re flying or taking a train, you should book your hotel in advance. This is probably the most controversial rule on the list, and even I have mixed feelings about it. There are two types of people, pre-bookers and non-pre-bookers, and both will swear they are correct. I used to be an avid pre-booker (there are advantages); however, after some of the things I experienced during my road trips, my mind is changed. You should pre-book for larger cities, like N.Y.C., but other than that, if it’s not a busy time of year such as on or around a holiday, you should be fine booking your hotel the day of, or the day before. This is because during road trips, PLANS CHANGE, and they change fast. Having that ever-looming cloud over your head that you already booked and paid for a hotel in some city 8+ hours away, when you’ve gotten a late start, there is a ton of traffic, you’re having car trouble, too many bathroom breaks, the stops you’ve made are taking longer than you thought they would (the list goes on and on)… is NOT a good feeling. If you do insist on pre-booking, you can pay an extra fee (usually $20+) to be allowed to cancel the reservation; however, most hotels won’t let you cancel past the 24-hour mark anyway (some are 48-hours), so keep that in mind. A LOT can change in 24 hours on a road trip.
I hope these rules help anyone have the best road trip experience they can have! Safe travels, everyone!
P.s. Please enjoy my “Roads of America” tour down below!!