A few people have suggested that we write about our adventures in a book. Well…. the agents haven’t exactly knocking down our door. So I will offer a few tips here.
1. If you are planning on doing a road trip just do it. There will never be the perfect time. The perfect places to visit are limitless.
2. We started with a giant road map on the wall. We each put post-its to label the places we wanted to go. I used Wikki-stix (bendable wax sticks available at toy stores. They bend, stick, unstick and restick) and laid out the route. We did lots of playing around with it. At one point Alex arranged the stixs so we were going to Mexico. We settled on the best route that connected the places we wanted to go.
3. Once we laid out our route we did more research to find other places along the route we wanted to visit. Our two major guides were 1,000 Places to see Before you Die, USA and Road Trip USA were our two major resources.
4. If you aren’t a AAA member it is a good idea to become one before you go on a trip like this.
*They have offices all over the country. You can call any of them for information about the local area, tickets, places to stay. Every time we called they were amazingly helpful.
*Once you have your route planned call them for Trip Tiks and guide books (camping guides too!). GPS doesn’t work everywhere and I found the Trip Tik usually had the better route. The guidebooks are updated yearly so information is current. The AAA gems really are gems, we were never disappointed. When you are done with the guidebook you can pass it on to another traveler, recycle it or use to help start a fire.
*If your tire falls off in the middle of the desert they will be there and get you to a reliable garage. Phew!
5. Plan your budget. Figure out your mileage to estimate fuel costs. Estimate cost of car maintenance. Tally up costs for attractions. Figure campgrounds run from $15-35 a night. Budget for hotel upgrades. Estimate cost of groceries and meal allowance. Plan a souvenir budget. Any other possible expenditures. Okay got all that??? Now double it and that should cover the cost of your trip.
6. Traveler’s Checks…don’t bother most places don’t take them anymore. We relied on cash back at Wal-Mart and other chains for cash. Most places take credit cards.
7. If you are planning to go to National Parks the National Park Yearly pass is a great deal. $80 gets you into all the parks. Some of the parks have entrance fees of $20-25.
8. Bring a lap top. I don’t know how I did it without one the last time.. you know back in the day before internet and cell phones. There is free wi-fi everywhere. We were able to check email, update our blog and research ahead to our next destination. We also used ours to watch movies.
9. Packing…we brought enough clothing for a week. We each had our own duffel bag (I highly suggest squishable luggage for packing. In addition, we had an empty duffel for dirty laundry (laundry bags fell apart), we kept the soap and quarters in the zippered pockets.
10. Make a pile of everything you plan to bring and then get rid of half of it. Forget about things you might use…you won’t. Good intentions like workbooks, board games, musical instruments (I dragged an electric guitar and a ukulele across the country that were barely played), nice clothes will just take up space. We brought basic camping equipment. Don’t forget to leave room for souvenirs!
11. We each had our own mesh bag for toiletries. It was big enough to carry clothes and towel too. The handles made it ease to hang on hooks.
12. If we were to do this trip again I would get an e-reader. We brought a bag of 25 books that we finished the first week and they took up a lot of space.
13. Have a plan for music…Cds, Ipod, you will go for miles and miles with no radio signal at all or worse…country music. Although I started to take a liking to some of it. Especially the one about the guy and his tractor.
14. Reservations…hmm…tough one. We didn’t really have any. I didn’t know how long it would take to get from place to place and I didn’t want to be tied down to a strict plan. The only time we had reservations and set dates was when we picked Jim up in Utah and dropped him off in Arizona. It can be tough at the National Parks but we lucked out or kept driving. People make reservations over a year in advance in some places. Usually you can squeeze in at National Forests sites that are near the parks. I tried to call a day or two ahead when we were about to arrive somewhere and that worked pretty well.
At this point I should mention the notebook people. I saw these people at different stops along the way. These people had notebooks on the dashboard of their vehicles. From my observations it appeared they had their Google maps, itinerary, tickets and reservations all neatly organized into plastic sleeves in a three-ring notebook. These were the people who would confidently walk up to the desk at campgrounds with their confirmation numbers and specific requests about their campsites. I on the other would slink up with my fingers crossed, hope for the best and take whatever patch of land I was offered. I am not sure what these people do if their car breaks down or they decide to stop and watch a sunset. That might put them off schedule. The go with the flow method worked well for us.
So…here you have it… a few helpful tips to get you on the road. One more thing…if you go on a trip write a blog…we want to read about your adventures.