Years ago, we bought a small RV and took a trip around the U.S. We were out on the road for almost 6 weeks, and by trial and error learned how to get through the inevitable bumps of road travel.
We Americans love our cars. The automobile is as much a part of the national identity as Don McLean’s American Pie. In fact, in a tongue-in-cheek list of the 100 most American things in America, the pickup truck came in at number five, beaten only by football, George Washington’s horse, Abraham Lincoln’s beard and, of course, apple pie.
To get a taste of the genuine all-American experience, you really need to get out onto its roads. Route 66, Highway 61 and all the rest are the stuff of songs and legends, so now is the time to see them for yourself. Here are some points to keep in mind as you plan your road trip.
Have an itinerary
It sounds like a romantic idea to throw your belongings in the trunk (or the flat bed) and just hit the open road. But when it’s 11PM, and you’re tired and lost, the novelty wears thin. Having a rough plan also helps you budget for your trip. When you are driving aimlessly and stopping wherever you end up, it’s a recipe for costs to spiral out of control.
But don’t be too strict with it
A rough plan should be just that. Don’t overdo it and have things down to a tight schedule, or there will be no opportunity to enjoy yourself. Accept the fact that you will be distracted and want to spend longer in one place, while another that looked great online will turn out to be a disappointment.
Modern cars and trucks are 100 times more reliable than the ones our parents used to tool around in. However, they are not immune to debris on the road that can cause a tire puncture. Check your vehicle has all the necessaries for changing a tire and make sure there is always spare water on board, for both you and the car. If problems do strike, being seen by other road users is vital – there are signs you can order online and have at the ready with your emergency equipment, just to be on the safe side. Also, make sure to map out gas stations! There were countless nail biting times where we were convinced we would run out of fuel in the middle of a desert with no help in sight.
Rent or Own?
If you are going to be a location for an extended period of time (like over a month), it may behoove you to simply buy a beater car to drive around vs. renting a car. At the end of your rental period, you can sell the car with the help of sites like carjunkyardsnearme.com
Remember not to assume
There’s an axiom of life that concerns itself with the topic of assumptions. Let’s just say they are dangerous on a road trip. In the movies, people turn up at half empty motels to book a room for the night all the time. In real life, the motels are less likely to be filled with murderous maniacs, and more likely to be fully booked. Having places to call ahead of time is an important part of that “loose planning” – give them a call mid-afternoon when you know where you will be at nightfall and things will go far easier.
Check out the national parks
America’s National Parks are not to be missed, and each has its own unique character. Early morning and late evening are the best times for avoiding the crowds, and a National Parks Pass is a must-have to save you money and aggravation. It will cost $80, and will pay for itself in no time.