Tips and Tricks for a Perfect Road Trip




Introduction: Tips and Tricks for a Perfect Road Trip

Oh I could go on for days here, but here's a few of my favorites tips & tricks for making a road trip that is the adventure rather than just a road trip that just gets you to a destination.

Step 1: Don't Set the Stops in Stone

Don't set the stops in stone. A couple summers ago, I'm driving through Northern CA on some dirt road when I see a sign for Lava Beds National Monument -- a place I'd never even heard of. If I had made plans for that night, I probably would have passed on by to "keep to the timeline," instead I went cave exploring and found a motel down the road for the night. With apps like HotelsTonight and Priceline, you can find a place to stay pretty much as you pull into a city.

Step 2: Bring a Sleeping Bag and Perhaps a Tent

To build off my first point, a great road trip is about sights and if you're off the beaten path, being able to pull over in a national forest, cough up $5 and pop a tent for a few hours is a killer option for both budgeting and experiences. Conversely, while little towns can be great to stay in, they can also be dumps... give yourself flexibility, it beats roaches (seriously)!

Step 3: When You Do Make It to Your Destination or a Long Stop, Consider Alternative Accommodations

I don't use AirBnB as often as I should but when I'm going somewhere awesome, I love exploring the properties they, VRBO and similar services have. Hilton is good for work stays, swimming pools and Disneyland but you won't find a $65 / night cabin overlooking a waterfall there.

Step 4: Trucker Stops All the Way

To survive driving all day, you will have stop a few times but where? Pilot and similar truck-driver places tend to be open all night, well lit, fairly safe, heated, have some food option, tons of supplies and lots of (usually clean) restrooms. Beats the heck out of some tiny gas station.

Step 5: Heading Into the Outdoors? Find a Mountain Shop.

Whether it's a local outfitter or REI, mountain shops tend to be staffed by people who play in the outdoors and can tell you where to go and also how to get back safely. Case in point, I was headed to Glacier National Park last month and stopped by Rocky Mountain Outfitters who told me the grizzlies were up... way better to know that in advance than find out on the trail!

Step 6: Traveling With Others? Laptop, Wifi Card, Lock

Driving passes time well, sitting does not. My solve is to plug in, blog about the last adventure or research the next one. When I get there, I have the lock to store the computer safely (and out of sight) in my car or at a coffee shop when I'm solo.

Step 7: Twitter.Instagram.Facebook

While social hasn't filtered down everywhere yet, I've had some great invitations and experiences by connecting up to places along my intended route long before I ever got there. You can even repurpose social meetup / dating apps to connect with local people and avoid the tourist pits.

Step 8: Navigation Screens Beats Phones Once You Leave the City

My car knows where I am at any point and while it may not have Google's updates, I'll take the road direction over no direction. Garmin or a map, always... don't assume you get signal when you leave the main roads.

Step 9: Things to Bring

Febreeze for your car. Twice the chargers your planning on. Single serving laundry detergent packs. A six pack of beer for making new friends. A deck of cards for entertaining said friends. A lot of Advil for when you, and your new friends, have to leave at 6am the next day. A flashlight for when you arrive super late the next night because you didn't leave at 6 or 9 or 11.

And the golden rule: don't pass up the opportunities along the way to explore / try / do something new. Anyone who knows me, knows I have very set ways for most things but when it comes to travel, it's just more fun to see where the road takes you.

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    25 Discussions

    Tips and Tricks for a Perfect Road Trip. Step 1: Do not Set the Stops in Stone. Step 2: Bring a Sleeping Bag and Perhaps a Tent and many more. Thank you for sharing these tips. Your tips are very useful. Do not stop to write on your blog yes. Well, it's a vacation to Bali. Because Bali is one of the islands in Indonesia which has many tourist destinations. If you are vacationing in Bali do not stay at Here we provide various facilities for you and your family.

    My Avatar photo shows my solution to comfortable low cost road trips. Doesn't look like that now I painted it to resemble a covered wagon. Typically it costs me $0 for accommodation most road side rest area will let you park for up to 8 hours and I seldom sleep more than 7. The rig is fitted out pretty well and has what I've learned what I did and didn't need as a result of owning a few other commercially made RV's And this old Blue Bird diesel bus is built like a tank and will certainly outlive me.

    9 replies

    Sweet looking. I've long been a fan of schoolies; they seem so much more practical and reliable than most commercial RV's. Also diesel == better mileage.

    I am a real believer in schoolies. I' sure if you haven't done so already if you start surfing and searching you'll find plenty of 411 on the subject. Of course there will always be a market for manufactured RV's not everyone is able to willing to do a schoolie. Yep diesel is the way to go, just a lot more oomph for your dollar. And I've just seem to many burned out gassers which had too much load on them. Also I get a lot of my miles for more or less free. I got into WVO a long time ago. Even though there isn't as much available as there once was I still manage to find some and even if I have to purchase already filtered WVO it's cheap as hell I rarely pay more than $2.00 gallon. I have an 80 gallon WVO tank all heated and once the engine is warmed up on diesel (10 minutes) I switch to WVO.

    Pardon my ignorance, but what's WVO?

    WVO stands for Waste Vegetable Oil. I run the covered wagon schoolie on it and an old VW Diesel Jetta that still gets 40 MPG. All you really need to do is find a cooperative Chinese restaurant owner.

    Thanks, Oilitright. I pat myself on the back for guessing that 411 means info (as in the bygone telephone years) but confess to being WAY behind the times re WVO, even though I've long thought something constructive could be done with it. Could WVO be used as home heating oil? That would be more appropriate to where I live: 1. in Manhattan no one needs a car [I consider owning one to be borderline criminal here] and 2) we've Ptomaine Wok storefront take-out joints about every 50 feet.

    People do use it in various ways. Google 'waste oil heater'

    This shorter bus would be better on gas than the standard sized school bus. I am a school bus driver and they only get around 6 miles to the gallon. You would save on accommodations, but would be at the gas pump often.

    wow, very nice oilitright! Sweet paint job...always looking for new ideas for schoolies! Never was satisfied with a dark brown it! Got a blog or somewhere with some more pics and highlights? Cheers!

    I never did a blog or anything as I slowly got the bus together. There has been so much written by folks much more imaginative, skilled and literate I never saw much reason to try reinventing the wheel and thumping my chest about it.

    I'd add a roll of TP to that list... call it "cheap insurance" for rest stops that may not be recently maintained. :-)

    On #8 I can't fully agree. Have used Here (previously branded Nokia) Maps for past three years when driving through Europe and around in the UK. No complaints to date on either Windows Phone nor Android platform. One benefit this app has is ability to download maps for offline use and then update those as and when required.

    For those who travel in a Westfalia (or any camping van for that matter), has great travelling information, packing lists, etc. This is a great instructable. Thank you!

    A lot of great tips here. The thing that surprises me though is the emphasis on internet data (social media, etc.), as if mobile data is free when you are not stationary in a free hot-spot. Freely accessing data on the road with your mobile carrier can easily be a $30/day habit (based on $10-$15 GB normal). Am I missing something?

    Nope. Step one is all wrong. My wife and I were doing a lap around Lake Michigan during the Michigan Cherry Festival, and the 4th of July. Normal hotel/motel rooms that shout have cost about $80 a night were about $350+ a night.

    Make sure you're road-tripping during the off peak season where you're driving.

    Other than that, road tripping is the goodies.

    Glad you liked it. Thanks for your tips, will surely consider them for my next trip.