Over the last year, road trips have become very popular. Whether you’re planning a family car camping trip or an adventurous overlanding journey, here are a few tips to help you be successful along the way.
In the beginning phase of your planning, give thought to places you want to visit. Once you have an idea of the attractions you would like to visit, you can plan your route to hit as many of those places as possible. Try not to overfill your itinerary, and allow for plenty of time to explore each destination.
Each state you visit will offer a unique set of experiences and challenges. Research the area you are traveling to and familiarize yourself with the local climate, wildlife, and any fire restrictions. Although it may be fall, if traveling to the Everglades is on your agenda, look forward to heat and humidity during most of the year. Learn the seasonal weather patterns and conditions where you will be, and take special note of evening temperatures.
Be sure to know and follow all the rules for the area you are visiting – starting a forest fire or having a bear wander into your camp is no fun.
Avoid national parks during peak seasons and times. Most Americans travel during the summer, so if possible, try to plan your trip during the off-season. Off-season travel helps to alleviate some of the issues with over-crowded parks.
Also, don’t be afraid to explore national parks after 4 PM, when most families have left the park to prepare for dinner. Evening exploration will help keep you away from the big crowds and even allow you to capture the beautiful sunsets.
Planning is critical when embarking on a cross-country trip – but it’s also important to leave room in your schedule for some flexibility, especially on long driving days. Each state has its unique landscapes and beauty and it’s inevitable that you will want to make some unplanned stops, so allow a little extra time for exploring.
In the age of social media, we all have those friends that we follow on Instagram and Facebook, although we’ve never met them in person. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your network and get suggestions on where to visit in an area. Oftentimes, the most beautiful and unique places are off the beaten path and only known by the locals.
Typically when we pack our goal is to simply fit everything in the vehicle, but try to resist doing this and pack things like your chairs and camp table in a place that’s easily accessible. There will always be that moment when you pass an epic view that is the perfect location to enjoy dinner. This is the time to set up your folding camping table and prepare a quick meal. Or simply pull out a comfy camp chair and just sit back, relax, and enjoy the scenery.
Major interstates are, without a doubt, the easiest way to get from point A to point B, but don’t be afraid to utilize some of the local and scenic highways. Driving from El Dorado, CA to Salt Lake City, UT, the obvious route is I-80, but it is way more adventurous and scenic to be on RT-50 through Nevada, known as the “Loneliest Road in America.” The extra hour of driving is worth the epic landscapes and quaint towns along the way.
It may seem silly, but be sure to pack some of your favorite treats and snacks. A cross-country trip is not the time to be on a strict diet! It never fails: there will be a day when you are super tired and it seems like nothing is going your way. This is when having your favorite candy bar stashed in the cooler or your favorite cookies in the snack bag will make your day. Whatever it is that puts a smile on your face – gummy bears, pretzels, or soda – pack it for the moments when morale is low.
We all want to see as much as we can, but it is also important to plan free days to allow yourself the opportunity to regroup. Use these days to wash clothes, refill your water and propane, or to plan the next leg of your trip in more detail. Not only will you get to complete necessary tasks, but it will also allow a little time for you to embrace your experience and avoid getting burnt out.
While our country is taking steps to get back to some kind of normalcy, every state, or even every store, may have policies that vary from each other. Please be kind and accepting of whatever the policy may be, and do what you need to in order to feel safe. Pack supplies you’ll need to maintain a clean and healthy space (masks, soap, hand sanitizer, water for hand washing, etc.) and everyone will stay happy and healthy!
We often get so caught up in where we’re going, we forget to enjoy the journey. In cross-country travel, most of the experience is tied up in the journey, not the destination, so don’t be afraid to enjoy the moment and alter the plan.