If you follow us on Twitter, then you know that I recently went on an incredible 2 week roadtrip through the South. The entire experience was amazing, so much so I’d even go so far as to say everyone should do at least one road trip in their lifetime. It’s such a thrilling and enlightening experience to see different parts of the country, or even the world for the more ambitious traveler. As someone who had hardly ventured passed the confines of the northeast her entire life, save for a few trips to Cali, being in the South with a culture shock in the best of ways.
In addition to having the time of my life, I also learned quite a bit about road trips in general and how to do them the right way. Whether a road trip is imminent or just a fleeting fantasy, something you’d like to try or something you’d like to do again, I think you’ll find some value in my findings.
The constant packing, unpacking, and re-packing routine is, frankly put, a pain in the ass. Save yourself the hassle and keep it light and try to avoid bringing any of your coveted favorites along for the ride. Packing for a road trip is tough and it can be tempting to bring outfits for every single type of scenario, but this is a trap! Rather than shoving the entire contents of your wardrobe into your suitcase, be strategic and selective.
Limit your dresses, maybe just a few for day and some for night (you can’t really make new outfits out of a dress), and go heavier on the separates- shorts, tanks, skirts, cardigans, etc- which will provide way more ensemble options. Accessories are a great way to mix it up but do NOT bring any of your coveted pieces or anything expensive. Try to stick to one handbag, maybe 2 TOPS (a small one that can be worn for day or night and a bigger one for when you need to lug around a bunch of stuff).
The hardest park of the road trip packing process is the shoes- it’s tempting to bring a bunch but don’t- they take up too much room and they’re unnecessary. For warm-weather road trips, pack flip-flops and maybe 1-2 pairs of sandals in neutral shades that match with everything and can go from day-to-night. If you’re going somewhere cold, cap it at a pair of versatile boots and maybe a pair of ballet flats or cute sneakers.
And remember- motels and hostels almost always have laundry rooms, so you don’t have to worry about running out of clothes or re-wearing something dirty and gross.
Hit Up the Hostels
I honestly didn’t know that hostels existed in the US before this trip but alas, they do and they’re awesome (well some are at least). Hostels are a great way to meet all sorts of interesting people (and save some money!). You’ll usually find a lot of fellow road-trippers staying at the hostels who can offer valuable tips on where to go and what to do based on their experiences. You’re not exactly gonna find four star accommodations at hostels (a lot of them offer private rooms though!), and it can be a bit much to constantly be surrounded by people so you may want to alternate between hostels and motels (which is what we did), to regroup and refresh.
Also, a lot of the good hostels book up fast and require reservations so don’t expect to just wing it like you could in Europe. Also, research the hostels in advance- investigate what area they’re in (some are in pretty seedy neighborhoods), what the accommodations are like, what the staff is like, what kinds of people you’ll find there, and so on.
Make Time for Days Off
Road trips can be exhausting. Time is limited and you want to see as much as you can while you’re in a given place and then you’re back on the road and then in a new city with more things to do and places to see. Suffice to say it’s easy to burnout fast. Try to make time for a few mellow days in between all the touring, site-seeing, and bar-hopping- maybe a day at the beach, or even just a day to sleep in rather than forcing yourself to do and see more more more.
Embrace your Tourist Status
Being a tourist is nothing to be ashamed of, and for the most part, people love out-of-towners (save for New York maybe). Talk to random people, ask them where to go and what to do- it’s so much better to get first-hand suggestions from the locals. And don’t be shy- if you’re roaming the streets at night looking for a fun bar and happen to spot a group of people, preferably cute guys but either way- tell them you’re from out of town are are looking for a fun place for live music/cheap drinks/good dancing/whatever you’re i the mood for and ask if they have any suggestions. All bets are off when you’re out of town, you’re never gonna see these people again so just go for it!
Do Your Homework!
Road trips need to be the perfect balance of pre-planning and winging it. You don’t want to map out your entire trip to the T because, well that’s lame and not that fun, but you also don’t wanna be wandering around like a lost duck. Before you hit the road, make sure you have an idea of where you wanna go. Find out the best sites, attractions, and tours (and do research to make sure they’re worth it). Look into the best restaurants, bars, cafes and jot them down. If you have friends who have been to the places you’re going, or better yet, are from there, ask for their suggestions!
Also, try to find out what the public transportation system is like in advance and how close or far the places you’re going are from the place you’re staying (road trips are replete with non-stop travel, so eliminate any unnecessary travel time whenever possible!)
Map It Out (And Don’t Blindly Trust the Navigation System)
Now this is a major lesson I learned on my road-trip. Navigation systems are great and they’ll get you where you wanna go, it may mean going 5 hours out of the way but they will get you there eventually. Save yourself the time (and gas money) by mapping out the best route from point A to point B in advance! If you detour from the path your nav gives you, it’ll just re-route, so don’t worry about ending up on the opposite side of the country than you intended!
There you have it. These are the perils of wisdom I acquired and will be abiding by before my next road trip. Have you even been on an RT? What did you learn? Talk to us in comments!
– SABRINA ALEXIS