I hope you enjoyed reading about my road trip from New Jersey to New Mexico and back. If you missed any posts, click here to view them all.
I often get questions on how I planned my trip, how I found things to do, etc. so I’m going to try to explain some of that here. I’m by no means a travel expert, so keep that in mind while reading below and enjoy!
1. Pick a final destination
One of the most important things to remember for a road trip is that unexpected things will come up. You never know when the weather will be bad or if you’ll hit traffic. With that in mind, we looked at a map, figured out how far we could make it and back in a week and picked some major cities that were on the way. Google Maps & even old-fashioned atlases were very helpful.
2. Find things to do along the way
Each time we found a city we thought we’d be interested in visiting, we would Google things to do in that city and see if anything interested us. If it did, we wrote it down on a list that we took with us on our road trip. For each item on our list, we also included its address, hours of operation, and admission fee. When we got close to a city, we would talk in the car about what we had time to do there. We knew what cities we needed to be close to by the end of each day, so that helped us choose what we had time to do.
In case we ran into an area where our GPS couldn’t get signal, we also printed directions. Tip: If you have an AAA membership, you can request maps for free on their website. We had one for each state/region we planned to visit. This came in handy when we were driving through the middle of nowhere Texas and didn’t have cellphone service.
Don’t book your hotels until you’re on the road to add some flexibility to your trip! We would figure out what city we would be closest to at night and I would use the Expedia app on my cellphone to look up hotels. If you use Expedia, sign up for its free rewards program! By the end of my trip, I had enough points for a $10 off coupon! Tip: Stay a few miles outside of any city to save money and look for hotels with continental breakfast!
5. Bathroom Breaks
I downloaded the iExit app for my iPhone and would highly recommend it! One of my pet peeves while traveling is when you get off at an exit and have to drive 5 miles just to get to a gas station. This app tells you everything that’s at the next few exits. It shows a map with distances from where you’re at so you can find a convenient place to stop. It saved us a lot of time and frustration! Tip: Every time you stop for a bathroom break or to check out a site, get gas. That way you don’t have to make an inconvenient stop just to get gas.
6. Gas Stations
We learned that some gas stations have different types of gas available. Here are a few tips:
* If you’re used to getting “regular” gas, which is numbered 87 and the pump only has 86 or 88, always go up. I asked my mechanic about this and even though 86 to 87 isn’t a big difference, it’s better to go up.
* Some states have “pure” gas vs. gas with ethanol in it. The “pure” gas is more expensive, so keep an eye on the pumps and make sure you know what you’re paying for!
We packed a cooler to keep bottles of water cold and would fill it up with ice from the hotel ice machine. We also packed plenty of snacks and made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to eat in the car for at least one meal. We would usually stop for dinner and eat the sandwiches for lunch. This saved us both time and money. Tip: Yelp! is a good source for restaurant reviews.
I learned a very valuable lesson on my road trip and that’s to look at the weather for the places you’ll be driving through several days ahead. You don’t want to get stuck in a HUGE ice storm like we did!
9. Bored riding in the car?
If you’re afraid you’ll get bored riding in the car, here are some tips:
* Alternate who’s driving. We would switch each time we stopped or at least every 3 hours. We’d also rotate seats in the car so no one person got stuck navigating the whole time.
* Take a nap! We made the backseat as comfy as possible for naps. This was necessary for us to rest up before taking a turn driving late at night!
* Play the “license plate” game!! You just keep track of all the different state license plates you see and try to get all 50 states. We ended up a few short, but got some from Canada, Mexico and one from Europe (not sure where that car came from!). We did find Alaska, which I was pretty pumped about!
We didn’t hit a single toll once we got past I-95 around Baltimore, MD! This really surprised me, but I would suggest having some cash on hand in case you do run into tolls!
If you have any questions about my trip or how I planned it, feel free to ask!