These are a few examples of general roadtrippin' questions we've been asked. We can also address specific locations and topics. We've got seasoned experts on just about every aspect of road tripping -- from traveling with puppies and looking for wildflowers to driving Route 66 and following rock bands.
Why do people enjoy road trips so much? Why do they seem so quintessentially all-American?
Americans have been in love with road trips ever since cars came on the scene, but we think the passion for adventure goes back even farther. Lewis and Clark epitomize the same yen for exploration, and so do all those intrepid pioneers who followed the Oregon Trail. While road trips are a Yankee tradition, we'e not the only ones who dream of taking “the great American road trip.” Whether they dream of getting kicks on Route 66, cruising California’s Highway 1, moseying along the Blue Ridge Parkway, or motoring the length of the Al-Can, road trippers from around the globe find the call of America’s highways and byways hard to resist.
Do I need to make motel reservations on my road trip for my next road trip?
To answer this question, travelers must assess how much risk they feel comfortable with. For many people, the thought of not knowing where they’re going to spend the night or even how far they’ll drive is frightening and consequently not much fun or very relaxing. For those who are going to spend all day fretting about where they’ll be sleeping , reservations are pretty important. On the other hand, for people who are willing to let the road, the weather, or even their mood determine a destination, a reservation-free trip can be full of adventure and fun. Sure, creativity -- or a willingness to sleep in a car -- may be necessary on occasion if a town is unexpectedly “full.” On the other hand, if a last-minute, unplanned arrival can sometimes mean getting a wonderful room at a huge discount.
Are there areas where lodging is scarce and advance planning is recommended?
Areas around seasonal resorts and the most popular national parks book weeks ahead in the summer months. Most travelers are aware of this and plan accordingly. Something to keep in mind, however, is that it isn't unusual to find all available lodging in small to medium towns in western states like Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana are fully booked mid-week. Local sporting events and children attending regional swim and soccer meets are the reason. Also, if travelers want to stay in boutique B&Bs, historic inns, or destination resorts, it's wise to make reservations.
Are there any issues that can arise when friends take road trips together?
We like to remind travelers that road trips are not amusement park rides – they're the real thing. That means you’ve got to expect the unexpected, which can be a challenge for traveling companions with different personalities and ways of looking at the world. We encourage people to accept traffic snarls, weather delays, and mechanical problems as part of the roadtrip experience. In fact, we’ve found that unexpected detours and incidents can even turn out to be the most memorable parts of a trip. It helps if traveling companions understand and respect each other’s traveling styles and priorities. We’ve developed a “road trip compatibility quiz” to help friends anticipate the kinds of issues that can cause friction while traveling and sharing motel rooms. We also have tips for couples and families.
What do you think are some of the biggest mistakes people make in their road trip planning?
The single biggest problem we see over and over again is trying to drive too much in a day. A close second is trying to see too many attractions on a trip. We generally suggest that no one attempt to drive more than 500 miles in a day, unless they are experienced and have one or more co-drivers. A 500-mile road trip will take about ten hours with reasonable stops for fuel, weather delays and rest stops. For a leisurely pace that allows plenty of time for sightseeing and cooling off in the motel pool, we recommend no more than 150 or 200 miles a day. If you’ve got the luxury of time to mosey, our advice is to make the most of it by slowing down.
Do you have any recommendations for caravanning?
Yes! Shift the passengers around among the various vehicles on different days. Use FRS walkie-talkie radios, or CB radios to stay in touch. When arranging a trip with a group, advance planning is a must. With groups, hotel reservations are vital, as is a good advance discussion about the trip’s purpose, style, and goals. While one person – or two who know each other well – might be able to hop in the car and start driving, the “free spirit” approach rarely works for a group.
What are some tips for saving money on the road?
A good cooler is easily the best way to cut down on food costs on a road trip. If you limit your restaurant meals to one a day, you can cut your food costs dramatically. By stocking your cooler with fresh fruit, veggies, and protein, you can eat a healthier diet, too. Many motels offer “free breakfast” these days—take perks like these into consideration when choosing your lodging. Here are some road-tested recipes for eating well on the highway.
Easily the most effective way to save on lodging is to stay with friends and family along your way. If no friends or family live along your route, see if any clubs you belong to offer overnight hospitality among members. From alumni organizations to churches, lodges, and social clubs, many groups offer networking opportunities that might not only save you money but also introduce you to new friends. For the truly adventurous, there’s CouchSurfing.org.
Camping is the next-cheapest lodging option on road trips. While developed campgrounds, both private and public, charge fees for camping, you can also find free or nearly free campsites in many places. Of course, you must figure in the cost of camping gear.
Hostels are another inexpensive lodging option and especially good for solo travelers. Hostels often have communal kitchens, so you can save on food expenses, too.
When working on your next trip budget, the RTA Fuel Cost Calculator can be a help. Unlike other calculators on the Web, you can put in your own car’s mileage -- which probably differs from the EPA standards. You can get results by entering either miles per gallon or liters per 100 kilometers.
Do you have any tips for winter road trips?
We have dozens of tips and suggestions for safe winter travel, but the top five are:
1. Let the other guy merge, and allow extra room for trucks. Yield, even if the other guy is supposed to. Remember that it doesn’t matter who’s “right.” All that matters is who gets home alive.
2. Use a firm but light touch on the controls. Practice “active relaxation” as you drive in challenging conditions – stretch out your fingers while driving, and allow your hands to relax.
3. Stop frequently. Do the “Chicken Dance” on the side of the road if you have to! Stretch and move. It will be entertaining to those around you (and you’ll never see them again, anyway!) and help reduce tension and sharpen attention.
4. Use the "tortoise" style of driving. Pick a lane, stay in it, and slow down a little. Learn about skid recovery techniques and practice in a safe spot before having to do it for real on an icy road.
5. Pack a "Go Kit" with safety essentials, including extra clothing and food. We have dozens more tips for what to include in a Go Kit on RoadTripAmerica.com
Have you got some tips for solo road trippers?
Safety is an obvious concern for many solo travelers. It’s often helpful to remember that everywhere you’ll go is someone’s home town. If you use the same common sense approach you use in your own home town, and just turn up the sensitivity dial a bit, you’ll be fine. Other tips: keep the gas tank nearly full, keep your cell phone charged up, and carry water and some snack food. If you stop someplace and you feel strange or unsafe in any way, keep going -- there’s always some place else to stay. Place a written itinerary in your vehicle's glove box along with a list of “in case of emergency” telephone numbers. This can make a huge difference if your car is found by law enforcement and you are not in it. Ensure that someone knows where you expect to drive each day of your trip. Put an ICE, ("In Case of Emergency") listing in your cell phone address book. Enter contact information and notes, in case you are unable to speak following an accident or other road incident – this is one kind of “texting” that has been known to save lives. More solo trip tips are online here.