In the last few years, I’ve done quite a bit of travel, particularly through the USA. In both 2013 and 2014 myself and three friends (two the same both times, one different) travelled for about two weeks at a time through the USA. These are not your run of the mill “oh lets drive between two states!” road trips. No, we cover thousands of miles, multiple states and we don’t stop much. If you really want to immerse yourself in local culture, I don’t really recommend this as a trip, however, if you want to see a little bit of everything in a short period of time, do it up! Here’s a few tips I’ve picked up through my travels, some are more cliched than others!
1. Pee when you can
You might laugh at that one, but believe me it’s not overrated. When you’re on a back road in the middle of Virginia and you didn’t pee at the last gas station because you “didn’t need to” you’ll regret not taking this advice. When anyone in your group wants to stop, hit up the nearest bathroom, no matter how sketchy it is, your body will thank you.
2. Choose good travel companions
It’s no good to travel with people who are not roughly on the same page as you are. If your buddy is into 5 star hotels, while you prefer a low budget motel, common sense should tell you it’s probably not going to end well. When we travel, we tend to go the mid-range route. Lots of Holiday Inns, Best Westerns, Hampton Inns, etc. Not exactly high end but very clean, comfortable and budget friendly.
3. The route untravelled is sometimes the best route
The big, popular attractions are popular with good reason, they’re generally informative and fun but they are exactly what I just stated – popular. I’ve stood on top of the CN tower, I’ve toured stadiums, went to hockey games, etc. But some of the best nights I’ve had on the road are the ones you have to look hard to find. We spend a night last year in the middle of the Mississippi Delta, at the Tallahatchie Flats in Greenwood. They are little repurposed servant cottages and they are just spectacular. Sitting out on the little deck that night, listening to old blues music and taking in the sounds of the wildlife, was one of the best nights I’ve had, period.
4. Pack wisely
Even when we’ve rented an SUV to contain all our gear, it’s still a tight squeeze for four people plus luggage. I’m guilty of being a horrible,horrible over-packer, but as long as you stay respectful of space, it’s okay (ie. don’t take 2 carry ons, one huge bag and a backpack, do your best to stay confined).
5. Plan, but don’t over plan
When we road trip, we always know where we will be staying each night. There’s a bit of comfort in knowing that your hotel is secure, you don’t have to worry about things being booked up or ending up in a shady part of time. That being said, it’s not very fun to have things planned down to the minute either. For instance, when we were in Dallas last summer, we knew we wanted to visit the state fair and that’s about it. It takes some of the fun away to have every detail planned, sometimes you can find fun things when you show up. For example we once discovered a chain restaurant from our province had a franchise in Williamsburg, Virginia, it was so random and weird that we HAD to eat there.
6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Being somewhat shy myself, I find this a had ‘rule’ to adhere to. However, my pal Shane, does not. Having someone with you who doesn’t mind talking to a stranger and asking how to get to a particular place is a great asset to have. And, you know what? You’ll find that most people are very, very nice and will go out of their way to help you. Despite what stereotypes may be out there, I’ve particularly found Americans to always be very sweet and kind, and willing to help out a poor lost Canadian (like the time when we had to embarrassingly ask “excuse me, is this the White House?”)
7. Embrace your local atmosphere
If you in Georgia, order up some sweet tea in a restaurant, if your in New Orleans, yes, or the beignets. It might sound cliched, but places are experts on things for a reason!
I love the thrill of discovering new places and trying new things, and I highly encourage all of you to try a road trip at least once. Now that I’ve started, all I want to do is explore the open roads. It’s looking like my next trip will be jaunt through Nevada and California early in 2016 and I already can’t wait.