This is my second cross country road trip in the last six months, so I’ve learned a few things along the way. Here are some tips you need to know if you’re taking a 4-5 Day cross country road trip. I’ve driving both the Northern and Southern route at this point. I think I prefer the northern route to be honest, it felt a lot more relaxed. I went East Coast to West Coast both times, but all tips are just as applicable the other way around.
Do Not Forget Your Hygiene/Know What Makes YOU Comfortable
I write blogs and make videos about beauty, you think I’d remember to bring my skincare routine on the road, but I didn’t. I remember picking up my little bottle of toner and thinking, I’ll be fine. I was not fine. I forgot to pack my face wash as well, and I’m telling you that nothing makes you feel worse than having a dirty face especially when you have oily skin. I didn’t shower for three days and that didn’t bother me an ounce as much as not properly washing my face with a face wash that my skin liked. I was using bar soap to wash my face and bar soap is my least favorite way to wash anything never mind my face. I’ve hated using bar soap my entire life, my mom probably thought I was so bougie. As I’m writing this, days later, my skin is not happy. I’m in the process of getting it back to normal because this trip did damage. That was the thing that stuck with me the most about this trip, not washing my face made me so uncomfortable, but my boyfriend could care less about not having a clean face. So know what makes YOU comfortable because it will make for a much more enjoyable trip.
You Can Sleep in Walmart Parking Lots Overnight
Not every single Walmart allows this, but you can tell if the Walmart you’re driving by allows it because you will see RVs parked in the far corners of the parking lot. This is an easy way to know you’re safe to sleep in your car if you are too far from the next rest stop. Here’s a full list of Walmart store that allow overnight parking.
Save Money Anywhere You Can
My boyfriend and I realized it was national coffee day the day we left the east coast. We capitalized hard on this by finding every chain across the country that was doing promotions. We got four free coffees along the way by texting in free coupon codes and using the website coupons. I didn’t even want the last coffee, but I was too deep in to not get another one. Another thing, if you plan to book a hotel, try to find one with continental breakfast to save some extra cash and just go crazy. It’s definitely not the best breakfast, I’m not even going to say it’s good because it isn’t, but it does the job.
I can tell you right now, we were not watching what we ate. The shittiest food is the cheapest so we knew this week would not be one our bodies would appreciate. So if you’re not into this kind of living you should pack your car with things that will fill you up and satistfy all your cravings. I always suggest keeping a four pack of your favorite energy drinks in the car (pretty much always, this isn’t exclusive to road trips) for those times when you actually feel like you might fall asleep. We also brought caffeine pills just in case because we’re extra.
Make Sure You Know The Speed Limit
When you’ve been driving for 10 hours straight you feel kind of weird like you start asking yourself if you can still feel your foot? Your knee hurts from not bending it, your back if stiff, you constantly need to stretch and you sometimes realized you’ve been on the same highway looking at the same stretch of land for 5 hours straight and you’re going 90mph apparently. I’ve been there. My boyfriend got a ticket in Iowa for this reason. Speed limits change so quickly. Yes, you could have passed 50 signs that said the speed limit in the last few hours, but sometimes they change in increments of 5 or 10 and you don’t realize it until you’re pulled over on the side of the highway in Iowa and given a $115 ticket. Waze has a great feature that shows the speed limit at all times and how fast you’re going right next to it. I always made sure to keep an eye on it. Only problem with Waze is you can’t put in a destination more than 1000 miles away so you need to pick cities along the way and update as you go which can get annoying.
*Counter-tip: Make sure your car is up to date on everything and ready to cross the country. Take your car to the mechanic before you leave to make sure it can make it without breaking down, but also make sure all the paperwork is in order. Normally in MA if you get pulled over they don’t ask you for your car insurance, but in Iowa the state cop asked for license, registration and car insurance right away. I was just very thankful that everything was up to date and I don’t even want to think about if my car had been towed in Iowa.
Always Keep Your Gas Above Half a Tank
This might be pretty obvious to a lot of people, but it’s super important. We had two scares were we thought we might run out of gas before making it to the next rest stop. When you’re going through the middle of the country where there are long stretches, on I-80 and I-70 for example, you may not see a rest stop with a gas station for 70+ miles. Depending on how good your car is on gas that could be cutting it pretty close. This time around going through Nebraska and Wyoming I realized how far and few between gas stations there were. Just keep it above half a tank, trust me.
Music Gets Real Old Real Fast
You can only pump yourself for the ride with music for the first few hours and then you’re over it. Most of the drive we listened to podcasts. I recommend My Brother, My Brother and Me, How Did This Get Made?, Sawbones, Serial, Lore, and Not Too Deep. Podcasts are great because a lot of the episodes are an hour long which means if you have a 10hr shift you can fly through it by binge-listening to podcasts. It also feels like you’re part of the conversation so I feel like it helped me stay awake, like someone was talking to me the entire time. One of my driving shifts started at 1am and I drove until about 7am through the pitch black night of nowhere Nebraska and intro Wyoming while my boyfriend tried to sleep and even though I wasn’t talking I felt wide awake laughing along to the conversations of the podcasts. Shoutout to MBMBaM for making sure I stayed alive.
Take More Pictures/Videos Than You Think is Necessary
I have a couple disposable cameras that I haven’t gotten developed yet from our first road trip back in May. I highly suggest bringing disposable cameras. I’m still excited to see the pictures. I didn’t record a lot of video or take a lot of pictures on my phone though I realized. I tried to make up for it this time. Try and find a balance between enjoying the moment in the moment and saving the moment for later. Be in the moment completely if you’re watching an amazing sunset. Oklahoma has some of the best sunsets I’ve ever seen. Take a picture, maybe a quick Snapchat or Instagram video, but I can guarantee you it will not come through on camera as just how amazing it is. So just take it in.
I would also say to make the person your driving with become your blogging buddy. Matt is still a iffy about making vlogs with me, I can’t say much because I’m not the best at it either, but try and get different points of view.
Stop Once If You Can
Our first road trip we couldn’t stop because we were on a deadline to meet with the property manager of our new California apartment and I had to start work two days after we got there. We also were too broke. I’ve realized through all my struggles in the last few months that life is what is it. I’m not going to regret that I never got to stop at all the places I wanted to during my road trip because my life isn’t over and I’ll have time to do it in the future. I will say though if you can stop once even if it’s only for a few minutes to watch a sunset, to enjoy a flight at a brewery, to lay in the grass in the middle of the country… do it. We laid in grass in Missouri during our first trip, stopped at a wonderful brewery in Sedona, Arizona called Oak Creek Brewery, the owner walked up to us and had a quick conversation and it was so great. This time around we stopped the night in Park City, Utah to catch up with one of Matt’s college roommate and had a hell of a good time hanging out with the locals. Stop anywhere you can if you can afford it.
Don’t Push Yourself Too Hard
My record-driving shift from my last cross-country trip is almost 12hrs for a single shift and I will beat that eventually. This time around my first shift only lasted 6- 6 ½ hrs before I started seeing things. I swore I saw a goblin from the movie Labyrinth on the side of the road and that’s when I knew I needed to take a nap. It was much more safe to pull over than try to convince myself that I was okay to drive. You may not need to sleep for hours, a 30 minutes nap could make all the difference and it did for me. I was able to drive another 4hrs after a 30-minute nap. Listen to your body, and keep you and your co-pilot safe.
A lot of driving across country is taking it as it comes. There might be a road closure, you may not be able to drive as long as you think, you may be the kind of person that has to pee at every single rest stop, but that’s the fun of it. Make sure you drive with someone you love, someone who you could be around even when you haven’t showered in three days and who can tolerate you at 2am when you’ve got the crazies energy.