The United States is an amazing and expansive country, and that makes it the perfect place for a long road trip. It has a lot to offer, because a few hundred miles can mean the difference between a big city, the wide open plains and a mountain range. Better yet, the different parts of the country are home to many different cultures and local traditions — things you can’t always experience if you don’t get out there and see them for yourself.
Don’t Stress About Sticking to Your Plan
Plans are essential. You need to know where you’re going and a general time frame for when you’ll be there. That being said, you don’t have to set your itinerary in stone. Instead, leave a few hours (or even add in an extra day) to your schedule for spontaneous adventures, because not every must-see thing will be printed on a map or highlighted on your phone. For example, you may see a sign for an amazing national monument you didn’t know existed, or directions to an incredible hike you know you’d regret not going on. Or if you’ve planned to spend one day scouting a state park, for example, you may find out that they rent boats, and you decide to spend a couple days on the water instead.
Keep Driving Laws in Mind
As you venture out on your trip, you may find that you’re traveling through states with driving laws you are unfamiliar with, which can spell big trouble — trouble that you don’t want while you’re on the road. As you plan out your trip, review the state driving laws for each border you’ll cross so you stay in the know (and don’t have to worry about getting a ticket). For example, if you’re cruising through (or to) California, this is an excellent resource for reviewing traffic laws in that state. As a driver on the road, you’re responsible knowing the laws before you hit a single highway, so make that a crucial part of your plan.
Get to Know the Locals
Sure, you’re familiar with Olive Garden, or have a hankering for a quick bite of Burger King, but if you’re really wanting to mingle with the people who actually live where you’re visiting, look for a local restaurant. Ask around for recommendations — at a gas station, your hotel’s front desk or a parked police car — to find out what’s the best bit of local flavor. Up for a drink? Visit a local watering hole. You can find out so much more from a local than you can in your handy-dandy guidebook, such as the best places to catch a fish or what parts of town you should avoid.
Keep Your Safety in Mind
Even if you have open-ended plans, make sure that someone back home has a general idea of where you’ll be and when, and if you have a cell phone, keep them updated on any changes to your schedule. It’s also very important to let someone know where you’ll be on a daily basis if you’re going in an area without cell service, or even if you think you might be. This will help them find you if you need to be reached for an emergency back home, and can also help them be aware of your movements if you lose your way. Also make sure that you stay alert and aware while traveling, and keep your phone tucked away and out of temptation’s reach.