Travel

Planning a Cross-Country Trip This Summer? 21 Tips To Do It RIGHT

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Psychology Today reports that traveling can increase our happiness and provide stress relief. Moreover, it can help enhance our creativity, as taking in new sights can offer us fresh inspiration when we’re feeling stuck, creativity-wise.

In a different article, a resilience expert also shared about how road trips in particular can help bring families closer together. The U.S. is a great place for a cross-country road trip and a massive part of our travel culture.

Whether you’re going on a long road trip by yourself or your loved ones, you can make it the adventure of a lifetime by doing these 21 things:

Visit Iconic Roadside Attractions

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One of the quintessential experiences of a road trip in the United States is stopping at quirky roadside attractions scattered along the highways and byways. From oversized sculptures and historic landmarks to kitschy museums and nostalgic diners, these attractions offer a glimpse into the country’s diverse culture and eccentricities.

Whether you’re posing for a photo with the world’s largest ball of twine or marveling at the architectural oddities of Route 66, exploring these offbeat gems adds an element of fun and nostalgia to your journey. Keep an eye out for roadside signs advertising attractions ahead, and don’t hesitate to take a detour to experience a slice of Americana that you won’t find anywhere else.

Plan, but Leave Room for Spontaneity

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Planning is essential for a successful road trip, but rigid schedules can stifle the sense of adventure. Instead, create a loose itinerary that outlines key destinations and attractions you’d like to see. However, allow for flexibility to deviate from the plan if something intriguing catches your eye along the way. Some of the most memorable experiences often stem from unplanned detours and spontaneous decisions.

By striking a balance between planning and spontaneity, you’ll open yourself up to unexpected adventures and serendipitous encounters that can truly enrich your journey.

Pack Light and Wisely

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Space in your vehicle is limited, so packing efficiently is crucial. Opt for versatile clothing items that can be mixed and matched for various weather conditions and activities.

Prioritize lightweight and compact versions of toiletries and travel essentials to maximize space. Consider the duration of your trip and the availability of laundry facilities when deciding how much to pack. Remember, it’s often better to pack light and purchase items along the way if necessary rather than overburdening your vehicle with unnecessary belongings.

Budget Carefully

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Creating a realistic budget is essential for avoiding financial stress during your road trip. Start by estimating the total cost of fuel based on your planned route and the fuel efficiency of your vehicle. Next, allocate funds for accommodations, meals, activities, and any unforeseen expenses like vehicle maintenance or repairs. Be sure to research average costs in each destination to ensure your budget is accurate.

Consider using budgeting apps or spreadsheets to track your expenses throughout the trip and make adjustments as needed to stay within your means.

Stay Flexible with Accommodations

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While hotels offer convenience and comfort, they can also be expensive, especially during peak travel seasons. Explore alternative accommodation options such as camping, Airbnb rentals, or staying with friends or family along your route. Not only can these alternatives save you money, but they also provide unique experiences and opportunities to connect with locals.

Keep in mind that availability may vary depending on your destination, so it’s wise to have backup options in case your preferred accommodation is fully booked. Embrace the flexibility of your road trip by being open to trying different types of accommodations for a truly memorable experience.

Embrace the Journey, Not Just the Destination

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A cross-country road trip is as much about the journey as it is about reaching your final destination. Instead of focusing solely on ticking off landmarks from your itinerary, take the time to appreciate the beauty of the landscapes you pass through. Allow yourself to be captivated by the changing scenery, from rolling hills and vast plains to towering mountains and coastal vistas.

Take detours to explore charming small towns, quirky roadside attractions, and scenic overlooks that aren’t in guidebooks. By embracing the journey itself, you’ll cultivate a deeper appreciation for the diverse landscapes and cultures that make up the fabric of the country.

Document Your Adventure

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Your road trip memories are precious, so document them in a way that allows you to relive the experience for years to come. Consider keeping a travel journal to jot down your thoughts, feelings, and memorable moments along the way. Take plenty of photos to capture the stunning scenery, quirky roadside attractions, and spontaneous adventures you encounter. If you’re tech-savvy, create a travel blog or social media account to share your journey with friends, family, and fellow travelers.

How ever you choose to document your adventure, make sure to take time to disconnect from screens and fully immerse yourself in the present moment, allowing yourself to create lasting memories that go beyond the digital realm.

Be Mindful of Safety

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Safety should always be a top priority when embarking on a road trip. Before hitting the road, ensure that your vehicle is in good working condition by performing routine maintenance checks. Familiarize yourself with basic car maintenance tasks such as checking fluid levels, inspecting tires, and replacing windshield wipers. Obey traffic laws, wear your seatbelt at all times, and avoid distracted driving behaviors like texting or using your phone while behind the wheel.

Share your itinerary with a trusted friend or family member and check in with them regularly to let them know you’re safe. Research any potential safety concerns along your route, such as weather conditions, road closures, or high-crime areas, and take necessary precautions to mitigate risks.

Connect with Locals

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One of the greatest joys of road-tripping is the opportunity to connect with people from different walks of life. Strike up conversations with locals you encounter along the way, whether it’s the owner of a roadside diner, a fellow hiker on a scenic trail, or a vendor at a farmers’ market. Locals often have valuable insights and recommendations for off-the-beaten-path attractions, hidden gems, and delicious eateries that you won’t find in guidebooks.

Approach these interactions with an open mind and genuine curiosity, and you’ll be rewarded with meaningful connections and memorable experiences that enrich your journey.

Try New Foods

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Food is an integral part of travel, and a road trip offers the perfect opportunity to sample regional cuisines and culinary delights. Step out of your comfort zone and try dishes that are unique to the areas you’re passing through, whether it’s barbecue in the South, seafood on the coast, or comfort food in the heartland. Seek out local eateries, food trucks, and farmers’ markets for authentic flavors and fresh ingredients.

Don’t be afraid to ask locals for recommendations—they’ll likely steer you toward hidden culinary gems that you won’t find in tourist areas. Exploring the culinary landscape of each destination adds a delicious dimension to your road trip experience and creates lasting memories for your taste buds.

Practice Self-Care

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Road trips can be physically and mentally demanding, so it’s important to prioritize self-care along the way. Start each day with a nutritious breakfast to fuel your body for the adventures ahead. Take breaks to stretch your legs, breathe in the fresh air, and soak up the scenery. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day, especially if you’re traveling in hot or dry climates.

Pack healthy snacks like nuts, fruits, and granola bars to keep your energy levels up between meals. Finally, make time for relaxation and downtime to recharge your batteries and prevent burnout during your journey.

Unplug Occasionally

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While technology can enhance your road trip experience in many ways, it’s important to strike a balance and disconnect from screens occasionally. Take breaks from smartphones, tablets, and laptops to fully immerse yourself in the sights, sounds, and sensations of your surroundings. Use these moments of digital detox to engage with nature, connect with your travel companions, or simply enjoy the peace and tranquility of the open road.

Embracing periods of unplugged time allows you to be more present in the moment and to fully appreciate the beauty and wonder of the world around you.

Explore Off the Beaten Path

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While iconic landmarks and tourist attractions are worthy destinations, some of the most memorable experiences on a road trip happen off the beaten path. Venture away from the main highways and explore scenic byways, backcountry roads, and lesser-known towns and villages. You’ll discover hidden treasures like secluded beaches, serene hiking trails, and charming local cafes that aren’t crowded with tourists.

Embrace spontaneity and be open to unexpected detours and discoveries along the way—you never know what hidden gems you might stumble upon. Exploring off the beaten path allows you to forge a deeper connection with the places you visit and to experience the true essence of each destination.

Pack a First-Aid Kit

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Accidents and injuries can happen when you least expect them, so it’s essential to be prepared with a well-stocked first aid kit. Include basic medical supplies such as adhesive bandages, gauze pads, antiseptic wipes, tweezers, and over-the-counter pain relievers. If you or any of your travel companions have specific medical needs, be sure to pack any necessary medications or supplies.

Familiarize yourself with how to use the items in your first aid kit before you hit the road, so you’ll be prepared to handle minor injuries or medical emergencies as they arise. A properly stocked first aid kit can provide peace of mind and ensure that you’re ready to handle unexpected health-related situations during your journey.

Respect Nature and Wildlife

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As you explore the great outdoors on your road trip, it’s important to minimize your impact on the environment and wildlife. Follow Leave No Trace principles by packing out all trash and disposing of it properly in designated bins or waste receptacles. Stay on designated trails to avoid trampling fragile vegetation or disturbing wildlife habitats.

Refrain from feeding wild animals, as it can disrupt their natural behaviors and create dependencies on human food. Take only photographs and leave only footprints to help preserve the natural beauty of the landscapes you’re privileged to experience. By respecting nature and wildlife, you can ensure that future generations will be able to enjoy these pristine environments as well.

Stay Hydrated

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Proper hydration is essential for staying healthy and comfortable during a road trip, especially if you’re traveling in hot or humid climates. Keep a reusable water bottle handy and drink regularly throughout the day, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Dehydration can sneak up on you, leading to symptoms like fatigue, dizziness, and headaches, so it’s important to stay ahead of it by drinking plenty of fluids. If you’re engaging in outdoor activities like hiking or biking, be sure to drink even more water to replenish fluids lost through sweat.

Limit your consumption of caffeinated and alcoholic beverages, as they can contribute to dehydration. By staying hydrated, you’ll feel more alert, energized, and ready to tackle whatever adventures come your way.

Keep Emergency Supplies Handy

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While no one likes to think about emergencies happening during their road trip, it’s essential to be prepared for the unexpected. Pack a roadside emergency kit that includes essential supplies like a flashlight, extra batteries, jumper cables, a multipurpose tool, a tire gauge, and a first aid kit. Additionally, consider carrying items like a spare tire, jack, and tire iron in case you experience a flat tire while on the road.

Keep these emergency supplies easily accessible in your vehicle so you can quickly access them if needed. While you hope you’ll never have to use them, having emergency supplies on hand can provide peace of mind and ensure that you’re prepared to handle unexpected situations safely and effectively.

Take Breaks to Stretch

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Long hours spent sitting in a car can lead to stiffness, discomfort, and fatigue, so it’s important to take regular breaks to stretch your muscles and rejuvenate your body. Schedule rest stops every couple of hours or whenever you start to feel tired or sore. Use these breaks to get out of the car, stretch your legs, and take a short walk to get your blood flowing.

Consider incorporating some simple stretching exercises targeting your neck, shoulders, back, and legs to alleviate tension and improve circulation. Taking breaks to stretch not only helps prevent stiffness and soreness but also allows you to enjoy the journey more fully by allowing you to explore interesting rest areas, scenic viewpoints, and local attractions along the way.

Stay Organized

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Keeping your vehicle organized and clutter-free is essential for maintaining a comfortable and efficient travel environment during your road trip. Pack strategically by grouping similar items and using storage containers or organizers to keep everything in place. Keep frequently used items like snacks, water bottles, maps, and sunglasses within easy reach to minimize distractions while driving.

Take a few minutes each day to tidy up your vehicle and stow away any loose items that could become projectiles in the event of a sudden stop or collision. By staying organized, you’ll reduce stress and frustration, making for a more enjoyable and relaxing road trip experience.

Learn Basic Car Maintenance

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While you don’t need to be a certified mechanic to go on a road trip, having some basic car maintenance skills can save you time, money, and headaches if you encounter vehicle problems along the way. Familiarize yourself with tasks like checking fluid levels, inspecting tires for wear and damage, and changing a flat tire. Invest in a basic toolkit that includes essentials like a tire iron, jack, jumper cables, and a flashlight.

Consider taking a basic car maintenance course or watching online tutorials to brush up on your skills before you hit the road. Being able to troubleshoot and address minor vehicle issues yourself can help keep your road trip on track and minimize downtime spent waiting for roadside assistance.

Reflect and Reconnect

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Road trips offer a unique opportunity to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and reconnect with yourself, your travel companions, and the world around you. Take advantage of the solitude of the open road to reflect on your goals, dreams, and priorities. Use the time spent driving to engage in meaningful conversations with your companions, sharing stories and laughter, and deepening your bonds.

Take breaks to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of your surroundings, whether it’s watching a sunrise over the mountains or stargazing under a blanket of stars. Use your road trip as a time for personal growth, introspection, and rejuvenation, allowing yourself to return home feeling refreshed, inspired, and more connected to the world around you.

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