With the onset of COVID-19, road trips are becoming very popular. Whether you’re planning a family car camping trip or an adventurous overlanding journey, there are a few tips that will help you be successful along the way.
1. Plan ahead – In the beginning phase of your planning, give thought to places you want to visit. Once you have an idea of the locations and attractions you would like to see, you can begin planning your route to hit as many of those places as possible. Try not to overfill your itinerary and allow for plenty of time to explore each destination.
2. Do your research – Each state you visit will offer a unique set of experiences and challenges. Research the area you are traveling to and familiarize yourself with the climate, wildlife, and any fire restrictions. Although it may be autumn, if traveling to the everglades is on your agenda, look forward to heat and humidity during most of the year. Learn seasonal weather patterns and conditions where you will be, and take special note of evening temperatures. Other things to be aware of are fire restrictions and wildlife. Be sure to know and follow all the rules for the area you are visiting. Starting a forest fire or having a bear wander into your camp is no fun.
3. Avoid the twin peaks – If possible, avoid National Parks during peak seasons and peak time. Most Americans travel during the summer, so if possible, try to plan your trip during the offseason. Offseason travel will help alleviate some of the issues with overcrowded parks, but also, don’t be afraid to explore National Parks after 4 pm, when most families have left the park to prepare for dinner. Evening exploration will help keep you away from the big crowds and even allow you to capture beautiful sunsets.
4. Allow for some flexibility – Planning is critical when doing a cross-country trip, but it is also important to leave room in your schedule for some flexibility, especially on long driving days. Each state has its unique landscape and beauty, and it’s inevitable that you will want to make some unplanned stops, so allow a little extra time for extra stops.
5. Utilize your network – In the age of social media, we all have those friends that we follow, although we’ve never met in person. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your network and get suggestions on where to visit in an area. Often times the most beautiful and unique places are off the beaten path and only known by the locals.
6. Pack Smart – Often times when we pack, our goal is to simply fit everything in the vehicle, but try to resist doing this and pack things like your chair and camp table in a place that’s easily accessible. There will always be that moment when you pass an epic view that is the perfect location to enjoy dinner. This is the time to pull out your comfy chair and table to set up lunch or just sit back, relax and enjoy the scenery.
7. Get off the interstate – Major interstates are, without a doubt, the easiest way to get from point A to point B, but don’t be afraid to utilize some of the local and scenic highways. On our drive from El Dorado, CA to Salt Lake City, UT, we could have played it easy and taken I-80, but it was so much more adventurous and scenic to be on RT-50, through Nevada on the “Loneliest Road in America.” The extra hour of driving was worth the epic landscapes and quaint towns along the way.
8. Pack morale boosters – It may seem silly, but be sure to pack some of your favorite treats and snacks. A cross-country trip is not the time to be on a strict diet. It never fails. There will be a day when you are super tired, and it seems like nothing is going your way. This is the day that your favorite candy bar that you’ve stashed in the cooler or your favorite cookies in the snack bag will make your day. Whatever it is that puts a smile on your face, gummy bears, pretzels, or soda, pack it for the moments when morale is low.
9. Schedule free days – We all want to see as much as we can, but it is also important to plan free days to allow yourself the opportunity to regroup. Use these days to wash clothes, refill your water and propane, or plan the next leg of your trip in more detail. Not only will you get to complete necessary tasks, but it will also allow a little time for you to embrace your experience and not get burnt out.
10. Beware COVID-conscious – Although cross-country trips are often done as a small group, don’t forget that this is 2020, and COVID-19 is real. Be sure to pack supplies you’ll need to maintain a clean and healthy space (masks, gloves, paper soap, hand sanitizer, water for hand washing, etc.) Be sure to sanitize your hands often and periodically high-touch surfaces like the door handles, steering wheel, and gear shift.
Bonus Tip – Enjoy the journey – Oftentimes, we get so caught up in where we’re going we forget to enjoy the journey. In cross-country travel, most of the experience is tied up in the journey, not the destination, so don’t be afraid to enjoy the moment and alter the plan.