21 Things I Have Learned Road-Tripping Across The Country

Photo by Jack Anstey on Unsplash

I might not have a lot of places scratched off my traveler's list, and I still have never left the country. I am well aware that I am no pro when it comes to the ends and outs of traveling. It doesn't help either that my fear of airplanes has halted a few trips throughout the years either. What I do have some experience at is taking a car all across the United States. Since I was a kid, our car transported us to gorgeous states and scenery all over.

While these memories don't necessarily hold a lot of love in my heart, the places we saw definitely do. I kept this love for the open road throughout the years and now have gone on several road trips with my boyfriend and mother to create new and amazing memories. I have seen a lot, ate myself into a coma, laughed uncontrollably, and felt genuinely sleep deprived. If you have never taken a road trip, I highly suggest you do! I have a great read here for anyone wanting a good starting point.


Throughout all these road trips I have picked up a lot of tips and tricks along the way. Through trial and error, I feel like we have become more knowledgeable about what to bring and what to do when on the road. It is a great experience, but it can become challenging if you do not know what you are doing. Do not worry though! I made enough mess ups in my travels to share, so you don't do the same. These are the 21 things I have learned road-tripping across the country.


  1. You need a GPS in your life
    • I don't care if this is your phone, a program installed in your car system, or an actual GPS you buy but you need one. If you are using your phone, I would highly suggest getting something to hold your phone close to the steering wheel so you can glance at it while driving. This little tool has saved our heinie more times than I would like to admit.
  2. Keep a cooler with snacks and drinks
    • Driving somewhere can add up financially if you need to stop regularly to fuel up on beverages and snacks. While you still are going to take a break for gas and the occasional real meal it is a great idea to have backups in your car. This will not only save you time but it helps keep you energized while driving. Calories=energy. 
  3. Have a pal if you can
    • Going it alone is spectacular, but a partner has a lot of benefits. For one, driving can be tiring, and it helps to have someone to pass the torch off to. It also makes the time go by a little bit faster. This is a great time to bond with a loved one and share in the fantastic journey that you are embarking on.
  4. Learn when to say no
    • I once drove for 13 hours straight to get back home. By the end of it, I saw purple fields everywhere, and all of my nerves were entirely shot. Not only was this incredibly scary it was also stupid. Don't wreck just to make it to your destination. Learn to read your body and say no. You can either get a hotel room for the night or take a small nap in your car, just make sure to think smart!
  5. Take enough time off
    • Some people drive to save money and get to a destination, and there are some who just enjoy the drive. If you want to travel via the road, I highly recommend taking enough time off to enjoy the journey. You are not flying for a reason! Take those few minutes to stop and smell the roses.
  6. Make your car a home
    • What I mean more by this is that you should prepare your car the right way. Make sure you have cords for everything, blankets or layers of clothes to put on or take off, and supplies readily available in the back seat. You want to have the comfort of your home and the items you usually use in your house.
  7. Buy or create a couple of albums
    • Nothing is more tiring or scary than being in the middle of the desert with no reception and no radio. You might be the most logical human being in the world, but after mile 85 you start to honestly believe UFO's exist (and that one is chasing you). Something that doesn't require service for entertainment could make the crazy stay away.
  8. Tune up your car
    • This should be a given, but it is also something I have forgotten. Make sure all fluids are filled, and everything is working correctly. You don't want to get stranded in the middle of nowhere (especially in the desert with no reception). Keep back up fluids as well just in case and check them periodically along the way.
  9. Keep a back up for your car
    • This goes hand in hand with the last tip. Keep a spare tire, an extra bottle of oil, and whatever your car might need. It might take up a little more space, but it is definitely worth that hassle.
  10. Caffeine is your friend
    • If you don't drink caffeinated beverages than skip this rule. If you do, keep them at all times! I usually make sure to buy a coffee every morning and either keep some beverages in the cooler or buy a new one each time I fuel up. You might not feel tired, but the road can do funny things to you.
  11. 5 above or below
    • This is a tip I learned from my boyfriend, and it is incredibly vital when driving. In bigger cities, we can sometimes become stressed, especially if you are from a smaller town. A good rule of thumb is to go 5 mph above or below what everyone else is doing. See how I didn't say the speed limit? On a freeway, people make up their own speeds. Trust me, this tip will come in handy!
  12. You can use your break and gas at the same time 
    • In certain situations! This is another tip my boyfriend taught me when I was freaking out in San Francisco. Going uphill is not easy on the car and can be stressful for you if you are not used to it. In these situations, you can sit on the break and lightly press on the gas before going. This gives your car a little 'get up and go' power, so you don't have that moment of falling backward into the car behind you.
  13. Get out of the way if needed
    • Depending on your skill set mountains can be challenging to travel on. The winding roads can scare us into going deathly slow along the route. Not only could this cause a crash for other drivers, but it is also annoying for people who are acclimated to this driving. If you have someone behind you, who is going faster than you are, try to find a spot where you can pull over so they can pass. This is not only polite but is a lot less nerve-racking for you.
  14. Junk food isn't always bad
    • Again, calories=energy. They say calories don't count during car rides which are entirely false facts. However, sugary snacks and carbs can help fill you up as well as give you a boost of energy. 10 hours in a car wears on you a lot faster than 10 hours of binge-watching a TV show.
  15. Take breaks
    • Semi-drivers are required to stop after so much driving for a reason. You need to give your eyes a chance to rest and your body a chance to stretch. Focusing during that length of time can cause headaches, sore joints, and fatigue. Giving yourself even 5-10 minutes every few hours will help the drive move by a lot more smoothly.
  16. Use the bathroom every time you stop
    • Don't think you need to pee? Try anyway. Every single time you stop you should try to use the bathroom. For one, sitting in that position could fake you out to not needing to go. Also, you don't want to realize five miles down the road that you just missed your last bathroom stop for 60 miles. Once you need to pee it will become unbearable.
  17. Keep cash on hand
    • Almost all toll roads don't accept your debit card, and you don't want to just bank on them taking a picture of your car plate. Keep some spare change close by in case you enter a state with a million toll roads (hello Oklahoma). 
  18. Wear comfortable clothes
    • The only people who are going to see you will only see you one time. Don't worry how you look, dress comfortably. A cute top and denim might sound like a good idea, but 300 miles down the road you are going to regret that decision. Pick sweats or shorts and a tank top with a jacket nearby. This way you are ready for any type of weather you drive through. 
  19. Play some games
    • This does not mean play card games while driving, that is idiotic. Find some car games to play to help make the time go by a little faster, keep you focused, and help conversation flow during the slower times.
  20. The driver is the priority
    • Hate to say this, but the passenger needs to not complain about the temperature or level of sound from the radio. Make sure you are comfortable! After all, you are the one who could potentially crash. They can take off layers or put on headphones if it really bothers them.
  21. Stay protected
    • You are in uncharted territory with no one around you know except the people in your car (potentially). Keep some pepper spray on hand, lock the vehicle at all times, and be wary of anyone acting strange around you. Not to be that paranoid girl but things do happen, and you should make sure you are prepared for them!
Above all, make sure to have fun! This is not going to be a repeat adventure if you are not having fun during the drive. For me, driving is a great way to become closer with my car partner and to see beautiful sites that would be hidden up in the air. What are some big things you have learned road-tripping across the country?


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