While driving across the country, the Mr. and I thought it would be fun to do an Instagram live. It was great getting to check-in and chat with people, especially about our trip, of which we got a quite a few questions. While we did our best to answer them all, I wanted to share a few more details here.
The two biggest lifesavers of the trip were the most unexpected. One cost less than $20 and one was a free app.
Because we were going to be making frequent stops in a variety of climates, packing everything into suitcases wasn't the most practical. Instead, we used an Ikea bin to hold underwear and socks, packing cubes for bulkier items like sweaters and jeans and, the greatest purchase ever, a $20 car clothing bar (Serious lifesaver!) to hang jackets, shirts, dresses and pretty much all our other clothes. Our suitcase (We used this one.) held things like toiletries, pajamas, and shoes. Then, each stop, we would simply grab what we would need from bins/clothing rack and add it to the suitcase, before heading into our hotel. This system helped immensely in keeping things simple and organized.
The second biggest lifesaver was the HotelTonight app (If you use code APONTICELLO you'll receive $25 off your first booking.) Normally, we're big home-share people, but due to the more spontaneous nature of our stops, we didn't want to commit to anything too far in advance. The app allowed us to find great hotels for a serious discount without much notice (I think you can book a room up to a week prior to staying, however, certain properties have geo-discounted rates, which is an added bonus if you're booking last minute.) Some of the hotels we booked a day in advance, some hours in advance and some just 30 minutes prior to arriving, but not once did we have any issues. The app also does a great job of telling you if things like parking and wifi are included or how much they are, and if they aren't. OH, and if you have any issues whatsoever, their phone reps provide top notch customer service. FYI, this is in no way sponsored, just highly, highly, highly recommended.
Other helpful things included the Gas Buddy app (for finding affordable gas), the T-Mobile HotSpot (to be able to work remotely), downloading directions prior to leaving and having a paper map (for times you lose service), the Instagram "Current Location" feature to find places to eat and cute places to take photos, and having a designated spots for things like snacks, IDs/money/important paperwork and electronics so that they can easily be found (I used a few different baskets).
I also highly suggest a laundry stop about somewhere halfway through your trip. Whether it's a family member or friend's place, or a laundromat, you'll be thankful to have fresh clothes (even if you did pack enough for 5 road trips *cough, cough*).
Bring your own pillows. They don't take up much room and it's an easy way to make any place feel a bit more like home (Plus, let's be honest, what hotel really ever has good pillows?!).
Last but not least, if you're limited on time (like we were), try to do the bulk of your driving in the early evenings. While you do miss out on the scenery, it allows you to have daylight hours where they actually count (aka when you get to your destination). The only place I wish we had done more daylight driving was through the Southwest because it's just so picturesque.
Have any of you ever done long road trips? I'd love to know where and if you have any tips I might have missed!
How Did We Plan + Prepare
We didn't. I'm only sort of kidding. TBH, though, we aren't the type of travelers that have everything planned out to a T months in advance. We're very much the last-minute, let's-wing-it type, so how we planned this trip may not work for everyone.
Obviously, one of the benefits of a road trip versus flying, is the ability to take detours, change course, or pull over if something catches your eye. For those reasons, we felt it best not to book hotels and other things in advance. What we did do in the 2 months prior to leaving is map out the length of our trip (12 days), start and end days, the cities we wanted to stop in, points of interest in each stop, approximate amount of time we could spend on each stop (and where we could adjust, if need be) and a rough budget of what we should be spending each day. We made a packing list to avoid forgetting things, we roughly planned out outfits based on where we were going and weather predictions, we stocked up on things like snacks, extra film (for our polaroid) and extra phone cables. Last but not least, we got a new spare tire, an oil change, and a final car inspection. And that was it. We left the rest up to chance.
What We Wish We Had Known/Done
Because we both went into this trip with a pretty open mind and go-with-the-flow attitude, we weren't too surprised by anything. I think we were both just shocked at how quickly the time went. Driving across the country sounds like a task that would take ages, but we kept finding ourselves wishing for more time to explore further. At the same time, we also found ourselves getting antsy and just a little crazed from the constant on-the-go, living-out-of-a-car, new-stop-every-night life and by the end of the trip we were just ready to be done, in a clean bed, with fresh laundry.
A few things I wish we had done include stopping for short walk/exercise/stretching breaks, getting more fresh fruit and veggies to snack on (We were often so busy exploring during our stops that we would forget to run to the store for fresh healthy snacks and then, we would found ourselves driving in the middle of nowhere with nothing but fast food for miles around. Pretty sure I ate more fast food during the whole drive than I have in the entire past decade!), listening to more podcast or books (We mostly stuck to music.), taking more photos (something I always struggle with #neverenoughphotos), and, while I didn't have this luxury, I wish I had been able to just observe more of the drive instead of having my face buried in my laptop working.