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Planning for the Great American Road Trip


Guest Post by Jess Shanahan

There are so many great ways to travel but the best way to see a country as large as America is by car.

I travelled 3000 miles through 11 states over two weeks on an American road trip and didn’t even see half the amazing places I would’ve liked to have gone to. It’s amazing how much you learn from one trip and there’s so much that I would now do differently.

Route planning

While it’s great to get a route planned for your trip, there’s something exciting about hitting the open road and staying in the first town that catches your eye. I’d say plan the places you want to go and the things you want to see but leave some gaps so you can have the excitement of the unknown.

The first stage to planning a route is to decide what few things you really want to see and then building around that. It might take some tweaking to make sure you can cover that sort of distance before you get the route finalised.

The little things

In America there are a huge amount of tolls. That was something I never thought of on my trip. We probably paid an extra $100 in toll fees around the bigger cities, an expense we’d never even factored in.

You also need to familiarise yourself with the tipping culture over there. You’ll be expected to tip for everything.

great american road trip

Learn the rules

American driving laws are a little different to those in the UK. There are four-way stop signs, free right-hand turns and I’m still not sure whose right of way it is at pedestrian crossings, especially in NYC.

Go off the beaten track

I can’t stress this enough. You might not be able to do as many miles on the country roads as you can on the interstate but it’s much more fun. Take the windy back roads through the mountains, or the long desert roads. You’ll see spectacular scenery and might even find some interesting places to stay.

The same goes for where you stay. Choose B&Bs that are little more than a spare room in someone’s beautiful home. You’ll meet wonderful people, will be looked after and will probably have some of the best breakfasts you’ll ever experience.

great american road trip niagara falls

Make friends

When staying in small places make an effort to speak to the locals; even if you start by having a good conversation with the owner of your accommodation. Get them to recommend places to eat, things to see and interesting spots to visit.

When I stayed in a little B&B up a mountain in Tennessee, I asked for a recommendation of where to get some dinner. We were pointed in the direction of a Thai place. A storm had just rolled in and when we reached the ‘restaurant’ we were surprised to find a little iron shack with no power.

The owner was still cooking away on a little gas stove and I had one of the best meals of my life.

Enjoy the driving

Finally, if you are on a road trip, don’t treat the driving sections as a way of getting from A to B. Stop often, take your time and savour it.

Jess Shanahan is a travel writer who is currently planning a road trip around Europe. She spends her time searching for useful things such as Bluestone promocodes, writing about shoes and geocaching.



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