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This is a guest post written by Allison and Eric of The Endless Adventure.
Our 10,000 mile road trip took us all over the USA. We saw the amazing scenery and epic adventures our country has to offer. It really was the trip of a lifetime. We learned so much during our 3 months on the road and we’d love to share it with you. Here are the 7 biggest lessons learned road tripping across the USA.
THE USA IS ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL
We grew up mostly in the Midwest where you drive any direction for 8+ hours and see the exact same thing. I now completely understand why the Midwest accounts for a good portion of the flyover states. (Sorry, Midwest. I’ll always love you, but you’re a bit boring.)
It wasn’t until we took this epic USA road trip that I realized how much more our country has to offer. From the white beaches of Miami, to the hill country of Texas, and to the mountains of Tahoe, sights don’t get much better. And don’t even get me started on the Grand Canyon!
What the US lacks in ancient architecture and history, it more than makes up for in natural wonders and beauty. I dare you to look up pictures of Monument Valley, Yosemite or Big Bend and not be compelled to start traveling towards them.
SLOW TRAVEL IS KEY
This is one of the most important things we learned on our road trip. If at all possible, spend at least a couple days in an area to really soak up everything it has to offer. And even more importantly, keep driving days to around 4-6 hours max. When we first started, we would drive for 12 hours straight in order to get to get to the next cool place as quickly as possible. While it’s a great way to cover a lot of ground, you completely miss out on all the cool sights and experiences along the way.
When you travel slower, you have the opportunity to be more spontaneous. You can pull over for a quick distillery tour while driving along Kentucky’s bourbon trail. You can stop to see life-sized dinosaur replicas. You can jump out to see just how salty the Utah salt flats really are.
Plus, think of all the Instagrams!
PEOPLE ARE DIFFERENT, BUT NOT THAT DIFFERENT
Coming from southern Missouri, I’m used to southern hospitality. If a waiter seems rude or a cashier gives me the cold shoulder, I used to take it personally. Once I took the time to talk and relate to them, I realized that they like telling their stories and relating to others.
We never once went to a restaurant, bar or attraction where we felt unwelcome. Even when we crashed a local’s birthday party at an old cowboy bar in Bandera, Texas, everyone welcomed us with open arms.
If you do things a bit differently than the locals do, people are pretty forgiving and genuinely enjoy sharing their way of life with you. Plus, those inevitable awkward moments make for the best memories and stories. Don’t be scared to walk into that dive bar or grab a bite at a “locals-only” joint. What’s the worst that can happen? You might have an awkward moment. But, you’ll at least have a good laugh and maybe even learn something!
DO YOUR RESEARCH
DON’T decide what you’re going to do that morning. Instead, hop on TripAdvisor the night before or do a quick Google search to figure out fun things to do in the area. You’ll find that most places have loads of free things to do in the area. With the proper planning, you can have an epic day in advance without breaking the bank. Just a little bit of research goes a long way. It will ensure that you don’t miss visiting any cool places in a city or region.
SMALL TOWNS ARE MORE INTERESTING THAN BIG CITIES
Don’t get me wrong, the electrical feel of a big city brimming with people, yummy food, and borderline chaos is one of my favorite things. With that said, I’ve had more interesting experiences and met more amazing people in small towns than I ever have in big cities. Maybe it’s because the people of small towns aren’t as used to out-of-towners. Maybe the daily grind life hasn’t worn them down like it has with some city folk. People living in small towns are both generous, interesting, and interested in meeting us.
During our stay in Arnaudville, LA, we were invited to eat taco soup at a local’s home with her family and closest friends. We learned so much about Louisiana architecture. In Bay St Louis, MS, we went on a private boat ride through the bayous and were invited to shuck oysters with our hosts and their friends. In Bandera, TX, we grilled sirloin steaks with real cowboys who shared their epic stories with us.
ALWAYS CHECK THE PARKING SITUATION
We cannot stress this enough. If possible, always do your research ahead of time and figure out where you’re going to park your car. I realize this can be tough, especially in big cities where parking isn’t always provided. Nowadays, there are tons of great apps to help you find open spots and how much they will cost.
There is nothing more soul-crushing than driving all day, getting to your destination in the middle of the freezing winter or burning summer, and finding that the nearest free parking is a mile away. Or, getting to your hotel and realizing that they charge $20+ a night for parking. You won’t always be able to find an exact spot ahead of time, but doing a little research will at least have you mentally prepared for whatever parking adventures lie ahead.
Always check every street sign around you, especially in bigger cities. In cities like New York and San Francisco, we found one tiny sign halfway down the block with about 5 billion parking restrictions that you inevitably either won’t understand or will miss entirely. If you don’t obey the rules, you can find yourself with a $200 ticket or a $700 towing fee. In San Francisco, the towing fees are so expensive, people are known to abandon their cars instead of paying to release them.
Tip: in New York, “No Standing” zones actually means no parking and you will inevitably get ticketed in them. Trust us.
BEWARE OF ROAD TOLLS
Toll roads were our arch nemesis on our trip. They always seemed to pop up unexpectedly. We ended up paying dearly to drive on these roads.
Google Maps has an option to avoid toll roads which we definitely recommend. Sadly, we only found this out after using Waze which automatically rerouted us back onto toll roads (since they’re typically faster) without notifying us.
Tip: New York and Pennsylvania have some epic tolls – we’re talking $22-$40 each. Many of these are cash-only and are only a few miles away from each other. We recommend checking out this awesome list of tolls around the US to make sure you’re financially prepared.
These were our most important tips and lessons learned from traveling 10,000 miles and spending 3 months on the road. We hope they inspire you to get out and see this amazing country for yourself!
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ABOUT THE AUTHORS:
Allison and Eric are a husband-and-wife-duo who sold everything and left their home in San Francisco in search of adventure. They make vlogs about their travels and write about living a minimalist, nomadic lifestyle on their blog, The Endless Adventure. You can also check them out on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
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