My big American Road Trip, my advice for when you’re on the road, where to sleep, how to stay clean and a rough itinerary of the places I went to on my trip from New York to Los Angeles.
5,563 miles in 25 days – well 35 days actually but 10 of those were spent in Vegas getting drunk and resting over Christmas and New Year. As Steff and I are about to embark on our road trip in Australia I thought now would be a good time to post about one of my road trips from my travels. And no matter how many miles you drive, how many different countries you drive in or how many times you swerve a deer, rabbit or kangaroo, you still learn something valuable from each road trip.
My first road trip was actually the first leg of my travels in 2015 – pretty daring considering it was New York to Los Angeles. In addition to that, I had never driven outside of the U.K. and to make things even more daring, I had only passed my driving test 8 months before that. You can imagine my Mums reaction when I listed off the itinerary. I believe this was the year that ‘YOLO’ became popular.
I hired my wheels from Escape Campervans, each van hand painted by unique artists in Los Angeles. My camper was called Simba. I booked this around 6 months before pickup and made sure I did a lot of review reading on similar companies before putting a deposit down. As most rental campers are, my van was fully equipped with cooking amenities, utensils, bedding etc. meaning you only need to bring yourself and your backpack… and fairy lights, obviously.
To briefly summarise before I delve into the hints and tips, I travelled across 17 different states in USA, I had the pleasure of experiencing some of the most amazing places, I also missed out on some beautiful locations too, and probably wouldn’t have – should I have read a blog as awesome as this before I left 😉.
MY BEST ADVICE ON THE ROAD…
- Set your satnav (GPS, TomTom, whatever you want to call it) to AVOID TOLLS, reasons being – I hit $18 worth of tolls in my first two hours of driving. But, changing that setting was the best thing I could of done, it meant avoiding as much highway as possible and having the opportunity to drive through those real American towns.
- Remember that everything is opposite to the U.K, the side of the road to drive on, the fast and slow lane on the highway. And roundabouts. Remember, the fucking roundabouts. DO NOT FORGET.
- Drive the speed limit… or just blend in, is what I was told by a friend in Miami. I was obeying the speed limit, as you do, but wondering why no one else was, whatsoever. She laughed and advised me to just blend in, if the car in front is going 95mph, you do that too. But obviously, that’s totally illegal.
- Drive between 10am – 2pm to avoid rush hour. This is also the safest time to drive. This means you have the opportunity to have breakfast, get showered and enjoy another hour or so in your current location, and then hit the road when it’s reasonably empty, grab some lunch in a local town and arrive at your next destination before its dark.
- Keep over half a tank of petrol during your journeys, you’re going to fill it up anyway so don’t wait until you’re on empty in the middle of a 30 mile open stretch road in the desert. Thankfully not talking from experience.
BEST ADVICE TO SLEEP, SHOWER AND WASH YOUR UNDIES…
- Doing your campsite research before arriving is strongly recommended. I suggest staying at KOA Campsites, you get showers, laundry (small fee), firewood for a campfire and at some of them there is a swimming pool and jacuzzi onsite. Not bad for $30 per night. I tried a campsite during my trip that wasn’t KOA… I drove up to the site, and turned around. Reasons being… if you’ve ever watched ‘Wrong Turn’ then you would also be convinced that it was the filming set for that.
- Use Pilot Flying J for travel stops during your road trip. These places became like a second home for me, for many reasons. They are used by truckers all over the country, it’s basically a service station. But with showers that are on par with 4*star hotel bathrooms. They also have laundry self-service. Good food. Petrol. And a loyalty card. Meaning on your 6th shower, you get your 7th free. Perfect for the day after those Walmart stays.
- Buy a washing line reel and pegs because it will save you a ball ache when you haven’t got a tumble dryer. When washing clothes at a campsite, I would have to try and be inventive and hang my clothes to dry over chairs, the camper-van doors, fences etc. It would have been so much fucking easier with a washing line and legs.
- Sleep. Seriously. If you’re doing a road trip as big as this, make sure you get a good nights sleep each night. Do not be satisfied with 5-6 hours worth, because when it gets to your 4th hour of driving it will become dangerous.
My Top 3 Locations
Jeckyll Island, Georgia
This is a complete hidden gem and 10 minutes before arriving I had never even heard of it. You pay a small toll fee to get into Jeckyll Island, but it is so worth it. If you have a chance, visit the turtle sanctuary here, take a stroll along driftwood beach and get some grub in one of the cute little eats on the Main Street.
New Orleans, Louisiana
So gutted that I missed the nightlife of ‘The Big Easy’. But can you believe that it’s still on my top 3?! New Orleans has a lot more going for it than it’s crazy nights out. It’s one of the most colourful, diverse and cultured places I visited during my road trip in the states. The history of New Orleans is pretty mind blowing. New Orleans, I promise to return, and when I do, we’ll go out out.
I absolutely love everything in Memphis. The people. The nightlife. And unforgettably, Graceland, the home of Elvis. The bars and the restaurants are blues, jazz and rock and roll themed with constant dedication to some of the biggest voices in the music industry. Most people visit New York or Disney when they go to the states, but if you have a chance, give Memphis a go.
The Facts & Figures
I’ve listed below the main cities and large towns that I visited during my road trip. In total it did take me 25 days of driving 3-6 hours per day, I covered over 5,500 miles and spent just over $400 in petrol (dirt cheap in the states).
• New York – 5 nights prior to picking up Simba
• Washington DC – 1 night
• Raleigh – Day trip
• Charleston – 1 night
• Daytona Beach – 1 night
• Jeckyll Island – 1 night
• Miami – 2 nights
• Orlando – 2 nights
• New Orleans – 1 night
• Memphis – 1 night
• Dallas – 1night
• Tucumari – Day trip
• Albuquerque – 1 night (should have been 2 but totally avoided a tornado)
• Arizona – 1 night
• Las Vegas – 9 nights
• Los Angeles – 3 nights
To finalise, my biggest advice would be to give yourself enough time, but not be too strict with yourself. I missed the opportunity to drive up to Niagara Falls because I was being too strict with time to begin with and then also messed up with the map and drove 4 hours passed the Grand Canyon trying to avoid a tornado.
This was my first road trip, and 10 months after this I hired a camper in Australia and drove over 3000 miles from Brisbane to Adelaide. To this day, I’m still learning new things when planning a road trip. Each journey is different. So if you have any questions that I may not have answered throughout this blog… or even any advice, please feel free to get in touch via our Contact Us page or comment below.