USA Road Trip Planner Guide
During the last 6 years or so, I have been on numerous road trips across the United States. I easily put 20k-30k miles on my car each year (the cirumference of the earth is about 25k miles). Most people who visit me from other countries are interested in doing a road trip, to go on a adventure in the Wild West. In this article I am going to cover some of the things that you should know to make your life easier when you go on a road trip. I love driving on empty roads through the great west, and I am sure you will too. Wide open roads through red desert landscapes, winding roads along rocky coasts, high passes or boringly slow freeways its all there.
For every road trip you are going to need a decent car. Depending on where you are planning to go and on your budget, you should get the best car you can afford, since you are going to spend most of the time in your car. In most national parks and state parks it really pays to have a 4 wheel drive with high clearance, since many roads are unpaved and not passable with a sedan. Go here for good Rental Car Deals. Some people who visit the states for a longer time ask if they should buy a cheap car. I would actually advice against it. A road trip puts a lot of strain on a car and you don't want to spend your vacation waiting for the tow truck in the middle of nowhere.
The general speed limit on freeways is 65 miles per hour and in residential and commerical zones 25 miles per hour (unless there is a sign saying otherwise). I recommend you check out my article on how to avoid speeding tickets. There are some tips there that may be useful if you are like me and cannot help it but go faster than you should.
Always get gas before you enter a National Park. I cannot stress this enough, since most people underestimate the amount of driving you have to do in the parks. And even if you can get gas there, its usually outrageously expensive. So fill up while you can. Gas prices vary from region to region. Some of the cheapest stations are:
Gas prices can vary a lot even from one city block to the next, but when you are on the go, try to find one of the stations above. Some stations offer free coffee or free hotdogs with a fillup. Some offer a discount on car wash, but who is going to wash a Rental Car anyways?
In case the police does pull you over, don't panic. Just wait for the officer to approach the car and don't make them nervous. Police is usally very helpful and forgiving with tourists. So in case they pull you over for a minor offense, just explain to them that you didn't know better and they might end up giving you directions instead of tickets.
Most of the rules are pretty self explainatory. In most states you can do a right turn at a red traffic light, after stopping. It is best to observe other drivers and follow whatever they do. Unlike in most other countries, we have roads with stop signs from all 4 sides. In this case, the first come first serve rule applies. Whoever gets to the intersecion first, will have right of way. The same applies if there is a power outage and the traffic lights are out.
Usually I don't book hotels ahead of time. I try to see where the road takes me first. Usually I pick up a coupon book at Mc-Donalds or any other restaurant or even at the airport in a certain area. Usually the coupons don't apply in the travel season, but it will give you a good idea about the hotels in an area. I simply call ahead and make a reservation when it gets dark.
Those are the ones I stayed in (off the top of my head). There is an infenitely larger number of chains. Usually I go for a Best Western if I can find one. When I am on a road trip, I try not to spend large sums on the hotels, since I only stay over night and check out the first thing in the morning.
Check out my review of fast food restaurants. When I am on the road, I usually eat in a fast food place during the day, so I can cover more distance. Only when I roll into a city with plenty of time on my hand will I go and find a nice sit down restaurant or diner. I usually ask at the hotel for a good restaurant. I tell the person behind the counter what I am looking for and they can usually tell me where to go for good food.
I just compiled a rather extensive list of 29 Tips to Save Money on Gas. Considering the current prices, I'd say you should check it out.
My name is Andre Gunther, I am a Travel Photographer and I have done countless road trips.