So you're dreaming of hitting the road for a good ole' fashioned American road trip. Images of Route 66, vintage VW buses, and/or the song California by Phantom Planet have crossed your mind. You know you want to go, but how do you even begin figuring out how to actually make it happen? Look no further, here's a step by step guide for how to plan out every detail of your trek!
Step 1: Plan Nothing
Step 2: See Step 1
Planning your roadtrip to a T will likely result in an enjoyable, yet largely uneventful vacation. You will stay at nice pre-booked campsites/hotels, you will check out the TripAdvisor Top 10, and then be back to your ordinary life with little more than some Instagram photos and a bag of dirty laundry.
A true roadtrip, on the other hand, has no more plan than a general directional heading and a well selected, very long roadtrip playlist (here's a good start). The open road is about freedom, and to contain that freedom with a strict plan is to miss out on all the road truly is.
Here's what I learned from my time on the road:
- TAKE WHATEVER VEHICLE YOU HAVE. I was always waiting around for the money and time to buy and work on a bus or van to live out of. For me, that time never came so I just picked up and went in my tiny hatchback one day.
- THINK ABOUT IT ONE DAY AT A TIME. When I left for my trip, I only knew that I was going to Indiana for that night. The next day, I decided to drive west from there – eventually making it all the way to California and up the coast. It's less intimidating and more fun to plan as you go and see where the road takes you.
- BE OPEN TO EXPLORING NEW PLACES. Because of people I met along the road, I ended up visiting a ton of places I never would have otherwise. Be outgoing, ask locals, and explore – you'll be happy you did.
- STAY AT HOSTELS. Most people don't even know that there are hostels in the US, but as I've found, they are some of the nicest in the world (for example, I stayed one block from South Beach, Miami and had a rooftop pool at one). Use HostelWorld.com to locate a nice hostel in whichever city or town you're coming up on next. It's the best way to meet people, which makes exploring easier and more fun.
- SAVE UP SOME MONEY - BUT NOT AS MUCH AS YOU THINK. I road tripped from DC to California, up the coast, and back for one month. The trip cost me less than $2,000. Stay with friends, sleep in your car, eat cheap. Fun is often free, you just have to find it.
- DON'T WAIT FOR YOUR FRIENDS. Just as I was waiting to build out a travel bus, I was waiting for my friends to be free to roadtrip with me. While road tripping together is super fun, don't let your friends' schedules hold you back. If you're free, take advantage of it and get to know yourself a little better. (I suggest listening to On The Road by Jack Kerouac on Audible.com)
So get out there and drive (safely) towards your dreams. Don't overthink it, meet new people, visit amazing places, and come back changed for good. You'll be happy you did.