USA Roadtrip: Before you go

After two recent road trips in the USA, I’m familiar with what it takes to carry out a successful getaway in a home on wheels. Sometimes you think you’ve thought of absolutely everything and then find yourself wishing you were more prepared – trust me, I’ve learned the hard way! I wanted to share some tips that I think will be useful for anyone planning their own road trip, so here they are;

Buy a National Parks Pass

Admission to most National Parks is usually $25-$30, so if you plan on visiting three or more Parks, you’ll save money by buying an annual pass.

This was handy for me as it meant that if I happened to arrive at a park later in the afternoon, I could still go in and catch sunset somewhere beautiful, leave the park and camp for free on nearby BLM land, and then head back into the park again in the morning to continue exploring – no need to worry about paying for entry each time!

Not only will the America the Beautiful pass get you in to National Parks, it also covers entry and standard amenities for many other state parks and federal recreation lands – check here for more info. You can get the passes online in advance, or at the entrance station of the first park you go to.

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The America the Beautiful pass comes with a visually pleasing hang tag.

Check government websites for alerts and updates on the places you will be visiting!

Don’t make the same mistakes I did and forget to check road statuses for National Parks and Forests. Especially if you are travelling through winter or early spring when they may still be a fair bit of cold weather or snow hanging around. Most National parks have a few different entry points, but not all of them will be open all year round, whether it’s due to construction or weather conditions. The NPS website has the latest reliable info on weather conditions and which roads are open and you might save yourself a painful detour if you do yourself a favour and check this info before heading there.

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That one time I went to Crater Lake and the entry road I had chosen was closed……

Camping + Travel Apps

There are so many apps out there to help you navigate and find somewhere to stay whether its a free site, paid site, private property etc. My favourite is Campendium – you can search for locations or browse a map, see other peoples photos of the site and even filter by amenities or ratings. All sites have GPS coordinates and reviews so you can see what others have to say. Highly recommended!

And if you do use one, be sure to leave a review if you’re able to. This will help others find awesome free camps. Check this article for more info on different travel apps that are available!

 

Water

This might sound obvious, but make sure you have enough water. And when I say enough, I really mean carry two or three times more than what you think you need. Count on drinking at least 3 litres or about 100 ounces per day, plus water for cooking, putting out fires, washing dishes etc. Many free campgrounds do not have water available. You’ll never know when you need a lot, and fast, so it’s best to just be prepared. Keep any one gallon jugs as they can be re-filled and used to pour water into the vans water tank. If you’re at a site with free clean water – fill the vans water tank up, even if it’s not empty, just to stay ahead of the game.

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This campsite was beautiful but didn’t have any fresh water available.

Always allow more time

This last tip is a bit of a philosophical one, and can be subjective. Some people are super organised and efficient, others (like myself) are a bit more laid back and slow. I’m guilty of not allowing myself enough time to get from A to B on occasion. I would always check how long my drive was going to be, add some extra time for any bathroom or food stops, and assume thats how long it would take me. I quickly saw a pattern and realised that it’s always wise to factor in extra time for viewpoints, chance encounters with wildlife, or a last minute scenic route. And google isn’t always right! Whatever happens, just try to take some of the pressure off yourself and let things play out. Having strict times and deadlines will ultimately lead to disappointment or resentment. Van travel is free and easy, and best done at a slower pace. This way you can really get a feel for each place you visit rather than just breeze through.

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Can’t tell you how many times I pulled over to admire a view.

I hope these tips are useful!
Let me know if you’ve been on a road trip before or i you’ve got one planned ↓↓↓

happy travels 🙂

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zookeeper, van-dweller, herbivore

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