Through our trip we have compiled a few road trip tips and tricks:
1. If you plan to go to a few national parks just buy the year pass up front it's not worth the entrance fee at each park and it will pay itself back rather quickly.
2. Don't be afraid to sleep in your car. It might sound a little uncomfortable but with a little rearranging you can make it work and it's free! Make sure everything can fit in the trunk so you have as much room as possible. Make sure you crack a few windows this will reduce condensation and it will be a little less obvious you are sleeping in the car. But where to park? We usually stick with hotel parking lots and pull in after dark. Find a back corner with the least amount of light. Be smart and be safe.
3. Pack your food. Get a cooler and stock up at the grocery store. Use ziplock bags for ice- it's free from the fountain pop machine at most gas stations. For breakfast we ate oatmeal, yogurt and oats, granola, anything easy. For lunch/dinner cheese sandwiches got us through the trip. If we needed to spice it up we added some chips for a nice crunch. We tried to eat out only one meal a day and we usually spent time making sure it was going to be good food, from the region, and reasonably priced. We have yet to be disappointed!
4. Don't give in to fast food it's not worth it. We accidentally... Ate some on the way from Columbus from Baton Rouge and instantly regretted it- we felt sick and sluggish imediatatly.
5. Never buy water: bring your water bottle and refil frequently. Bring a loose leaf tea tumbler. They are multifunctional you can get hot water for tea for free from gas stations and surprisingly most restaurants were happy to provide as well. You can use it as an extra water bottle I needed and it saves you a few dollars each day!
6. Have you heard of Couchsurfing? It's a real thing and it's awesome! You set up a profile online and you can host surfers and request to surf with others. We met some really great people and stayed for free for three days outside Santa Fe. Knowing locals in the area really made a difference in the restaurants we chose and what activities we did.
7. You probably have friends all over the country so contact them if you are heading in their direction. We had so many generous people open their homes to us.
8. Lighten the load. Depending how long you are going to be gone pack a reasonable amount of cloths. We are on the road for about three weeks and we brought one week's worth of clothes and did laundry when needed.
9. Always arrive at your camp site before dark. For your own safety it is smart to scout out the area before night fall plus it's much easier to set up camp with day light. Read all the posted signage sometimes you're in bear country and it's always good to know.
10. The best plan is no plan. We enjoyed the days that patched themselves together much more then the days we planned. Just go with the flow and start driving.
*Don't forget what's important just because you are traveling doesn't give you an excuse. We have made a point to recycle everything we can and that means carting around glass bottles and cardboard boxes until we found a Whole Foods.