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5 Tips to Survive a Road Trip in the USA

We have spent countless hours on the road in our lives, both separately and together, as children and adults and as drivers and passengers. Long journeys by car or bus are something we have come to love and look forward to and recently we had the opportunity to do the road-trip of a lifetime – Southern California, Joshua Tree National Park and part of Route 66! As seasoned travelers we had no apprehension about undertaking this journey, just excited about getting behind the wheel, meeting new people and seeing stunning landscapes unfolding before our eyes. Road trips like this do however require some preparation and knowledge to enjoy them to the full, and neglecting vital details before rushing out on the road can quickly turn a dream trip into a nightmare.

Check out some of the cool and cheap tours you could do in California.

Road Trip in USA with Jucy Car

We’ve compiled some of our experiences and tips to not only survive but get the most out of your road trip in the USA. Check out below tips:

1.Travel in style and comfort

Jucy World Road trip in USA West Coast

Whether traveling as a couple, a family or a group of friends, why not try traveling by camper van. This allows you to move at your own pace, on a small budget and often gives you access to experiences those in motels and hotels often aren’t exposed to like waking up in the middle of the desert to a gorgeous sunrise or BBQ’s under the stars! Your vehicle is your home so if your journey takes longer than expected, you break-down mid-way, or you simply want to enjoy a spot a little longer you can set up camp wherever you like. On our recent journey in the Jucy Camper Van, we loved the communal atmosphere of sharing car parks, lay-byes or campsites with other road-trippers and met a lot of new friends eager to swap stories and tips on where to head next. The camping lifestyle always brings back childhood memories for me, where the smallest things like tea or coffee prepared on the portable gas stove offer great comfort! Once you’ve survived most of your journey, you’ll have saved plenty of money to splash out on a final night in a luxury hotel if you’re craving some well-deserved home comforts, but we doubt you’ll want to! Be sure to pack some essential supplies to cook up simple meals although we relied mostly on the classic diners along the way.

2. Stay connected with a portable wifi

If like us your job requires you to be constantly connected to social media or you want to use the time to catch up on some emails or work online, don’t risk expensive data roaming charges or loss of connection while working on the road. Generally we buy a local SIM card in every new country we go to but of course, this only covers one phone, and unless it offers unlimited data it doesn’t always cover what we need.

Road Trip in USA - Have a Portable WiFI

For our recent road trip to Las Vegas and Joshua Tree National Park, we registered in advance with TEP Wireless, a company that provides a personal, portable wireless router which connects to local networks or 3G as you move. We received a small device that shows the network name and password and two batteries each providing 5 hours battery life when fully charged. This may not sound like much, but for its intended use between other points of available Wi-Fi, 5 hours is plenty. You can always recharge them directly from your laptop if an extra burst is needed. For us, this was extremely helpful while on the road, as you can connect five devices at once meaning both our smartphones and laptops could be used all at once!

We did find that like any wireless or 3G connection, in very rural areas this can become weak while searching but you just have to save work regularly as always. Another tip to conserve the battery life and retain connection speed is to close all unnecessary apps.

Road Trip in USA - Tep Wireless for Portable Internet

If you are relying on working on the move and being continuously connected, then the option to buy the TEP device may be your best bet, where you pay only $9.95 per day for unlimited internet. This is the option we chose – called Frequent Traveller – and we only pay for single days when we know we need it. If you only need portable WiFi for a one-off trip, then consider the option of renting the TEP, which costs $9.95 per day for unlimited internet, but remember that you do not own the TEP device or accessories.

The connection reaches devices within 15 meters, and only you have the login details so you can rest assured the connection is completely safe, we won’t hesitate to use this again in the future for staying anywhere remote or without available wifi like the beach or long waits in airports and bus or train stations. If you don’t want to buy it, you can rent it! Find more details here.

3. Choose a cool road trip buddy

Whatever the length of your USA road trip you are likely to be spending several hours a day in very close proximity to whoever you share that journey with and an easy-going approach will help you sustain a good relationship. Make sure you know in advance if only one person will be doing all the driving but if not, agree to do driving shifts, ideally swapping every four hours on long stretches, as well as being flexible with your itinerary if you come across unexpected places of interest along the way. Those little surprises are what road trips are all about! As children, we used to spend hours and hours squashed up next to each other in cars driving the length of England on a regular basis, and so we learned that a good sense of humor and patience go a long way.

Road Trip in USA - Cool Travel Buddy

Boring as they may sound, everyone secretly loves travel games which can always be relied on to pass the time or turn a seemingly dull landscape into a challenging competition between kids, or adults! You can check out some online travel games on sites like the poke playground. You can also use this time to discover new things you never knew about each other or if you don’t share the same taste in music take it in turns to be DJ and you may discover something new that you like. Alternatively, local radio stations often provide a fascinating insight into an area and its people. Finally, while traveling in a car can be a very relaxing experience, try not to fall asleep! You will miss out on seeing the scenery of each place as it passes by and the driver will either get lonely and bored or might even do the same, both options best avoided by staying awake and keeping them entertained.

4. Precaution versus spontaneity

Road Trip in USA - testing the Mazda 6

Anyone setting off on a USA road trip has the romantic vision of driving off into the sunset down Route 66, carefree and relaxed leaving behind all the worries of a normal life even if just for a few days. While of course, this is a realistic dream you still need to take sensible precautions and do a little bit of preparation before hitting the road, starting with checking your car or campervan. As you would on any long drive do all the necessary checks to ensure you won’t have any nasty surprises along the way and remember to pack a tool kit, spare tire, water, oil, and fuel. While you may only have a rough itinerary of where you are heading and if you, like us, plan to use a portable Wi-Fi system you shouldn’t rely on this entirely for navigation. While flexibility and spontaneity are all part of the experience, it’s worthwhile making a rough plan beforehand knowing where your important gas stops will be, with a list of those on other routes in case plans change, pack an old-fashioned route map in case technology fails and of course breakdown cover if the worst happens and you need to be towed somewhere. Be realistic when it comes to packing, life is always simpler when packing light and also saves on fuel consumption so go for practicality rather than style, you can always give your clothes a quick wash if you stop over at a motel or campsite! With less space used up in clothes, you can spread out, put your feet up and enjoy the ride.

5. Make friends on the road

Jucy World Road trip in USA West Coast

Once all the practical things are taken care of, and you’re on your way you may even spot hitchhikers. We would always lean on the sensitive side having been hitchhikers ourselves many a time in many a country, and it is, of course, all part of the classic road-trip experience. I would never recommend picking up a hitchhiker if you’re driving alone for any distance in a country you don’t know very well but on a road trip like ours, if your judgement, instinct, and knowledge of the area tells you it’s safe then go for it, you may make a great new friend! Our trip was defined by the characters we met along the way from those in roadside diners and fuel stations, fellow campers and particularly those living in remote, isolated communities like the Salton Sea near Joshua Tree National Park.

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22 thoughts on “5 Tips to Survive a Road Trip in the USA

  1. Thank you for giving them this great knowledge, really thank you for sharing, hope you will have such great posts as this more.

  2. Thanks for sharing your experience and the tips! Have been planning a Route 66 road trip with my family and we’ve been putting it off for years. After reading your post I’m more determined to make it happen this year. Travel games is a great idea – one we’d definitely be using! My list of essentials would include sun protection, car food, a GPS device, a first-aid kit and a powerbank.

  3. Love the last photo and the car too. hmmm. i would definitely agree to your 3rd point. That’s very important, otherwise, the trip will definitely be boring.

  4. Oh, I wish we had a camper van in the PH. But the rest of what you mentioned is pretty applicable everywhere. The portable wifi is really a biggie for me. And yes, power banks too! 🙂

  5. You guys look so happy together! The USA road trip is definitely a must do once in your lifetime. I lol-ed a little with the tip on having a portable wifi–but this is so true! it’s important to be connected nowadays–sometimes wifi connectivity is even more important than getting food for some people! haha

  6. Very practical tips for road tripping. Portable wifi is very important especially if you need navigation via Waze or Google Maps. I would think Powerbanks would be that important too just in case it’s really going to be a long trip.

    Oh yeah, bringing a cool road trip buddy is going to be critical as well. I don’t want to drive while my friend would just sleep the whole time lol.

  7. I love the camper van, I hope we have one here in PH.. I’ve been in a road trip, 36 hours to get into our destination , including RoRo transfers (roll in-roll out sea vessels) to cross your vehicle from one island to the other.

    We cannot just camp-out though in PH, we normally look for a gasoline station or a restaurant to stretch, eat or just walk around

  8. Wow! You surely had a great time! I always wanted to experience road trips like this. And thank you for the tips you have given. This will be very helpful to those planning road trips.

  9. I live in the US and have never seen one of these campers before! Great idea and a lot of fun! The Wifi is a so genius. A lot of times you can get free wifi but out in the middle of nowhere that would be a valuable thing to have. But I would caution you on hitchhikers anywhere in the world. I would never pick up any stranger and bring them with you – new friend or not. It is not common practice in the US at all to pick up hitchikers. It is not safe and I would never do it unless they were in need of help. Even then I would call an ambulance or the police, too.

  10. I think this is not just applicable in the US, but anywhere in the world. But these tips are great! Since I’ve never actually been to the US, I’ll definitely take note of this post! 🙂

  11. What a cool adventure on the road. I’d like to do that here in the Philippines, too. These are helpful suggestions that can make the trip truly enjoyable.

  12. Very nice suggestions and how I wish this is possible here in the Philippines too… well, everything you mentioned, it is the same, except the part on picking up a stranger and no matter how well you know an area, you don’t do that here.

    Still, I could imagine the best part, your first suggestion on going with a camper.

  13. The Monkeys are always on the move. The Jucy camper van looks really cool. Would like to rent one to use from L.A. to San Francisco.

  14. Looks like you enjoyed an awesome road trip. My husband and I have driven most of Route 66 in a couple of trips over the last two years..We didn’t camp, but sometimes wished we still had an RV.

    Another thing to add to your great list of tips is to make sure you keep your vehicle fueled. There are some stretches of road in the western U.S. that don’t have services (gas, food, restrooms or anything else) for 100+ miles.

  15. Great tips! My husband and I are setting off on a 80 day trip to 11 national parks in the US and Canada this summer. Definitely going to look into the wi=fi option because my one worry is not having connectivity out west. Thanks for the info!

  16. We traveled all of North America in an RV for almost 5 years! Even wrot4e a book about it…Carolina: Cruising to an American Dream. I am glad I found my road trip buddy…my husband!

  17. It seems a lot of people are staying closer to home these days. This looks like a nice little trip especially with the camper van. Never have seen one of these before but would love to try it sometime.

  18. Wow, that looks like an awesome road trip! I’ve taken quite a few road trips myself over the years. I have never heard of the portable WiFi device before – very cool!

  19. Amazing tips, really well thought out! I think picking up hitchhikers is a great idea (if it feels safe of course) – such a good way to get to know others on their journey. I haven’t got an American road trip on my immediate itinerary (one day, I hope!) but I’ll apply these for when I’m driving around Australia!

  20. Great tips!
    I especially love the car you rented! Sleeping on the roof of a car is still something I’d like to do 🙂

    Thanks for sharing

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Written by Kach Umandap

Founder of Two Monkeys Travel Group. Since 2013, Kach has visited all the 7 continents (including Antarctica) and 151 countries using her Philippines Passport. In 2016, she bought a sailboat and went on sailing adventures with her two cats - Captain Ahab & Little Zissou in the Caribbean for 2 years. She now lives in Herceg Novi, Montenegro where she's enjoying her expat life and living on a gorgeous Stonehouse. She writes about her experiences traveling as a Filipina traveler with a PHL Passport. Also tips on backpacking trips, luxury hotel experiences, product reviews, sailing & adventure travel.