Friday, June 5, 2009

Tips for a Great American Road Trip

~ Research into my 2010 road trip across the USA has begun already. Over the coming ten months I will be adding the best of that research to this blog. So let’s get started.

If you are planning to take a road trip (whatever the time of year, or country of choice), then Wellington Grey has a collection of 16 excellent suggestions to consider before you go.

Wellington’s piece, 16 Tips for a Great American Road Trip can be read online in full here at Silver Clipboard. Among his suggestions: take a GPS Navigation System; avoid bad hotels with online research; stay wired throughout your journey; and keep a journal.

Here is my take on these tips.

Take a GPS Navigation System
This is a no-brainer. When even a modern mobile/cell phone comes with GPS built in, it makes sense to use it to its full advantage. Many hire car companies include a GPS system as part of the hire, and even those that don’t will often install one for an extra fee. Of course, if you are using your own vehicle, you should buy your own. For a couple of hundred dollars, the GPS system will help eliminate much of the stress associated with finding your way to a destination you have never been to before.

I certainly wish I’d had the use of GPS on my recent trip to Sydney, when I inadvertently timed my arrival for the evening rush hour. To make matters worse, it was my first time driving on Sydney’s busy streets, and I had never been to the apartment I was going to be staying at in the inner Sydney suburb of Petersham. Although I had a street directory with me, it was extremely inconvenient to have to stop continuously to check that I was heading in the right direction, and even then I managed to briefly get ‘lost’, before finally finding both the correct route and the apartment.

Quite frankly, the idea of trying to find my way around some of America’s biggest cities without the aid of a GPS navigation system does not bare thinking about.

Avoid Horrible Hotels With
Like Wellington, I too can highly recommend using to research the suitability of your accommodations before you travel. allows users to add their own reviews about specific hotels to the site, and over time this helps build a picture about the potential problems you may encounter at some hotels.

However, make sure you read the most recent reviews rather than the oldest, since some reviews could be several years old, which may give you a false picture of a hotels current rating. Also bare in mind that we all have different standards, needs and expectations as travellers. And finally, remember – you get what you pay for. So don’t expect five star accommodations from a $50 a night hotel. You will just set yourself up for disappointment.

Stay Wired
I have also written about this in my previous entry, The Wired Traveller. As a writer, and veteran Net surfer I would have felt quite lost without my laptop during my seven month trip in 2008. I just can’t imagine travelling across the US during my planned road trip and not being wired to the rest of the world as I traverse the nations highways.

The good news is that many hotels in the United States (and elsewhere), now provide free Internet access to their guests. The even better news is that internet access is available from a host of other sources and locations as well. Places like public libraries, laundries or laundromats, internet cafés and of course, regular cafés to name just a few.

There are also a wide range of mobile internet plans (prepaid or on a monthly access plan) now available for travellers to avail themselves of. And if that’s not enough, as long as your mobile/cell phone can connect to your carrier, you should also be able to connect to the internet from wherever you happen to be.

Document Your Progress
Another good tip from Wellington Grey’s Silver Clipboard article. I have tried for years to maintain a written journal with mixed results. No, I will be perfectly honest, over the years my attempts at journal keeping have yielded abysmal results.

However, because I seem to be quite happy working at a computer for hours at a time, I found to my delight that maintaining a daily travel journal on my laptop, was a breeze. The journal recording my 2008 vacation runs to almost 200 pages. It gives me great pleasure now to occasionally ‘flip’ through it and remind myself of exactly where I was, and what I was doing on any specific day of that seven month trip. If I hadn’t maintained that journal, I would have great trouble trying to remember the specific details of much of the journey.

Well, that’s it. I’ve taken just four of the sixteen tips that Wellington writes about and added my own comments and tidbits to them. What are your tips and suggestions? Feel free to share them via the comments section below.

In the meantime, you can read Wellington Grey’s full article here…

IMAGE: Country Road, Jim Lesses

1 comment:

  1. Ian thinks that GPS devices are really cool. Santa, on the other hand, believes that true navigation comes from his gut.

    In my recently published Christmas novel, Ian, one of Santa’s helpers, tries to convince Santa of the benefits of using GPS. You know, just in case something was to happen to Rudolph. But Santa is reluctant to change. Ian has an opportunity to accompany Santa on Christmas Eve and what happens next will go down in history!

    All the best!
    Eric Dana Hansen
    Author of “IAN, CEO, North Pole”


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