Quick Guide to Road Tripping
After road tripping around the United States for six weeks this past March/April, there are a number of things that I learnt. If you're planning a road trip, whether it's in the US or elsewhere, I hope these seven tips will help!
1. Go-to Apps
These five apps I used almost everyday of the road trip. Whether I was searching for accommodation, places to eat or where to shop, these apps were lifesavers.
- HotelTonight: This mobile-only service is the best last-minute hotel app around. They offer up to 50 per cent off a curated group of hotels, motels and bed & breakfasts around the world. We stayed at some of the most gorgeous hotels at a fraction of the cost!
- Airbnb: For a personalised experience in your destination city, Airbnb is the best bet for accommodation. While a hotel is a lovely luxury, staying at someone's home gives you the opportunity to live that city also. Many of our hosts also went above and beyond, not only offering a long list of local recommendations but even taking us out for a night on the town just like hosts Susan and Robert did in Austin (read about it in the Quick Guide to Austin).
- Yelp: Research places to eat and drink on Yelp and decide based on user reviews. I recommend looking for places that have lots of reviews, that way you can hope that there are some genuine ones there. I found that many of the establishments we visited were pretty spot on, except for coffee reviews...it was very difficult to find a good coffee at Melbourne standards. Yep, I'm a self-proclaimed Melbourne coffee snob and proud of it.
- TripAdvisor: Another user review site for recommendations for things to do, tours and sightseeing.
- Xe: Currency conversion made easier with this app.
2. Location is Everything
Finding accommodation in the right location can make all the difference to your experience. For example, when we passed through Tucson, Arizona we stayed in an affordable motel on the highway. Due to our location we didn't get an authentic feel of the city or it's personality, only a view of highways and fast food joints.
Conversely, when we visited Savannah, Georgia we spent a little more on accommodation and stayed in the famous historic area. From our hotel we could walk everywhere in the old town. We made the most of our days there, walking the streets, chatting to locals and wandered back to our hotel when we were tired. Savannah, it turns out, was one of my favourite places we visited and I believe the location made all the difference.
3. Make use of the Baggage Allowance
On most flights to the US from Australia, there is a two bag allowance. Even if you don't have enough contents to fill up two bags, I would recommend bringing a second empty suitcase. You will definitely need it if you plan to do any shopping.
4. Rental Cars
If you decide to hire a car from one location and drop it back at another, be wary that you may be required to pay the One Way route cost (approximately $700US). We booked with National car rental and didn't have to pay this fee, however always read your contract and question if in doubt.
Another point to consider is if you pick up a vehicle at an airport, it will be more expensive than picking it up elsewhere so decide whether you want convenience or a better price.
5. Get a GPS
It may cost around $200 USD to hire a GPS from a car rental company but it's worth it. If you plan to rely on Google Maps, remember there isn't always reception out on the open road. If you own a GPS, download an updated map and you're good to go!
6. Ask for Local Recommendations
Locals know all of the secrets when it comes to eating, drink and shopping, so ask around at your hotel, Airbnb or even petrol station. While the Lonely Planet gives you a good idea of the location, many of the best experiences are found off the beaten path where the locals go.
7. Buy a SIM Card
Whether you're visiting for two weeks or six, I recommend purchasing a SIM card. It makes it easier to search for things on the go and if you're a social media nut like me, you won't have to wait for a WIFI zone to Instagram or Snapchat.
I hope these seven tips might help with an upcoming road trip or perhaps inspire you to take one.
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