So you are ready to take the “best trip of your life” and embrace the Great American Road Trip, building memories that will warm you for decades to come. Then take note of these tips and you will surely have an even better trip:
1. Have a schedule but be flexible
Yes, you have to be back home on a certain date (we all have to!) but keep an open mind and an open plan. You know where you will be sleeping (specially if you are traveling during the high season -book in advance!- but what happens in between is what makes your trip memorable. During those eight hours of driving, stop, pull up at the attractions, take photos, flow and feel free. The unexpected is often the best part of your vacations. Take that detour, stop at that old store, be free; this is not your job, it is your leisure time.
2. Americana and Kitsch
Route 66 is full of both, the classic American feeling, the mom & pop stores, burger joints, ruinous motels, former service stations. Keep your eyes open to spot them and savor them. The Kitsch is also there: the “largest” rocking chair, cross, buried Cadillacs, Twin Arrows, giant Jack Rabbits, you name it, Route 66 has it.
Joseph City Arizona, the Jack Rabbit Trading Post. A. Whittall
Ask the locals about the sights in their towns and you will be surprised by your weird discoveries. And don’t miss the vintage neon signs!
3. Carry a paper map, a real one
Waze, Google Maps and your GPS are useful and helpful but the good old paper map is a must. I sit down every night when I check in at a motel and mark my route with my yellow highlighter, it puts things in perspective to see your progress on a map. Formerly unknown places become familiar: Albuquerque, Gallup, Oatman, Victorville…
Your journey across this enormous globe is traced by your highlighted trail. This is your life, your small imprint in history.
4. Travel light and collect memories
Leave space in your luggage for that incredible souvenir, the once in a lifetime memento that will fit so well in your living room.
A Navajo carpet in New Mexico, that amazing piece of pottery or, those bottles full of maple syrup or that little red stone you picked up in Arizona. Factor them in to your baggage.
5. Sign up to the hotel’s rewards programs
Yes, sign up and earn points that you can use later, with them or with your airline, Wyndham, Marriott, Best Western, Hilton, Hyatt and more you will be spending two or three weeks on the road, choose your lodging with their rewards programs in mind.
6. Tune into the local FM radios
This is America, listen to the local FM radios, enjoy the music, embrace it!. And when you hear those songs later, it will bring a warm feeling back to your heart, you will be transported back to your Route 66 road trip. And the unexpected, I remember hearing the blaring buzz of the Emergency Alert System warning of an impending thunderstorm, I thought for a second that World War III had began!
7. Make new friends
Speak with the locals, at the diner, the convenience store, the gas station, at your motel. They can give you
good tips and suggestions, you can enjoy your breakfast (as we did in Pinedale Wyoming) chatting with the local gents, it is a great experience for you and for them.
8. Keep in touch with your loved ones
Wherever you travel it is a good idea to let your whereabouts be known. Should (God forbid) an accident happen, your family or friends will soon find out if you tell them where you expect to be tomorrow. Today with WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, it is hard to be out of touch.
9. Take side trips
Follow those signs and billboards that announce weird places. Ask the locals what are the best sights (we were pleasantly surprised in Escalante Utah, when the owner of the café where we stopped suggested some sights we had not even thought about, and led us to head for Moab and the Arches National Park.
Arches National Park, Moab Utah. A. Whittall
10. Capture the moments, take photos
The images will be engraved in your mind forever, but capturing them with your camera or smartphone will let you see them over and over again with that same
marvelous beauty of the first time. Share them with family and friends, print them and frame them!
So, enjoy planning your trip, anticipate the excitement and live the day. Happy road tripping!