Preparing to Drive Across the USA: 5 Things I’m Mad I Didn’t Do



This is the second post in a series to help you better prepare yourself for a drive across the United States. The first post focused on the five things I’m glad I did whereas this article will go over some of the things I wish I had done.

5 Things I’m Mad I Didn’t Do:

1) Booked Reservations

Although I planned out most of my stops, as far as which town I’d stay overnight in or what camp site I’d inhabit for the evening, I never once made a single reservation. To be honest, I was fortunate that everything still ended up working out in my favor--I never had to spend the night sleeping in my car or having to overpay for a room because everything else was booked. But, I also traveled in the beginning of June, before summer had officially begun, so the roads weren’t yet jammed packed full of eager travelers. Still, I could’ve saved myself some needless stress by making a couple reservations, especially when it came to spending the night someplace. If you’re planning on traveling, especially during the busy vacation months, do yourself a favor and book a reservation in advance. Doing so could both save you money and reduce stress, which is a win-win in my book!

2) Considered the Time of Year

Another thing I wish I had paid more attention to was the time of year I’d been traveling. As I stated before, I took my trip before summer officially started, so some of the stops I wanted to make weren’t yet open because of limited, seasonal access. This happened to me in Oregon when I drove all the way out to Crater Lake, Oregon. I had originally planned on camping near the actual lake, but upon arriving I realized that area was closed for another couple weeks. Luckily, a different campground a bit further away was open, but even that had only opened two days prior. Fortune shined in my favor that time, but just barely. Next time I’ll be sure to check and see if certain locations are only open during certain months to prevent another close call.

3) Prepared in Case of Emergencies

This seems like an obvious precaution to take before a long trip, and to some degree I did a decent job. I had my First Aid Kit and Roadside Emergency Kit readily available, and I stored plenty of food and water inside my vehicle. But there were a few things I’d later wished I would’ve prepared for before heading out on my journey.

One thing I wished I would’ve checked on was my cell phone provider’s coverage area along the route I took. You can see the coverage area of four of our nation’s leading cell phone providers to compare. Had I checked this before, I would’ve realized that my provider had zero coverage in three states that I was traveling in. For three whole days, I drove without cell phone coverage. Now, for some people on vacation, that might seem like the perfect situation. For me, driving in unknown areas for long stretches in the middle of nowhere, it just jacked up my anxiety! It would’ve been worth it to look into investing into a new provider plan for that extra peace of mind.

The best thing you can do is take the time to think through everything you plan on doing during the trip. Just like you’d bring certain things for a day trip to the beach or a night camping, prepare similarly for your vacation. It might help to think of your longer vacation as a string of shorter trips clumped together, thinking about what you’ll need for each one. That way you can be sure to plan for every day, every situation, and every adventure that you face.

4) Pack Less, Not More

Driving across the country with two adults and a full-grown Labrador Retriever didn’t leave a whole lot of room for extra stuff. I should’ve prioritized more on what was important, like clothes, camping gear, food and snacks, and water, and left behind the less important items, like a whole bag of dog toys for my dog who just slept for most of the trip. Some people are better packers than others, and I might fall into that category that could benefit from a college course in the subject, but one thing I did learn from my experience is that I didn’t need two suitcases full of clothes for an eight-day journey.

The more stuff you pack, the less room you have to spread out and relax. Less can be more in these situations. Prioritize, pack just what you need. If you find you don’t have something that you just have to have half-way through the trip, chances are you’ll be able to stop and pick it up along the way. This also leaves room for souvenirs you’re likely to pick up as you travel.

If you’re like me and need some extra tips on how to pack judiciously, check out this handy blog.

5) Take My Time

I wasn’t in a big hurry during my trip, but after eight days of driving, I was feeling a bit burned out on traveling. I was eager to get home and planned on not getting in a car for another week after I arrived. Sadly, I ended up rushing my trip some toward the end. Whereas the first few days of my journey were jammed packed full of fun events, my last two days consisted of little more than long periods of driving with the occasional rest stop.

I can’t stress this enough: enjoy the whole trip while you can! Once I arrived at my destination, my vacation was over. I immediately regretted not taking an extra couple of days to see those last few sights I had driven past. Once you get home, it’s too late to go back and do those things, so instead of regretting your decision later, just enjoy yourself to the best of your ability while the opportunity presents itself. You’ll thank yourself later when the trip is over and you’re thinking about all that you did (instead of all the things that you didn’t do).

In Closing...

I learned a lot over this trip. I’m glad I did some things and mad that I didn’t do others. Still, it was a beneficial learning experience, one that I hope you can benefit from as well.

Summer isn’t over yet. Go out and plan a long drive. There’s a lot out there to see and do. When preparing for your trip, keep this blog in mind and learn from my mistakes. And most importantly: have fun and safe driving!

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