Fifteen hundred miles and six cities later, I have gained a greater appreciation for road trips and want to share some advice to help you on your next one. Here are six tips to improve your next road trip.
1) Waze is the Go To GPS App
There are a couple of different GPS apps on your phone, but I think Waze is by far the best.
Its turn-by-turn directions are very clear and the police alerts are very timely. A few times around Portland, OR it warned me about police presence and I made sure to not fly on past them.
Waze also alerts you to road obstructions and traffic patterns. Alternate routes are offered on the screen so its nice to be able to drive and not have to worry about navigating yourself to the next destination.
2) Subway is The Best Food Exit Choice
This may be a personal preference, but when you’ve got 7-hours between cities and you want something fast and healthy, Subway should be your go to spot. It seems at most rest areas and exits off major highways you can find a Subway sandwich shop.
I should have kept a tracker, but I’d say I ate at least 7-8 times at a subway for lunch during the big driving days. Foot long turkey subs on whole-wheat are my go-to, choice, but the options are endless. Just eating Taco Bell or Burger King while moving between cities does not sit well with me.
3) Avoid LA like the plague Driving through Southern California
Yes, I know common sense. However, I just wanted to re-iterate this especially if you are driving down to San Diego.
We were on our way down I-5 in LA county and I was thinking, “ok not so bad”. Then after hitting Valencia it got bumper-to-bumper over several lanes.. I already had planned a detour in a few miles onto I-210 through Pasadena and The Valley to get to I-15. Bad Idea.
It was even worse on I-210 as the HOV lane barely moved. We finally made it to I-15 after over an hour of me hardly touching the gas pedal. I think I ‘d suggest going as far east around LA as possible to avoid the torturous traffic.
Keep in mind my drive was on a Saturday Afternoon. I can’t even imagine work-week rush hour.
4) Use Public Transportation In Smaller Cities
New York isn’t the only place you should rely on the metro system. In fact, Seattle has a great public transportation system. As I eluded in one of my first blog posts, from the Airport you can save a lot of money taking the light rail to the city center.
But its not just airport transportation. In Seattle the link takes you to all the touristy spots (including Safeco field).
Portland, OR is another city to give public transportation a try. The light-rail can get you to different parts of downtown, but I’ll admit its not as convenient as Seattle’s public transportation.
Even with a car, moving between parking spots in some busier city centers can get costly very fast.
5) Use Bestparking.com to Save Money Parking Downtown
Speaking of parking, this handy website was a life saver in downtown Portland. While our hotel, the dossier, was located in the heart of downtown, parking at the hotel was very expensive. Valet parking was the only option and it was nearly $40 dollars per night.
On bestparking.com, I found a lot two blocks away for $12 dollars a night. On the site you just input the date and time-frame you want to park and it gives you a map with all of your options.
Some lots have much better rates than others and I didn’t want to play roulette and enter one without knowing what the long-term price was.
At Redwood National Park
6) Veer Off The Beaten Path from Major Cities
It would have been easy for me to have only spent time in Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, LA and San Diego. To me though, the fun parts of a road trip are going to places you may not fly to normally or explore without driving in.
Eureka, California I never even heard of until researching this trip and in return I found a charming small city with amazing nearby access to the Redwood National Forest.
While Modesto, CA isn’t exactly a bustling hotspot, going there gave me the chance to see a minor-league baseball game for only $10 dollars behind homeplate. Checking out Astoria, OR gave me a real feel for Oregon’s seaport communities.
I feel if you are planning any long road trip, hit the big tourist spots but save at least a little bit of time for off the beaten path places that others may overlook, This especially holds true if you have access to a car.