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When my college bestie told me she was taking a two-week road trip from Boston to Portland, I instantly signed up to be her copilot. Was I prepared? Somewhat. Did I know what I was getting into? Not really. Was it totally worth it? Absolutely. Here are my top tips for surviving a cross-country road trip. (Cover image illustrated by Vesna Pesic exclusively for MYSA)
Choose Your Travel Buddy
I was lucky enough to spend two weeks with my best friend—and one of the best copilots for which I could’ve asked. Make sure to pick a companion you’ve traveled with before. My friend and I had done a week-long trek through New Zealand’s South Island, so I knew I was in good company. Life on the road can be stressful and spending too much time with anyone can become frustrating. Good traveler qualities include: easy-going, positive, funny, and adventurous.
I managed to stuff all of my junk—ahem, carefully curated wardrobe—into one carry-on and a tote bag. Pack according to your activities, choose wrinkle-resistant clothes whenever possible, and remember you are only going to see your travel companion and the gas attendant most days, so forget dressing to impress. Stick with sunglasses, jeans, shorts, tees, and comfy shoes.
We relied on Spotify, podcasts, and audiobooks to get us through up to 10 hours of driving a day. When in doubt, go with Top 40, throwbacks, boy bands, mysteries, and thrillers.
Eat Your Way West
Since my friend was on her way to open her own food truck in Portland, we considered stuffing our faces “research.” Eat the local fare like beignets in New Orleans, barbequed ribs in Austin, and chiles in Santa Fe. Also, snacks and water are of the utmost importance on the road. We also stocked up on energy drinks, chocolate covered berries, and candy.
Soak Up the Scenery & Sights
They don’t call it America the beautiful for nothing. From the arches of Moab to the beaches in Malibu, you’ll see some awe-inspiring nature along the way. We went to tear-inducing historical landmarks like Martin Luther King Jr’s church in Atlanta to kitschy Americana sites like the World of Coca-Cola—sometimes in a matter of hours. No matter how profound or ridiculous, you’ll get to check some world-renowned pit stops off your bucket list.
Document the Journey
My friend faithfully kept a blog to chronicle the trip, writing and posting pictures nearly every night. I chose to go the lazily—er, artsy—route and Instagrammed. Now I have an instant photo album to look back on whenever I’m feeling nostalgic.
Embrace the Adventure
Inevitably, things are bound to go wrong when you are trying to make it through 21 states. My bright purple shampoo spilled in my toiletry bag (at the first stop), soiling about half of my wardrobe. We had to flee a sketchy, roach-infested Airbnb in the middle of the night in New Orleans. We drove the wrong way down a one-way street in Alabama. During these moments, stop and take a deep breath. All in all, we made it home safely and repeated our motto: “If things always went right, it wouldn’t be an adventure.”