A family friend of mine introduced me to a brave young lady setting out on her own adventure. It was a great time for us to reflect on all the advice given to us, the things we have learned, and come up with our own wanderly advice. We’re no experts but here is some tips from our own meandering experience. Happy travels!
General Travel Advice
1.) Spend less time in more places. We wish we did this more. Don’t feel like you need to fit it all in.
2.) As much as we have documented our trip, it’s sometimes exhausting to keep social media updated. Enjoy as much of your trip as possible sans the outside world.
3.) Make sure you are as comfortable as possible when sleeping! I can’t stress this enough (your favorite pillow is worth bringing, get a good sleeping pad, egg crate? why not?)
4.) Always have easy/healthy snacks on hand
5.) Stay hydrated and make sure to always have lots of water on hand for cooking
6.) Vault toilets are the worst. Gas station bathrooms are the best in the morning (they have recently been cleaned)
7.) When you have access to a friend or family member’s kitchen… meal prep (get inspired on pinterest by looking up easy camp recipes)
8.) Be prepared for being unprepared – things happen that are out of your control the more willing you are to change your plans the better it will be to deal with unexpected circumstances
9.) This is your trip. So make sure to do what you want and how you want to do it… this is only advice.
We did not make many campsite reservations ahead of time, and always found a place to camp. However we were traveling late and off season.
If you’re tent camping, make sure to get a tarp for under the tent. If it is rainy you’ll be glad you have it and it creates another layer.
*National parks: Plan to camp mid-week if possible – weekends at national parks are insanely crowded: specifically – Grand Canyon, Zion National Park, Yosemite & Yellowstone
For first come first serve sites get there as early as possible.
Primitive sites are the cheapest or free camp sites to stay but there will likely be no toilets, or running water.
BLM of Bureau of Land management has public land available to camp on for free but again it will be primitive and might not be suggested if you are traveling alone.
Best ways to save money
Save as much money as you can before you go
Create a realistic budget
- google spreadsheet is awesome for this
Get a notebook for a daily log
- Peter and I keep a journal/log of our daily activities and expenses [date, day of the week, day of our trip, weather, everything we spend money on, where we are going, where were leaving from]
- it’s really interesting to look back on and helps you keep track of your spending
- this is a ritual we do every day
Credit card benefits
- peter and I have one credit card that we use only for groceries because we get cash back points when we use it at grocery stores.
- We have another one that we use for all our big purchases and gas and we accumulate air miles to use at a later date, or in a pinch if we have to fly somewhere in an emergency during our trip
- see what bonus point or benefits you get from the cards you already have or apply for those that interest you
- WARNING: obviously don’t spend money you don’t have… but if you’re spending money, you might as well get some benefits right?
Cook/prepare the majority of your meals
- Peanut butter toast in the morning is awesome (you can make campfire toast or use the coleman stove to heat the toast), yogurt, oatmeal, or better yet – overnight oats!, hard boiled eggs
- Most fruit besides berries don’t need to go in the cooler (therefore leaving more space for perishable items)
- Have a pantry of dried goods – salt, pepper, herbs you like, peanut butter, beans, grains you like, pasta, tuna, olives, pickles
- Get fresh ingredients like protein and produce as needed. Fresh fruit and veggie stands are the best!
- Pinterest is a great way to find cheap, easy, and healthy camp recipes
- Also – make the occasional smore
Put any services on hold that you won’t be using… home internet, cable etc.
- Make and/or download spotify playlists
- It will help you to not use up all your data
- There will be many times when you are out of service areas and want to listen to music
- You can do this with netflix videos too if you have an iPad (download movies and leave the app open)
- Podcast suggestions: S-Town, Homecoming, Up and Vanished, Missing Richard Simmons, Remarkable lives, Waking up with Sam Harris, Stuff you missed in history class
Saving on phone Data
Airplane mode helps save data on your phone – you can still use spotify and listen to downloaded podcasts
ALSO… GPS will still track you if you put in your destination before you put it on airplane mode. I just found out about this and it blew my mind.
Hygiene & self care
Sunscreen!!!! Every. Damn. Day.
Dr. Bronner’s soap is amazing. You can use it in the shower but also do you dishes or even wash your clothes.
Old fashioned hot water bottle (great when you have your period and also amazing on a cold night at the bottom of your sleeping bag)
Makeup removal wipes are awesome when there is no water to wash your face
Sometimes bobby pins, bandanas, and/or dry shampoo are your best friend
Speaking of wipes – sounds gross but baby wipes (eco friendly if you can) are nice in a pinch in between showers
A spray bottle with tea-tree oil and water with a comb is a good way co-wash your hair between actual washes
Flip flops for campsite showers – campsite showers have actually been pretty awesome
Cooking & Cleaning
Camp stove: we have this one and we love it
1 regular non-stick pan and non stick pot is amazing to have and easy to clean especially when there is no running water
After making food, clean up immediately before everything sticks
Actual absorbent dish towels for messes come in handy often
Zipper-sealed Ziplock gallon bags for trash!!!!
Most campsites don’t allow you to spill your waste anywhere (this includes soiled water waste after “washing” dishes, and spitting your toothpaste out) – it can often attract animal friends at night.
Also great when you double up the bags and pack ice in them for your cooler. Ice melts slower and it won’t be a soupy mess once it finally all melts.
A few tupperware come in handy for meal prep and left overs
Not sure if you are a coffee drinker or not, but we sure are. So thats why this gets its own category.
We love a french press but the glass is too fragile to cart around in our “kitchen” bin. We have a percolator that we love and the coffee is amazing. Best part of camping is morning coffee. There are a few brands: the enamelware one is probably good, the most popular one is this one.
In a pinch, instant coffee is okay. Starbucks has a package of individual packets, Trader Joes has plenty of options for instant coffee too. TJ’s also has ice coffee concentrate in a resealable bottle.
Sometimes you just need to get up and go. Treat yourself to a coffee on the road every once in a while.
Less is more: we have never once said out loud or to ourselves – damn, I really wish I brought ______.
You really don’t need as much as you think you do and if you really need something, you can buy it along the way.
Pack layers (1 waterproof layer at least)
Cargo box: I’m not sure why, but we call ours a rocket box.
- These are very expensive bought new, but I would ask anyone you know to borrow one for your trip, and or purchase one on craigslist used, and resell it when your trip is done.
- The less stuff you have rattling around or taking up space in the car the better
- If you want to be able to flatten the back seats so you can sleep in the back of your car, a cargo box is necessary.
- It’s especially great to put dirty boots, and things you don’t need regularly. Out of sight, out of mind.
warning: If you do install one – remember to measure the height of your car/van with the cargo box on so you can gauge whether or not you will fit in parking garages or under overpasses.
It’s almost never worth driving for longer than 5-6 hours max in a day. Unless it’s to surprise your best friend at her wedding shower.
Take breaks, even if you think you don’t need one, you do.
Don’t get attached to a specific route, try to use your plans as a guide rather than a definite roadmap.
Resources we use regularly
America the beautiful pass: 80$ for the year and pays for itself in the first few uses. Covers entrance fees to all national parks, monuments and forests! Also 100% of proceeds goes back to maintaining federal recreation sites!
Roadtrippers.com – A good resource to help plan your route. It asks for the make and model of your car and can calculate gas mileage for your trip. It can also help you find campsites.
Atlasobscura.com – I actually like the website better than the app. This is great to help you find unique and obscure sites and places to visit. Whenever we’re getting on the road, I always make sure to put in our next destination and see whats around.
RoadsideAmerica.com – similar to atlasobscura but more mainstream
Gas buddy – Helps you find the cheapest gas closest to you
Allstays – helps you find places to sleep – camping, rv parks, etc.
Pocket earth – Download maps ahead of time for use out of service areas. This has saved us so many times. Most off the beaten path places, campsites and national parks have limited to no service. We have used this all over the U.S. and Europe when we have no data.
Hotelstonight – When hotels can’t book their rooms they post them day of at a super discount. Sometimes you just need to stay in a hotel. Don’t feel bad. We did it a few times and never regretted it. Especially in some areas of Texas when campsites were few and far between and/or too sketchy.
Airbnb or Homeaway
National Geographic Road Atlas!! – The o.g. app. We have found our way many times by the atlas alone. This atlas also has a ton of information on all of the national parks. We did a lot of research and have found this one to be the best.