Best/Worst Road Trip tips

Old Aug 3rd, 2009, 01:50 PM
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Best/Worst Road Trip tips

I always wanted to do a cross-country road trip and now I am going to have the chance with my daughter. We planned some 11 hour days of driving to blast through areas we aren't interested in, and we have some with 3-4 hours of driving and 2-3 hour "event" time (like visiting the Dr. Pepper museum or other 'historical' monument). I stopped at AAA for their guide books and even arranged for their "Trip-Tix" for some guidelines, but I thought I would ask the experienced Travelors of the Boards for any wisdom - not necessarily where to stop/what to see - but tips like don't take/miss the Interstates in _(fill in the area)_, beware of photo speed traps in ______, don't try to drive more than ?? hours, etc.

Any tips for new road warriors?
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Old Aug 3rd, 2009, 03:07 PM
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And I wasn't even drinking. It just occurred to me what a dumb request I made since I never said what route we are driving. It will be hard to give tips on where photo enforcement is or which roads are heavily patrolled.

On the other hand, I can add two tips:
For AAA members, their website allows you to plan road trips and the directions even include road closures, typical traffic delays, and where photo enforcement is likely.

In southern CA, if you are driving freeways, the fast lane really is for fast cars - some going 90 - 100 mph when they can get around the people going the speed limit. But when those two are in the same lane, it makes for road rage potential.

I have discovered if I am going faster than the land to my right, I am usually ok but if I am going slower than the lane to my right, I NEED TO MOVE OVER. The other advantage to staying as close to the right lane as traffic will allow is that CHP officers are MUCH MORE LIKELY to pull a speeder from the left lane, even if there is a whole group of speeders all going the same speed.
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Old Aug 4th, 2009, 11:03 AM
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fairygemgirl - hate to point this out, but you still haven't given us the route you're taking!!!
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Old Aug 5th, 2009, 09:02 PM
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... and there i was getting poised to wax lyrical on road trips in Australia! yes, do tell where you are -- but i don't 'talk' freeways!!
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Old Aug 7th, 2009, 08:33 AM
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I haven't been in a while, but Independence Pass (I think hwy 82 or maybe 24 SE of Aspen) is a thrill a minute. My poor grandkids were on the ground throwing up and giving thanks for being delivered from the jaws of death. Actually chunks of the outside lane had broken off and fallen down the mountain in many places. I see this on every trip. Then there are also the falling boulders. This is/or was Aspen's road to the closest WalMart and closed seasonally. It is lovely, but I hope never to take that road again.

If you come through Texas try to match your speed to other drivers (fast), unless you take 59 through Kendleton, go under the posted speed. For non-emergency breakdowns on Texas roads you can call the Texas Highway Patrol at 888-524-5555. Other states have this service also.

Its recommended that you stop every few hours but it's hard to do when you are making good time. If you need a short nap or bathroom break I wouldn't stop at a roadside rest area unless it was EXTREMLY busy.
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Old Aug 7th, 2009, 10:17 AM
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dfr4848, I didn't mention my route cuz we're going all over the place in the southern US. We start in California, go through New Mexico and Texas, up to the Arkansas/Missouri border, back to NOLA, over to the Florida coast and up the coast to Massachutes.
I'd love to know any Australia driving tips just for comparision, micador! Hopefully I will get there one day! And since we will be in Texas, I definitely appreciate the tips, cybersal. I like mountain roads but I think I will avoid the pass you mentioned.

For California, I know the general driving/speeding rule of thumb is 1) have someone in the lane to your left going faster than you (so the police will stop them) or 2) you are generally safe if you are 5-8 miles over the speed limit.
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Old Aug 12th, 2009, 05:14 AM
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We have done a few road trips in the US - Route 66 was the first long one we did.

Get off the freeways onto the two lane black top, it is so much more rewarding. You get to see America, in all it's quirky glory, not just trucks, other cars and scenery rushing by at 70mph.

Start looking for a bed for the night at about 4 pm if you haven't prebooked a place. Make use of the coupon books you can pick up at gas stations - you have to be a bit choosy but you can get some real bargains at good motels - better deals than the AAA discount.
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Old Aug 12th, 2009, 06:30 AM
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Well, you ARE going all over the place.

I agree to get off the freeways in some areas to really see the country. Especially in areas like the Hill Country in TX. Get off I10, and travel on US290, US87, and/or US281.

And stop for meals at non-chain restaurants. Some of the best meals we've had have been at the mom & pop places. Go for the ones that have a crowded parking lot - usually a sure bet the food is good.
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Old Aug 13th, 2009, 01:45 PM
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Thanks for the advice!
Hetismij- I am debating making reservations versus calling the same day in order to better gauge where we might be. In the larger cities or on the weekend, I thought it would be advisable to try to book ahead. Otherwise, I thought we might wing it, using your advice to book by 4pm. Does that sound reasonable to you or do you think we should pre-book these days?
And I have always loved hitting the local places instead of chains so I will definitely listen, dfr4848.
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Old Aug 16th, 2009, 03:51 PM
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How old is your daughter? Stock up on some good audio books.
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Old Aug 20th, 2009, 12:12 AM
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You might enjoy two "road trip" trip reports from Aus.

Click on my user name and you'll find them.
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Old Aug 30th, 2009, 08:54 PM
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My daughters (and 6 month old grandson) and I did a road trip in June. We had some 10 - 14 hr driving days to get where we wanted to be and it was totally worth it. We did look up some hotels on the internet before we left home for cities where we thought we would be spending the night. Once we got close to or in the city we would make phone calls for reservations. We did have an iphone with 3G for internet service and used it to look up hotels, restaurants, attractions, open/close hours etc. Again, totally worth it. The iphone also has a map/gps that is very easy to use and was very accurate for everything we looked up.

One thing we realized was that we really enjoyed being able to spend two nights in one place so we tried to time driving and sight seeing so we could do that a couple of times. But that might have been because of the baby - washing bottles etc.

Have a great trip!
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Old Aug 31st, 2009, 02:30 PM
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I agree with sundowner's tip on making the call for where you want to stop once you get close to the city. In the past I've booked in advance, which I don't reccomend. Cause sometimes you may want to drive less or more than you originally planned.
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Old Sep 1st, 2009, 03:30 PM
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I'm back and we had (mostly) had a grand time! 5,000 miles, 12 cities, 11 days. We borrowed a GPS from family because they said it was an awesome tool. Unfortunately, we used it the first day to get the hang of it and then noticed it wasn't charging in either car plug. So we didn't have it for the rest of the trip. So one tip I learned is to test your electronic toys before you are driving.

Our first day was one of our longest and we stopped in Los Cruces for dinner. We couldn't find the restaurant we were looking for so we gave up and stopped at a little place called Dick's Barbeque which was delicious. My 20 yr old daughter had a pulled pork sandwich. The coleslaw side had pineapple and pecans - really refreshing. I had a bbq chicken salad which had a dry rub on the chicken breast. I chose not to add wet sauce and it was still really flavorful. We continued on to El Paso and used AAA books to pick a hotel from a cluster on the map as we were driving. Unfortunately the Extended Stay hotel was farther away in what seemed to be a shady area of town. For most of the rest of the trip, since we had no problem anytime with hotels being booked, we decided on the hotel as we got into town. Almost every other hotel included breakfast and free internet and ended up being about the same price as the first hotel which had neither.

I thought I had a clever tip in the ice chest we had for juice and breakfast bars instead of stopping for breakfast. We would use the hotel ice machines to refill the chest. But since most of the hotels we stayed in had a free breakfast, we didn't really use the ice chest.

We stopped at Carlsbad Caverns (my pick) for about 2 1/2 hours and really enjoyed the self tour of the big room. It really needed more time but we didn't have it. We went on to Waco, Texas (daughter's pick) to see the Dr. Pepper Museum. She entertained me with Dr. Pepper facts as we drove, including the 2 flavors of Dr. Pepper (original Dublin version and new version) and that Dr. P is the oldest cola and not part of Coke or Pepsi. You too are a Pepper now! And the museum is an official Spooky Spot after being investigated earlier this year and declared to have resident spookies.

With one notable exception, Texas and New Mexico were our favorite areas to drive because we were off the freeways and on the highways so we could see more of the area. Plus, the roads were not crowded and the truckers were polite and alert. The freeway between Waco and Ft. Worth on Thursday afternoon was as bad as any Los Angeles traffic and the drivers were CRAZY!
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Old Sep 1st, 2009, 04:21 PM
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The only other time we booked ahead for a hotel was for New Orleans. Daughter found a great book-ahead place at a great price. We stayed at Hotel St. Marie in the French Quarter for $53 a night. It is a quaint hotel in easy walking distance of Bourbon Street and more. The room was comfortable and the staff was very helpful - we would absolutely stay there again. We of course had beignets and jambalaya. I had bbq shrimp at a seafood restaurant whose name I have forgotten but they have a balcony with tables and umbrellas that overlooks the French Market. I had a huge bowl of jumbo shrimp in a butter/lemon/white wine sauce BUT they came with their little eyes, antennas, and legs staring/waving at us. We'd just seen "Julie and Julia" so my daughter kept telling me to be fearless. . . until I gave her one to carve up and eat. For dinner, we tried Stella! which was pricey but fantastic, a combination of Creole and Asian. Daughter had the seared foie gras with carmelized banana, brioche and jam and I had a heriloom salad of tomatoes, both were delish! For dinner, Duck Five Ways and Wild Salmon were beautiful and tasty.

We visited Savannah and Charleston - really enjoyed the gardens and squares of Savannah but ate in Charelston. Jestine's Kitchen wasn't crowded and was very tasty. I was hoping they had decided to put together a recipe book so I could get the pecan pie recipe but alas, no. Fried chicken, pickeled cukes, and sweet tea rounded out the meal. We walked through the historic district and then walked to Fleet Landing for dinner on the water. We were first time grits eaters and their cheesy grits made my daughter decide she wanted to find that recipe too. Seared scallops in a ginger sesame sauce rounded out the meal.

The last two days were our worst. We discussed taking the ferries and driving the outer banks but we didn't adequately plan. We missed the first ferry that only runs twice a day because we hadn't fully explored how long it would take to get there. Our day ended up being very long, especially with the backtracking from the ferry landing. We both kept thinking we should just skip it but neither of us wanted to dissapoint the other so no one said anything until too late.

Our last driving day was from Norfolk, Virginia through Maryland, New Jersey and New York to Conneticutt. We actually made very good time until we got to New York. It took 8 hours to go over the George Washington bridge and into New Haven. I don't think we went over 20 mph for most of that drive.

One frustration and time adder was the drivers who really didn't pay any attention to the "only" lanes but would drive up to the end and then cut over, slowing down the drivers who actually paid attention.

I thought the speed limit signs that say "No tolerance" were funny but of course I took them seriously. We don't have speed minimums in CA so the speed limits are almost considered more minimums than limits.

We had a wonderful dinner at Cafe Goodfellas, an Italian place in New Haven. We ate with some friends who ordered salads, which my daughter and I skipped. The waiter brought us each a small salad anyway (so we wouldn't feel left out.) Seared Swordfish, Rigatoni Vodka, and Pork chops Milanese were all great (although the pork was a little dry.) I thought the most interesting dish was the Beggars Purse pasta - something like tortellinis filled with pears and cheeses in a brown sage sauce. Very different (sweet, savory and buttery at the same time) but tasty.

I very much appreciate all the suggestions and tips, both on this thread and the other threads I read before the trip! Fodorites are AWESOME!
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