Wednesday, January 27, 2016

10 Things You Need to Know Before Driving Cross-Country

10 Things You Need to Know Before Driving Cross-Country | A Hoppy Medium

In early October, Z and I packed up the car and drove cross-country from Boston to Portland, Oregon. It was an adventure we had wanted to do for a while, and being in our young 30s - with no kids as of yet - we knew the time was now or never.

Our anticipation of the trip was incredibly exciting and a little nerve-wracking, and let's just say we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. To make sure you're a little more prepared, if you dare to embark on this once-in-a-lifetime journey, here are a few things to keep in mind before you go:

1.) Your Patience Will be Tested
Traffic, your car companion who you will be in tight quarters with for quite some time, your hanger when there's no food options in sight (see #2), when you just want to get the hell out of the car, but you’re still a few hours from your destination. All of that will test your patience. Breathe, and remind yourself why you embarked on this epic journey in the first place.

10 Things You Need to Know Before Driving Cross-Country | A Hoppy Medium
We ate all the fried cheese curds in the Midwest.

2.) Food Options Will Be Scarce 
A surprising amount of towns in America have nothing in them (except for Subway…Subway’s everywhere). But for when you just can’t “eat fresh” one more time, the options can be scarce in certain areas – especially for us vegetarians. Be prepared: bring plenty of protein-packed snacks to hold you over until the next place with edible options shows up.

3.) Credit Cards Are Not Accepted Everywhere...Still
There is nothing worse than finally finding food only to discover that that small-town establishment doesn’t accept credit cards. We only ran into this once or twice, but when you’re starving in the middle of nowhere, you’re going to really wish you had some dollar bills on you.

4.) Technology Will Fail on You
Z and I snickered at each other when his parents gifted us an old-school, paper Atlas map for our trip. I mean, who needs anything that archaic when we have iPhones? That clearly don’t work when they lose service in all of those remote areas we drove through?? Yeah…the paper map came in handy on several occasions when our GPS gave out and we needed to find our way.

5.) The Radio Gets Old...Fast
Books and/or comedians on CD as well as podcasts are a great way to pass long car rides. During our trip, we got very into “This American Life.” Z just downloaded a bunch of them to his phone, and listening to all of those varied, interesting, long stories really passed the 9- and 10-hour rides quite quickly.

10 Things You Need to Know Before Driving Cross-Country | A Hoppy Medium

6.) Cars Can Break
This might be an obvious one, but you never know what will happen. Before we left Boston, we had our brakes and tires replaced, and had everything else checked out just in case. Of course, after putting so many miles into any car, you will run into problems no matter what – flat tire, cracked windshield, a leaky A/C pipe (which actually happened to us...). But for the bigger issues that are in your control, you should definitely get those taken care of before you leave. Safety first!

10 Things You Need to Know Before Driving Cross-Country | A Hoppy Medium
Beer sampler at Toppling Goliath.

7.) Your Plans Will Change
Like most things in life, nothing will go as you planned it. Case in point: Despite my organized, typed-up travel plans, we ended up changing one leg of our trip on a whim so we could check out Toppling Goliath Brewery in Decorah, Iowa. (A state we never thought we'd love spending time in...but did!). We cancelled our original hotel on the road, and were able to find a new one close to the brewery. In addition to loving the brewery and the beautiful views of Iowa along the road, we ended up spending less time in the car, too! The whole point of driving cross-country is to have an adventure – so be prepared and flexible to change your original plans on a whim.

8.) Bathrooms and Gas Stations Disappear 
Just like a lack of dining options in many stretches of your trip, you’ll also experience random droughts when it comes to bathrooms and gas stations…neither of which you want to experience. Be in-the-know for when you’re about to hit a “dry spell” and plan accordingly. We chatted with locals to get some insight into the more isolated areas, but SitOrSquat and GasBuddy are good app options, too (assuming you have service, of course).

10 Things You Need to Know Before Driving Cross-Country | A Hoppy Medium
Sioux Falls in South Dakota.

9.) You Will Want a [Charged] Camera
You’ll want to capture every beautiful sight you see (and meal you eat, if you’re like me), so make sure you have a charged camera for all of those moments (and there will be a lot of them). Z and I mainly used our iPhones during the entire trip, which worked just fine – but I was definitely bummed out the few times my phone was dead and there was a memory I wanted to capture.

10.) Taking Turns is Key
I know a few people who have driven cross-country by themselves, but honestly, having a partner in crime is key for safety reasons. Z and I had to get to Portland within six days, so our trip was a little more accelerated than most people's, but being able to split up the driving on any long car ride is just plain safer. And way more fun, for when it's not your turn behind the wheel!

Have you ever driven cross-country? If so, what are some of your tips?

If you haven't driven cross-country before, is it on your wishlist?


  1. This is such a fun post! I HATE driving or being in the car, even for two hours, so I don't know if I could do this.

    1. Some days were looooooong, but a lot of breaks to get out and stretch our legs definitely helped!

  2. I'll never forget being in the middle of Wyoming, getting our Penske truck fixed, and the guy there telling us that "googles don't know nothin'" about which way was best. That day we also learned not to get the tater tots at Taco Time.

    1. Haha! Too funny. I loved meeting all of the locals along the way! There were definitely some memorable characters.....

  3. I have always wanted to do something like this. I've done Boston to Florida, to GA and to NC - so the east coast road trip multiple times over - but I would love to do east to west!