Skip To Content
    Updated on Apr 23, 2020. Posted on Nov 11, 2019

    19 Tips For Anyone Who Dreams Of Road-Tripping In The USA

    Camp for free, and save that money for snacks and coffee.

    Jemima Skelley / Getty Images / Via Hannah Wong / BuzzFeed

    A road trip around the USA is one of those bucket-list things that everyone should do at least once.

    Bboserup / Getty Images

    From small towns to big cities, snow to beautiful beaches, and national parks to wide stretches of nothingness, there's a hell of a lot to see.

    Some people are road trip experts, with decked-out Insta-worthy vans packed with everything you could ever need. This guide is more for people who just want to get in their car and go...but are a little unsure where to start.

    While all these tips were picked up while road-tripping in the US, they really could apply anywhere — the world's your oyster!

    1. Find free places to camp.

    2. Download offline maps before you go anywhere.

    maps.me

    Chances are you'll be hitting some spots where you won't have cell service, so definitely make sure you're prepared. You can always download offline Google Maps, but for trails and small roads, you should use maps.me. When you're on Wi-Fi, download the maps for every state you're planning to visit and you'll be sweet.

    3. Buy a jug of water and refill it where you can.

    Jemima Skelley

    Making sure you have enough water is Road Trip 101, especially if you're driving through remote areas. Instead of filling up your car with giant water tanks or buying pallets of individual water bottles, grab a one gallon jug. When it's empty you can refill it for free at national parks, gas stations, and cafés or restaurants along the way.

    4. Keep your cups and reuse them.

    Jemima Skelley

    If you buy a coffee or a soda, keep the cup you get it in. You can wash it out and reuse it later as a water cup, or to make brushing your teeth and washing your face easier. You could even use it as a bowl for cereal or oatmeal. Same goes when you eat somewhere that has plastic cutlery — keep it, wash it off, and reuse it.

    5. Wet wipes are your best friend.

    6. Pick up cheap camping gear from Walmart.

    7. Or make your car comfortable with a mattress topper.

    Jemima Skelley

    If you're traveling solo and can't be assed putting up a tent each night, sleeping in your car might be the easiest option. Once you put down the back seats there should be enough room to stretch out. You can make it even more comfortable by using a cheap foam mattress topper.

    8. Shower in aquatic centres.

    9. A picnic blanket takes things up a level.

    10. Use Couchsurfing to make friends along the way.

    11. Research the hell out of everything.

    Google Maps

    Before setting off on your trip, it's a good idea to have a rough itinerary of everything you want to see. That way you can plan the shortest route and maximise your gas efficiency. Find out as much as you can about the areas you're visiting, and you might even be able to coordinate your trip with any local festivals and events.

    Use sites like Reddit to search the area you'll be in and see if you can find any local secret places, like specific lookout points or an amazing burger place. Take the extra time to do thorough Google searches (try "unique places in X") and you'll be rewarded with spots off the beaten path.

    12. But don't get too set in your itinerary.

    13. Don't fill up at the first gas station you see.

    Twitter: @GasBuddy

    Before getting gas, just check if there are any other stations around you that are cheaper. Google Maps will give you fuel prices, or use an app like GasBuddy.

    14. Charge up your devices at Starbucks.

    Twitter: @rebeccaabroad

    Starbucks is a lifesaver when you need free Wi-Fi, or when your phone's about to die. Every couple of days you can stop in for an hour or two and charge up your phones or computers or whatever you need. Obviously, you could do this at any café, but most Starbucks stores usually have a ton of outlets.

    15. You don't have to rely on mainstream car rentals.

    Turo

    If normal car rental agencies are sold out of cars or don't have a model you like, you could check out a service like Turo. It's sort of like Airbnb for cars — people rent out their vehicles for pretty great prices. It's ideal if you don't have a credit card, as you can book with a normal debit card. The only downside is that you'd have to end your trip where you started.

    16. Check a car's fuel efficiency before renting.

    Google

    You might think you're getting a great deal renting a car for $15/day, but if it gets bad gas mileage, you'll be spending a lot more money when you fill up. Compare the different models on offer (if you Google "the car + mpg" it should come up). Aim for between 30 and 40 miles per gallon, though the higher the better.

    17. Find out about national park access.

    Twitter: @GrandCanyonNPS

    If you're visiting in the summer, national parks can get super busy by 8 a.m. A lot of parks offer shuttle buses, so instead of having to fight for parking, you can leave your car in a lot and take the bus into the park. In some state parks, this can save you money on entrance fees as well.

    18. Stock up on snacks when you see a Walmart or cheap grocery store.

    19. And keep in mind: You're gonna need cash.

    Lanier / Getty Images

    We live in a world where you can pay for everything with your credit or debit card, especially if you're a big city-dweller. But once you get to some small towns, you might find places that don't accept your card, so keep cash handy. You'll especially need it for some campsites in state parks, as well as for showers or laundry.