10 Surprising Tips For An Unforgettable Road Trip

Why do I love road trips? The unexpected journey.

Road trips are great ways to bond with others, find yourself, and experience adventure. Still, as much as we love road trips, they might start to feel routine if you travel often. We hope that this list of surprising tips for your next road trip inspires you to mix things up. After all, there are endless adventures across the United States calling out for you to come and explore.

Top 10 Surprising Tips For Your Next Road Trip

Most of us are creatures of habit. I know I am. We tend to stick to our routines and comfort zones, but sometimes that might lead us off the road and into a rut. Monotony and boredom start to set in. Doing something adventurous can help us break out of this cycle. Sometimes, something as simple as changing your routine can help you rediscover the joy of living.

We offer this list of surprising tips for your next road trip in hopes it will give you a fresh perspective on life, friendships, and adventure. That might sound like a lofty set of goals, but road trips have been transformational experiences in our lives. We hope you find a little inspiration here to hit the open road.

Surprising Road Trip Tip #1: Ditch The Map Or GPS

Have you ever considered taking a road trip without a map or GPS? There are some limitations, of course, but doing so will add an element of spontaneity and excitement to your trip. You might even find some unexpected benefits along the way.

Traveling without a map or GPS will enable you to immerse yourself in the journey. You won’t be able to zone out while you listen to directions. Instead, you have to rely on your instincts and intuition, and you’ll likely need to interact with new people along the way. Plus, you might stumble upon hidden gems, fun small towns, and unexpected scenery. Taking on this challenge is also a great way to challenge yourself and build confidence and independence.

So why not take the road less traveled and see where it leads you? You can always have a phone or atlas nearby if you need it, but that doesn’t mean you have to zone out and mindlessly follow directions.

Family road trip

Surprising Road Trip Tip #2: Choose Off-Season Destinations

We recommend that you zig when other people zag. Sure, there is a reason that the summer months are so popular for visiting the beach. That’s also when it is hottest and busiest. If suntanning is your thing, you can stick with the summer months. Otherwise, if you actually go to the beach for sunrises or some other reason, consider going during the off-season.

Traveling to your chosen destination during the off-season will enable you to experience your road trip in a whole new way. You’ll have more freedom to explore, and you will also see the local culture in a more authentic light.

Perhaps most significantly, traveling in the off-season can also save you loads of money. Hotels and rentals will likely have discounted rates, and you may find that local attractions and dining options also have discounted rates. Combine this with enhanced flexibility in terms of scheduling, and this is a win-win combination.

Surprising Road Trip Tip #3: Don’t Plan Too Much

The reality is that vacations are often so stressful that people return to the office saying things like, “Man, I really need a vacation.” So why not peel away some of the causes of that stress?

Instead of coming up with an hour-by-hour itinerary before you head out on your road trip, instead, consider taking each day as it comes. The downfall here is that if you are an indecisive person, you may spend half your day choosing how to spend your day. But you need to commit to taking action. Ask a local for their advice, and choose one of their suggestions. Do a Google search for the top local attractions.

Commit to a road trip of exploring. Go on lots of hikes and long-winding drives. If you have good company, this may be all that you really need. A little planning is probably inevitable. There are good chances you plan a general direction before you leave and that you coordinate on the types of clothes, you will need. And that’s ok. Do enough planning and coordinating to ensure a fun and safe trip, but clear expectations every minute will be planned.

Surprising Road Trip Tip #4: Try Unique Accommodations

Most of us default to hotels, vacation rentals, or maybe camping if we are extra adventurous (or broke). Have you ever researched more unique options for your accommodations? In fact, some people plan their entire road trips around the unique places they will stay. Potential options range from sleeping in an old train car to sleeping in a yurt.

Find something that fits your interests and budget. The possibilities are nearly endless. Look for glamping tents, treehouses, houseboats, or even converted shipping containers. You can also search for themed rentals on a platform like Airbnb or VRBO. Here is a list of 10 unique accommodations across the United States:

  • The Caboose Motel – Titusville, Pennsylvania
  • The Lighthouse Bed & Breakfast – Two Harbors, Minnesota
  • The Out ‘n’ About Treehouse Treesort – Cave Junction, Oregon
  • The Red Caboose Motel – Ronks, Pennsylvania
  • The Wigwam Motel – Holbrook, Arizona
  • The Dog Bark Park Inn – Cottonwood, Idaho
  • The Queen Mary – Long Beach, California
  • The Liberty Hotel – Boston, Massachusetts
  • The Aurora Express – Fairbanks, Alaska
  • The Shady Dell – Bisbee, Arizona

Pro Tips For Road Trips: Book your funky accommodations well in advance. Unique destinations fill up quickly. You might consider booking mid-week or during the off-season. This will help you save money and avoid crowds. It will also give you a shot a booking your dream accommodations that are otherwise booked.

If you are looking for things to do on a road trip, don’t overlook your sleeping arrangements. Places like the ones suggested above will completely change your experience. Embrace quirks and charm to fully experience your next road trip!

Surprising Road Trip Tip #5: Use Public Transportation

It might seem counterintuitive to take a road trip without your car. Still, there are plenty of benefits to taking this approach. For instance, using public transportation might be the most sustainable way to complete your road trip. And that’s just one benefit to consider. It may also be budget-friendly and relaxing.

Utilizing public transportation will enable you to sit back, relax, and enjoy the journey. You won’t have to worry about navigating unfamiliar roads or fighting through traffic. You can use that time to read a great book, intently appreciate the scenery, or even close your eyes.

And then there is this: depending on your destination and the number of people in your travel group, taking public transportation might be a more affordable option. Certainly, this isn’t always the case. Still, if you avoid buying multiple plane tickets or paying for a rental car, you will likely come out ahead using public transportation.

Here is a road trip fun fact: 97% of summer travel is done by car. Mix things up and try something new!

Looking for surprising tips for road trips? Consider taking Amtrak or public transportation instead of a car.

Surprising Road Trip Tip #6: Plan Your Trip Around Food!

This might be my favorite of all tips for a road trip. I don’t consider myself a foodie, but I do love to eat! When my family road trips down to Hilton Head or somewhere along the Carolina coast, I try to have shrimp and grits. In the same way, when we road-tripped through Maine, I enjoyed multiple lobster rolls (delish). Otherwise, I don’t eat much seafood when I am home.

Road-tripping is a great way to experience new cultures. There may be no better way to do so than to enjoy the local cuisine. And since some regions are known for certain types of food, you can plan an entire road trip around food exploration. Here are eleven ideas:

  • Southern BBQ Road Trip
  • California Wine and Cheese Tour
  • Maine Lobster Roll Tour
  • Texas Taco Trail
  • Texas Brisket Expedition
  • Louisiana Cajun Cuisine Crawl
  • New York City Pizza Tour
  • Pacific Northwest Seafood Adventure
  • Wisconsin Cheese Adventure
  • Georgia Peach Tour
  • Midwest Pizza Exploration (Detroit, Chicago, and St. Louis styles)

When we think of top tips for road trips, our minds almost always gravitate toward good food. Do you have any other ideas for a food-themed road trip? Be sure to let us know.

Try a barbecue-focused road trip!

Surprising Road Trip Tip #7: Embrace The Elements

We would never encourage unwise or unsafe decisions, but a little rain never hurt anyone. Be prepared for all types of weather. Pack clothing and gear that will keep you warm and dry. Bring plenty of layers, including a waterproof jacket, hat, and gloves. Then, instead of watching movies on a drizzly day, pause your road trip long enough to go for a fun hike instead.

Understand the risk associated with extreme weather conditions, and avoid it at all costs. On the other hand, don’t let normal changes in the weather prevent you from enjoying your next adventure. Stay up-to-date on weather forecasts, and roll with the weather punches. Changes your plans as needed.

Take precautions so that you can safely embrace the elements. Enjoy all that nature has to offer on your road trip. After all, what’s a good adventure without a little adventure?

Surprising Road Trip Tip #8: Don’t Skip The Local Attractions

Exploring local attractions is a great way to add some unique flavor to your road trip. Local attractions offer a glimpse into local culture and offer fun and memorable experiences. Plus, you never know exactly what you will find.

For example, Cawker City, Kansas, is home to the World’s Largest Ball of Twine! Maybe it’s a little goofy, but it will also serve as a memorable experience. You could also check out local museums, art galleries, and historical sites. Learn about the area’s past and present. Here is a list of 10 fairly random attractions across the United States

  • Amarillo, Texas – Cadillac Ranch
  • Wall, South Dakota – Wall Drug Store
  • Roswell, New Mexico – International UFO Museum and Research Center
  • Santa Claus, Indiana – Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari
  • Branson, Missouri – Silver Dollar City
  • Forks, Washington – Twilight Tours
  • Leavenworth, Washington – Bavarian Village
  • Alliance, Nebraska – Carhenge
  • Marfa, Texas – Prada Marfa
  • Winslow, Arizona – Standin’ on the Corner Park

This is just a small sample of the random and surprising attractions you will find across the United States. There are many more, and we encourage you to share more as you explore.

By the way, don’t forget about local food and drink! Sample regional specialties, like barbecue in the South or craft beer in the Pacific Northwest. In my view, food is often one of the top local attractions and a window into the local culture.

Surprising Road Trip Tip 9: Travel Lite, But Don’t Forget The Duct Tape

I have a tendency to overpack, but quality and versatility matter more than quantity when you are road-tripping. Instead of packing a big suitcase, consider packing essential clothing with versatile pieces. This will help you save space, reduce laundry concerns, and help you stay organized on the road.

To pull this off successfully, invest in a few quality pieces of hiking and travel gear. For instance, merino wool shirts are odor resistant and durable, so a few will go a long way. You should also consider an easily packable rain jacket that you can stuff in a backpack. And wear comfortable shoes that are both durable and versatile. There are several companies that make versatile hiking shoes that look good in nearly any situation.

And while we recommend traveling lite, having the right essentials is key. Just as we recommend packing a few Merino wool shirts as staples for your trip, we also recommend packing duct tape. These might be surprising tips for a road trip, but in this instance, it is also practical. Duct tape will be useful for everything from fixing a broken tent pole to patching a leaky air mattress. Here are seven more unique ideas for using duct tape:

  • Cover a blister so it won’t rub against your shoe
  • Repair a torn backpack or suitcase
  • Create a makeshift clothesline to dry wet clothes
  • Patch a hole in a screen or window
  • Secure loose or rattling car parts
  • Fix a broken strap on a sandal or backpack
  • Make a temporary repair to a torn or damaged seat cushion

So if you’re planning a road trip, we recommend traveling lite but don’t forget the duct tape. Small decisions make big differences.

Surprising Road Trip Tip #10: Leave Your Phone At Home?!

Ok. We readily admit that this tip isn’t for everyone, and it might seem a little extreme. Still, there might be no better way to disconnect, unwind, and find a sense of freedom.

I have trouble staying present in the moment, and I imagine that you might too. I don’t think this is solely because of my cell phone. Still, I certainly use my phone as a crutch when my mind has wandered elsewhere. The constant distraction that phone notifications and social media create prevents you from focusing on people and places around you.

Putting your phone away will help you deepen connections with your friends and family. Instead of mindlessly scrolling through pictures of strangers, instead ask questions to your travel companions. And by focusing on them, they will likely feel more at ease to connect with you.

You may also find that the troubles of the world seem to, at least partly, drift away. The problems of the world seem so heavy when they are present in your hand. On the other hand, when you are present in the moment to deepen relationships and watch the beauty around you, you may be encouraged by the good in the world instead. Take a mental break, recharge your soul, and find peace and contentment.

Road trip to new adventures.

An Unforgettable Journey Awaits

Road trips are more than just a way to get from point A to point B – they can be a transformative and soul-nourishing experience. The adventure and freedom of the open road can have a profound impact on our physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

Road trips allow us to break free from our routine and explore new horizons. They also offer a way to connect with ourselves and our innermost thoughts. The solitude and reflection of a road trip can help us reconnect with our passions, values, and purpose. You may find greater clarity and fulfillment.

So if you’re feeling stuck or in need of a change, consider taking a road trip. The adventure, freedom, and self-discovery that come with the open road can be just what your soul needs to thrive.