(New York skyline. Photo Credit: Shannon Westwood)
I did my road trip around the USA after an amazing summer working at Camp Iroquois Springs. I was a camp counselor specialising in Horse Back Riding, and for those wondering, I was placed by USA Summer Camp who were absolutely amazing throughout the process! For more information on USA Summer Camp, check them out on their website! www.usasummercamp.co.uk
Camp has been such a life changing experience and I honestly wish I had done it sooner and not held back! After camp, my friends and I embarked on a road trip around the North-East and honestly it was pretty impressive. 13 states in 15 days; every North-East state bar Maine, and included some interesting places like Salem, the Howe Caverns and Niagara Falls. We drove throughout the whole trip which I was sceptical of at first, as I had it in my head originally that I would have travelled by bus. But honestly, driving was the best decision we could have made. If you’re heading off to a summer camp or just travelling around the US in general, here are my top 10 tips for making your road trip a true all American adventure.
- SAVE THE MONEY THAT YOU EARN – dollar dollar dollar. I saved most of my wage and was stingy throughout the summer, but it’s totally worth it at the end! Having that extra money to be able to go that extra mile on your trip and see more destinations was awesome. Plus if you have leftover dollars, just convert them back! Win-win situation!
- GO IN A GOOD SIZED GROUP – my road trip consisted of 7 and we had two cars (one which was a rental), so maybe a group of 4 is a good size to start with because it’s an even number plus you wouldn’t have to fork out for 2 rental cars and more fuel cost! Having said that, the bigger the group the more personalities and more ideas of cool places to visit that you may not have originally have thought of.
- PLAN PLAN PLAN – Plan way before your actual trip the sort of areas you want to go in – it saves you time and stress by mapping out your route weeks before the trip actually starts, and it means you can feel at ease knowing what direction you’re going to be travelling in
- CAMPING IS ACTUALLY PRETTY FUN – I hated camping before my road trip, but honestly some of the best nights that we had were in our tent camping in national state parks (some of them even had warning signs for bears, which is always a positive!) But seriously, it saves SO much money and chip in as a group for your tent and whaddaya know, Bob’s your uncle
- GET TO CAMPSITES LATE – although driving in the dark in a foreign country is pretty hard, it’s worth it because getting to campsites late means one thing (in most cases)… free entry. State park/campsite offices usually shut around 4-6pm, so arrive 8pm or later and you’re pretty much guaranteed a free night.
- MAKE FREQUENT WIFI STOPS – seems like an obvious one, but being on the road for a while and in such close proximity with people will cause tensions to rise. Making frequent wifi stops means you can delve into your own personal world for a while, catch up with home or be up to date with the latest news. It’s also a good chance to look for accommodation for that night/future nights and you can contact these places if advanced booking is required
- BUY A COOLER – it was honestly the best thing we did! We bought milk, orange juice, meat for a BBQ and sandwich fillers, which meant we could have cereal in the morning for breakfast and could also make sandwiches for during the day, which equals saving money on buying food out. I personally tried to buy more fruit and salad stuff, because healthy food in the USA was a lot more expensive than fast food, so I took that chance to try and detox a little whilst travelling
- TALK THINGS OUT – tensions will rise on a road trip at some point. The best thing to do, no matter how bad the situation is, is to talk it out as a group. Get it out in the open how others in the group are feeling. It may not resolve the situation, but at least people’s feelings are known, so the situation can hopefully be prevented from reoccurring in the future
- COMPROMISE – when travelling you’ll have in your head all the cities and sights you wanna see. C., New York City, Nashville, Chicago, maybe Salem or Pittsburgh… You have to remember the rest of your group will want to see specific places too. Be sure to all talk together when travelling to a city and talk about the day plan. Not everyone will want to see historical sights in DC ALL day, and not everyone will want to spend a full day at a campsite. You just have to give and take, compromise where you can; even in a city split off into two groups and arrange a meeting point and time, and keep in touch with occasional messages via Facebook or What’s App. It gives the group dynamic a better feeling and honestly, will make your trip more enjoyable. You never know, you could end up doing something that you used to hate, but because you’re doing it with your best friends you end up coming away absolutely loving it.
- MAKE SURE SOMEONE HAS A CREDIT CARD – honestly, people will tell you time and time again. AMERICA IS THE LAND OF CREDIT CARDS. I didn’t believe it, but honestly having one out there was the best decision I could have made. You can only get a rental car with a credit card, some toll roads accept credit only (as well as some parking lots). It’s just that extra bit of security and it gives you something to fall back on should you run out of money. Make sure to only use it in an emergency though, you don’t want a HUGE credit card bill to come home too!
I would ALWAYS recommend road tripping, if it’s possible, across America rather than taking the Amtrak trains or Greyhound buses. You see so much more of the country and get a real feel for the sheer size of America’s beautiful landscape. One thing I’ll never forget from my road trip experience this summer was driving through Vermont; I had never seen anything so beautiful in my entire life, and that is something that I would have never experience from being sat on a train. It is hard work, I won’t lie to you. It will be tough, you’ll be tired and you may end up wanting to kill people in your group. But when you get home and look back on your adventure, or when you get back to the car rental place and pass over those keys, you just stand there and think ‘Jeez, we made it. We did it.’ You will miss it instantly! I moaned how tired I was throughout my whole trip because I was the only person that could drive the rental car. But if someone asked me to do it all again tomorrow, I totally would. Honestly, the memories you have singing ‘Country Roads’ whilst crossing the West Virginia state border, getting lost in the dark in the middle of a random forest, and driving up the wrong side of the road, (in our case!), are ones you will hold forever. I could talk for hours about other top tips that I’ve experienced through my road trip across the North East this summer, but I hope these 10 have helped!
(Randomly driving through New York state. Photo Credit: Shannon Westwood)
Happy road tripping!