Road trip best practices.
April 19, 2010 6:49 PM   Subscribe

Roadtrip: Kansas City, MO to Fayetteville, NC

I'm leaving Wednesday and I'm thinking that I want to do it in two ten hour spurts. I'm thinking I will just head east until I hit Charleston, WV and then go south into NC. (Don't worry, I have a map!) So, my question for the Hivemind is two-fold.

1.) What are some road trip best practices? Times to eat? Should I wait to fill up at 1/4 tank or should I be like my parents and fill at half? Good car snacks? Driving songs? Impart your wisdom!

2.) Are there any online trip planners that will tell me the halfway mark so I can have a first day goal? I've tried google maps and AAA Trip planner, but neither have the functionality (that I know of) to tell me the half way mark.

Help me have a great road trip!

Also, I'll be doing this solo, no other drivers/passengers.
posted by julie_of_the_jungle to Travel & Transportation (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
That's a lot of driving to do alone. I'd break it up-stopping every couple of hours or so to stretch, etc.

My suggestion is to start way early on the first day, and stop when you still have a couple of daylight hours left (so you can find nonsketchy accomodations, grab a bite to eat, etc.)

Also, let me know if you have any Fayetteville related questions. I live here!
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:54 PM on April 19, 2010

I have driven all over this country, much of it by myself.

You kind of have to find your own halfway point. Mapquest tells me this trip is approximately 1000 miles, so I'd estimate the 500 mile mark. This looks to be around Louisville or Frankfort, KY, so plan to stop near one of those two cities.

The cheapest hotels will be on the interstate near a truck stop, a little bit outside of town. Not sure if you're planning to book ahead of time or just find one once you're there. Either way should work fine. I've slept at rest areas for a few hours at a time, rather than get a hotel, but this is frowned upon and not the safest option.

Pack a carry-on sized bag for your overnight stay, so that you don't have to carry all your crap into the hotel with you. Bring a book or two to read in the evening, and possibly at restaurants if you decide to stop for a sit-down meal.

As for best practices... since you're by yourself, you get to do whatever the hell you feel like doing. Eat when you're hungry. Fill up on empty. Pee while you're at the gas station. If you have to pee before the tank is empty again, fill it when you stop to pee. I like to make good time, so I usually go for the crap food at drive thrus and gas stations. I like to have a mix of salty and sweet things (m&m's!), and I'll usually bring at least a couple pieces of fruit -- easy stuff like bananas, apples and grapes. You don't want to try to peel an orange while driving.

MUSIC! I like to listen to stuff that sets a good, fast pace, so it seems like the trip isn't taking so long. U2 is always in my car. I also like Prince, Pink and other pop stuff for long trips, to help keep up my energy. But sometimes my ears get tired, and I just switch everything off. If you have an MP3 player, you can get one of those "cassette" adapters for it so you can use it in your car. Of course, you may have a newer car than me, so YMMV (ha!).

Audio books are also great. Try not to pick something that will make you cry. Crying = poor visibility! Little known fact: you can "rent" audio books through Cracker Barrel restaurants! Just buy one at the first Cracker Barrel, then when you're done, stop at another location and exchange it for another title. When you get to your destination, they'll give you a full refund. At least, they did the last time I tried this. Pretty cool! (Don't eat the food, though. Blech.)

The best part of this is that since you're by yourself, you get to make the rules. I once drove from Boulder, CO to Williamsburg, VA, without really stopping. I slept at rest areas for ~3 hours at a time here and there. The whole trip took me just over 31 hours. But then again, I'm a little nuts :)
posted by wwartorff at 8:10 PM on April 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Oh yeah, I totally forgot to mention that I usually sleep at those travel centers truck stops (think Pilot or Love's), because I never sleep for very long and I like the convenience. Where else can you sleep (for free), shower (~$5), and fill up your car, they are awesome. So sleeping is taken care of!

wwartorffLittle known fact: you can "rent" audio books through Cracker Barrel restaurants!

That's cool, I might do that.
posted by julie_of_the_jungle at 8:35 PM on April 19, 2010

A friend and I drove from Lawrence, KS to Philadelphia several summers ago. We had a tremendous time listening to cheap romance and mystery novels on tape (well, on CDs that we borrowed from the library before we left, then we ripped them and put them on our iPods). A nice break from music and cheesy enough that you can appreciate them (read: laugh hysterically) without having to concentrate too hard on the plot.

Sliced fruit and veggies (maybe in a small cooler on the front passenger's seat?) are better than gas station snacks, IMHO, especially when paired with slices of cheese. My absolute favorite car snack is cheerios, dried cranberries, nuts and dark chocolate M&Ms — maybe this thread on trail mix will have some other good suggestions?

Also, this might not be as much of a problem if you're alone, but I once got too involved in a conversation while on a road trip and ended up with my gas light blinking, miles from civilization in central Texas. Fill at half.
posted by rebekah at 9:32 PM on April 19, 2010

I fill at a quarter tank, or thereabouts. Except in west Texas, the desert states, and the northwest plains (Montana, Wyoming, etc.). In those places, I fill every time I come across a gas station (unless I just filled up).

And one of my favorite things to do while driving is to listen to country music. It isn't that I particularly like country music, but rather that I find so much of it hilariously disingenuous. Furthermore, it's always available out in the sticks, even when there isn't a rock or hip-hop station for three hundred miles.

The trip from Springfield, MO to Philadelphia is about 1200 miles. I routinely did that in just one "day", with a three or four hour nap at a rest stop (usually at about the Indiana-Ohio border). So, if you wanted to, it's entirely possible to basically push straight through this trip without an official "stop".

Protip: if you're sleeping in your car, and carrying a food product preserved with dry ice, crack a window. Otherwise the CO2 will build up and you'll find yourself awake and gasping for breath after a couple hours.

I've slept at rest areas for a few hours at a time, rather than get a hotel, but this is frowned upon and not the safest option.

Sleeping in a rest stop isn't frowned upon. That's pretty much their purpose. The only time I've ever heard of anybody being hassled by the man over it is when they either a) made camp or b) stayed for more than about 8 hours.

Whether or not it's safe... well, that's a different issue. It's safe enough for me to do it. Your calculus of fear may work out differently.
posted by Netzapper at 10:04 PM on April 19, 2010

Tips for cheap travel: use the hot water spigot in gas stations to hydrate your dehydrated soup or ramen, oatmeal, and Gatorade or lemonade. The less you eat at restaurants, well, the more money you have for gas.
posted by slidell at 10:50 PM on April 19, 2010

« Older Dizziness and ovarian cysts, whoopee!   |   America is a ____ 10 year old boy. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.