Tomorrow marks 4th July, otherwise known as Independence Day in the USA, and here at Mankind we want to celebrate this day with our American readers. We also know that many of you outside of the US will have already organised a holiday to the states, or are looking to plan a visit soon. Here at Mankind we got thinking about travelling the USA and the best way to do it – well, it can only be road tripping! We’ve put together our top rules of an American road trip so that when you set out on the road, you know exactly what to expect and what to prepare for…
Hire a car
It sounds obvious when planning a road trip, but the best way to see the USA is by car rather than by train or a Greyhound bus (only for the brave…) Whilst car hire can be one of the more expensive options, it is by far the most flexible and offers the most potential when it comes to sight-seeing and route planning. Although the unfortunate under 25s among us will have to pay an extra surcharge per day to hire a car in the USA, it’s completely worth the cost – after all, you can’t put a price on memories! Plus, make sure that when you choose the car you don’t just go for the smallest and cheapest – depending on how many people you are travelling with and how long you are travelling for, your car will have to fit a number of full bags inside, and the smallest cars won’t accommodate for more than 2 or 3 suitcases. For your own comfort and the safety of the bags, consider a car with a bigger boot space.
Top Tip: Pick your car up from the airport rather than a collection point in the middle of the city – the freeways and highways leading away from airports will give you a chance to get used to your car in the slow lane, whereas big cities are often made up of tight and complicated one-way systems that will throw you in at the deep end right away.
Research your route
Once you’re in the USA, you won’t find much time to sit and plan your route with all that exploring to do! Research the places that you want to visit before you fly out – a plastic wallet in your suitcase is a great idea to keep all of your plans in one place. Before you collect your car, find out how much you can pick up a GPS for from a local store – depending on the length of travel, buying one out right could work out cheaper than the daily rental rate that car hire companies will charge. A GPS will be your best friend on your road trip, and will allow you to discover those hidden gems that you wouldn’t be able to reach by coach or train. Take the Big Sur, for example – a car is an absolute must to experience this coastal stretch of Californian road if you want the best possible chance to take in the breath-taking views. If you accidentally take a wrong turning out on the road and you find yourself lost, then don’t panic – take this opportunity to check out the local hang outs and get a taste for the culture away from the tourist hotspots.
Top Tip: Buy a road map anyway, just in case you encounter sudden problems with your GPS – you may not need it, but when you get home you can always put it up on your bedroom wall and stick pins into the cities that you visited to make a unique piece of memorabilia.
The Big Sur
Learn the rules
The written and unwritten rules of American roads can be different to those in the UK and across the world. Here are a few helpful pointers so that you’re ready to take on the highway:
• Turn right on red – on the majority of roads, bar those in New York City, you are allowed to turn right at traffic lights when the light is red, providing the way is clear. Without this rule in mind, you might find yourself at the receiving end of some angry honks at the lights.
• Speed limits – although speed limits are measured in miles per hour like in the UK, the limits vary between states and towns. Generally you can expect limits of between 55 and 75 mph on the bigger roads, and between 55 and 65 mph on those that are a bit smaller. However, speed limits seem to change more frequently on American roads, so always keep an eye out for the next road sign.
• Embrace automatic – if you hire a car in the USA, chances are it will be automatic, even if it is a smaller and cheaper option. It doesn’t take too much time to get used to, but if you’ve never driven automatic before, have a practise run in a parking lot to get used to the pedals. Plus, if you’ve only ever driven in the UK, Australia, or other left-hand-side-of-the-road countries, then you’ll need to get used to driving on the right and sitting on the left too!
• Gas stations – in the USA, gas stations work differently to in the UK. Firstly, yes – gas is the same as what we would call petrol. Secondly, you have to pay for the gas in the station before you fill up. The pump will then allow you as much gas as you have paid for, or you can get the cash back for what you haven’t used.
Top Tip: When you collect your car, double check whether the car takes petrol or diesel fuel. The likelihood is that it will take petrol fuel, but it’s worth confirming so that you don’t get caught out at a desolate gas station in the middle of Death Valley.
Share the role of DJ
Whether your road trip is organised down to the last detail, or you’re taking a more spontaneous approach, you’ll be sat in a car at all times of the day, in all sorts of moods and will likely be in the company of others all the while. You may have already made a list of road trip songs that you’re longing to belt out as you cruise along the lanes, and by all means ensure that you can bring life to your list of road trip anthems – this may well be your once in a lifetime chance! However, make sure that everyone gets a fair shot at picking the tunes, so that all tastes and moods are catered to on those long journeys. Whilst you can associate new memories to new songs that you discover on your trip, hours of unfamiliar songs can get tedious for the rest of the car, so remember to regularly blast some golden oldies so that you can all get air-guitaring right away (except the driver, of course – safety first!)
Top Tip: Bruce Springsteen is a guaranteed winner on an American road trip – get rocking to Born in the USA, Born to Run and more of his classic anthems.
On your American road trip you’ll probably be driving between cities and across states, and you’ll find that you’re sat in the car for long periods of time. These journeys will become hot and stuffy, and you may find that the car starts to feel more cramped by the minute. Of course, open the windows and blast the air con when you can to circulate some fresh air, but more importantly make sure that you use a reliable deodorant to keep yourself fresh as well – it’s only fair to the others in the car!
Are you planning to travel the USA this year? Let us know what you have planned in the comments below or on social with @mankindcouk, and read through our rules of an American road trip so that you’re completely in the know before you go! Free delivery at Mankind.co.uk.