Notes From The Road: 5 Things I Learned On This Roadtrip

I’m spending March roadtripping through the south, seeing friends and clients and eating my weight in, well, everything. You can read previous Notes From The Road (which are more international in nature) here.

I’m a fairly experienced roadtripper. I’ve got a Garmin, I can assemble a healthy(ish) meal from gas station food, I know which outfits to wear when I’m going to be sitting for seven hours. (Here are my six suggestions for road tripping by yourself)

But life is nothing so much as one learning experience after another (note to self: don’t order the “sweet, effervescent” wine at Olive Garden) so here are five things I learned on this trip.

5 Things to Know Before Roadtripping

1. Bring cash and quarters

Did you know that Illinois and Indiana have approximately one million toll roads?  And that some of them only take cash?  If you’re roadtripping through a toll-heavy area, get $20-30 in small bills and keep them in your glove box or cup holder so you’re not rummaging around in your purse when you pull up to the toll booth. Also?  Lots of those quaint little towns you happen upon will have quarter-only parking meters – none of these fancy, schmancy credit card parking meters.  Be prepared.

2. OMG, get AAA

For the longest time, I thought AAA was “for old people.”  Maybe because my parents had it?  Regardless of its target market, IT IS FANTASTIC.  Not only because you’ve got peace of mind for $66 a year, you get discounts on pretty much every hotel and motel in America and lots of tourist attractions.  In one trip, my membership paid for itself.

3. Use OKCupid to meet locals

As you probably know, OkCupid is a free online dating site.  Though it’s usually used for finding lovahs and wrestling partners, you can totally use it meet locals, make friends, and get travel advice.  I met up with no less than five lovely dudes who tour guided me around their cities (not a euphemism!) told me about the reality of living in a beautiful place totally overrun with tourists and took me to places I wouldn’t have gone otherwise (again, not a euphemism.)If you feel a little nervous about going out with the stranger in a strange town, email a friend your date’s photo, phone number, and real name or try the strictly platonic Invite For A Bite.

4. Get a usb car charger

You probably already have one of these, right?  For the longest time I didn’t.  Because who cares if my phone goes dead when I’m two blocks from my apartment?  But it’s a bit more dire when you’re in the middle of nowhere, by yourself.  You can pick up a usb phone charger at any Walgreens or CVS.

5. Use Airbnb

I think I’ve sung the praises of this home/room rental service before, but let me clear my throat. It’s cheaper than any motel, it’s a million times homier, and it’s kind of a built-in friend if you’re traveling by yourself.  I was in Savannah and Asheville by myself and each time I stayed in the spare room of a home owned by a single woman.  We drank coffee together and talked about creativity, Heather told me the backstories of her two cats and Gert invited me along to dinner with her boyfriend (ages 64 and 67 respectively).  So lovely!What are your roadtripping tips and tricks?

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  1. Maria

    I second having quarters on road trips, but I want to point out that the only toll road in Indiana is the East-West one up by the Michigan border. Come to Central or Southern Indiana and you won't have to pay any tolls! 🙂 Also, Central and Southern Indiana is waaaay nicer. Just sayin'.

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Ahhh! Good to know! I just go where the Garmin tells me 😉

    • hmweasley

      I live in southern Indiana and go to school in central Indiana, and there are absolutely no toll roads anywhere. So I was really shocked by that.

  2. Jenny

    On my God, I think Airbnb might change me life. Thanks!

  3. Celebrating the Day

    Love these! I just got back from a long road trip out west. Our must-haves were books on tape, a little trash bag for all our clementine peels, and sunglasses of varying shades. AAA was so worth having when we hit a family of deer AND A BAT (???) within 30 minutes of leaving our house. And you can't forget a non-cell phone camera within reach for all those roadside attractions. We passed a giant meteor crater!

  4. Shannon

    A little cooler! Fill with cheap ice, snacks and drinks to keep in the car during daytime, bring into room at night for use as mini fridge.

    Also, I second a trash bag, then empty it everytime you stop for gas or a bathroomstretch break, keeps the car looking decent!

    Baby wipes and zip lock bags are always a good idea too, just because you never know!

  5. Komal

    My husband and I head to Italy next week and we booked all of our accommodations through Air BnB!

  6. eileen ragan | leaner by the lake

    I loved your dino picture! We have a mini version on our bookshelf and he makes me smile every day. Your road-trip looks amazing. Last fall, my boyfriend and I were meant to take a trip driving across the American southwest but I had to cancel when I switched jobs and was DEVASTATED. You're reminding me to take time for vacation and the importance of experiencing the country.

  7. Whit B Nimble

    I loved this post for it's perfect timing! I'm heading out on a cross-country trip with my boyfriend, soon. We're going to rough it, and sleep in the back of our camper covered truck bed, in Wal-Mart parking lots. Ballin' on a budget from Nashville to San Francisco! Did you know there is an app for finding which Wal-Marts will and will not allow overnight sleepers?! Genius. Here's the link:

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Awesome! You're going to have so much fun!

  8. Lisa Latebloom

    Metropolis Indiana! I was there and took the same picture! My must haves: blankets, snacks, mini cooler, trash bags, Kleenex, music.

  9. Jess

    Bahaha "again, not a euphemism" too funny! Seriously though, thats a cool idea!

    Some Snapshots Blog

  10. Anonymous

    I stumbled across your blog today…and the very first picture is a block away from my house. Looks like you have another blog follower 🙂

  11. Allison Lizer

    Harrisonburg VA is my jam! That's where the best years of my life have been spent so far. Hope you enjoyed passing through (first picture).

  12. SnapandPrint

    Twitter is a great tool for meeting new people in the area you are heading to as well. Especially if a huge event is taking place. I have used Twitter to meet many new people and never had to worry about them thinking I wanted to date them or be anything but friends/hang out buddies.

    That would be my huge "Definitely use this" tool in road tripping.

  13. Jessica

    have you use airbnb for your own place? I'm leaving for a trip in a while and my place will be empty for a month or so (a full apartment). Been thinking about options.
    Has anyone else tried it? THoughts?

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      I totally would if it weren't for my cat. And I use my second bedroom as an office so it's not really and option for when I'm here. But I would definitely consider it!

    • Jessica

      When I looked into the matter before, most that seemed available was swap-a-home during holidays. Since I have a place to stay where I'm heading, I could do something with this. I have a one-bedroomer (plus kitchen, bathroom and livingroom), does one need a specific room ffor the guest?

  14. Gaby

    Grr, cash tolls. My nemesis. I've driven +18000 miles in the USA and Canada in the past 5 months, and found so many cash tolls. For example: driving from NYC to Washington, DC, cost $66 in tolls! In CASH! In one day! We were towing a travel trailer so it was more expensive than just driving a car, but yikes, we were almost not prepared for that amount of tolls in a single day. Why oh why are there no debit/credit options available at the windows? You either pay in cash or get an e-toll thing, which travellers (especially those from other countries) aren't likely to do.

    Also: couchsurfing(dot org) is a great way to get accommodation AND meet people! All the CS hosts I've stayed with have all been travellers, so they'll have great stories and also understand the travelling mindset. Brilliant, brilliant website.

  15. Alex

    I second Gaby's mention of Couchsurfing – it's by nature much more platonic than OkC, and I think more widely used than Invite for a Bite. 😉

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      I really like couchsurfing, too! The only things that I, personally, struggle with is sometimes I:

      1) Sort want to be left alone – I probably have a lot of work to do and I want to have my own room where I can go and close the door and not feel like I'm being anti-social
      2) Want to stay for longer than 3 days, which is sort of the prescribed maximum for couch surfing, right?

      But for other situations (and people) Couchsurfing is a great fit!

  16. missrinumi

    Love the pictures. A huge goal of mine when I finish uni is to do a road trip of the South of the USA.

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