Your Roadtrip Planning Guide

by Samantha Adler

The American road trip is so romantic, rebellious and even a bit intimidating. But most great adventures are, right?
With a chunk of time and pair of keys, the possibilities are endless. So many choices, so little time. I had a month to get from NYC to San Diego, where I was helping a friend move into his new apartment. I was excited to see what lay outside my NYC bubble.  I hit a few bumps in the road, ran into the unexpected, and had the experience of a lifetime.
I returned equipped with some road trip planning tips and a hunger-lust for biscuits and gravy. 


1.  Pick Your Route
This is the simplest and hardest part. With a certain amount of time, you have to choose the best/most interesting/smartest/most awe-inspiring/tastiest way to get to your destination. It sounds easy, but how to do you choose between Texas BBQ and camping at Yellowstone?

If you’re an indecisive freak like me, I have a few tricks to ease your anxiety.

Start off by making a list of several places you CANNOT miss. Then route the trip accordingly on a map…no matter how outrageous. This will help visualize the general direction of your road trip. You’ll have to make sacrifices based on driving time, but you'll find some cool new places to stop.  

You might come up with a few possible routes. To narrow it down, it’s helpful to think about what you want out of your trip and make a list of each what possible route has to offer. The big decision when traveling across country really boils down to whether to go north or south. Both have so much to offer but you can usually only go one way (unless you’re lucky enough to turn right back around).  Below is a simplified version of the lists I made when I was planning my trip from NYC to San Diego, weighing both options:

Northern Route

  • More national parks – Glacier, Yellowstone, Bryce Canyon
  • Midwestern food – cheese curds, Chicago-style hot dogs
  • More hiking
  • More scenic driving
  • Mostly camping, few cheap hotels

Southern Route

  • Tasty BBQ and comfort food
  • More cities – museums, nightlife, lots of live music
  • Bayou
  • Grand Canyon
  • More frequent stops
  • A mix of Airbnb, cheap hotels, and camping

Any route you choose will be the right one if you keep in mind what’s important to you and what the key locations are that you can’t go without seeing. Also, it’s totally ok to base the trip around food….totally ok. I did.

Helpful App
Furkot: Furkot will help you map out your itinerary. It calculates driving time on an easy-to-use map  that creates a visual list of your stops and driving time. It also suggests when you should plan on pulling over for some rest and provides tips on food, hiking and hotels. This app was my personal roadtripping assistant.


2.  Budget it Out
When you’re cruising on the open road you’ll feel wild, bold, and FREE…Unfortunately most things along your journey are not. Creating a budget before taking off will help you plan and keep your bank account from going into the negative.

An affordable road trip is completely doable! Make sure to factor in gas, food, lodging, activities and souvenirs (it’s a strong soul who can walk away from Graceland without an Elvis mug). You also want to make sure you have a cushion for any emergency situations.

If you’re traveling with a buddy, talk about how you’re going to split costs upfront. Keeping track might be a buzzkill on the trip. A way to avoid that is to divide costs by the type of expense. For example, you’ll get gas and your buddy will pay for food.


3.  Remember it’s an Adventure
Plan your trip with room for exploration and last minute detours. When you’re creating your itinerary, leave extra travel time in-between major destinations.  The journey is as important as the destination. It's important to have time to wander and explore. A road trip is an adventure, you will want to see where that little side road goes or be able to pursue your fixation with finding the world’s largest Ketchup bottle. 
Book the major stops in advance, but wing the rest.  You don’t want to be limited by a schedule you made before you got on the road.  You’ll want time to explore and the freedom to stop driving when you’re tired. There are loads of cheap hotels, hostels and campsites available to travelers.
Helpful App Bookings will tell you where last minute hotel deals are around you. This is perfect for booking something in a pinch. I recommend signing up to receive notifications about deals in your area.


4.  Pack for a Month & a Day
You’ll need to bring a bit for your longer road trip. However, it goes without saying…PACK LIGHT. You are living in a car for an extended period of time, you want room to breath. But do make sure you’re bringing:

  • Gear for camping
  • Clothes for all the climates you’re driving through (and an outfit for city exploring)
  • A few snacks (salty snacks and sweets that won’t melt in the car!) 
  • Maps/ travel books

This can all be hard to sift through without creating a mess in your home on wheels. The solution? Pack a day bag. Mine was a weathered old backpack that always had:

  • Camera
  • Water bottle
  • Sweatshirt
  • Wallet
  • Phone


5.  Get your Groove On
You’re going to be spending LOTS of time in the car. You might forget you two existed apart at one point. For those long hauls and highway stretches, download music, podcasts and games.
Music is a great way to dive into the places you’re driving through. The US is rich in music history with many highways, towns, and crossroads marking the birthplace of blues, jazz, rock n roll, country, folk…you name it. Download playlists that bring you on that journey (I’ll share my personal playlists with you soon :)). You can also tune into FM radio stations to get a feel for the local flavor.


6.  Talk to People!
Park rangers, visitor center receptionists, bartenders, Airbnb hosts and locals will serve you better than any website or guidebook.  Be smart and respectful, and remember that most people are looking to help and show you a side of their home that most don’t get to see.
Helpful App
Airbnb: Airbnb provides a comfortable stay with locals, in neighborhoods where you would live. Most hosts are warm, friendly and eager to show you around.  As always, be safe and read reviews of your host before booking.
And you’re off! The next time you have some time, somewhere to be, or an uncontrollable wanderlust I hope you choose the great American roadtrip!


Your Guide to Strange Travels

by Cassia Reynolds

Have you ever felt the sudden urge to throw together an overnight bag, pull on your favorite hoodie, and take off for a weekend? No particular destination mapped out in your head, just visions of the open road and an unyielding desire to rock out to your favorite jams? Or even if you had a destination, have you ever wondered what it would be like to not plot out a direct route and just see what happens along the way? And did that moment pass because you hesitated, unsure where to even begin not-planning, and instead went back to your Netflix marathon?

Well, I’ve been leaping from one travel adventure to the next for two years and I’ve come to believe that with wanderlust, the more freedom and the less planning, the better. But I also learned some things the hard way and have gotten myself into misfortunate situations that could have been avoided with a basic understanding of the do’s and don’t’s of spontaneous travel.

We all love crazy times, but we also want to live to tell the tales. So here’s some advice that will help keep you wild and free without the extra stress of “oh God I’m going to die right here, right now. Why do I make so many bad life decisions?” (Full disclosure: this is a direct quote from my life.)


1. Music is Love. Music is Life.

Don’t even think about turning your key in the ignition without first checking that you’re stocked up with at least several hours’ worth of kick-ass tunes. This is a road trip necessity as crucial as gasoline. You don’t want start driving, decide to take the two-hour-extra-long scenic route through a particularly beautiful mountain pass, and realize ten minutes in that you only have two of your old high school CDs and radio static to entertain your ears. The “wait, I remember this, oh no, is this whole mix just Bowling for Soup, Gwen Stefani, and Soulja Boy WHAT HAVE I DONE?!” moment is pretty soul-crushing and can transform your personal vacation into the wrong kind of Highway to Hell.

Another mistake you don’t want to make is throwing together your tunes. Playlists are golden. You don’t want to be hitting the “next” button on Shuffle for seven hours straight. I set my playlists according to time of day/activity. Here’s some examples of a few of my recent lists for your inspiration:

Grooving on Long Hauls

  • “1998” by Chet Faker
  • “Wine and Chocolates” by Theophilius London
  • “Orange Crush” by Daft Punk
  • “Gooey” by Glass Animals
  • “You & Me” by Disclosure (Flume Remix)
  • “Action Bronson” by Baby Blue feat. Chance the Rapper
  • “Air Valley” by James Welsh
  • “New Dorp, New York” by SBTRKT feat. Ezra Koenig
  • “Girls Your Age” by Transviolet
  • “Wicked Games” by The Weeknd

Coffee, Yoga, & Early Morning Drives    

  • “Do You Realize??” by The Flaming Lips
  • “Girl” by Jamie XX
  • “Holocene” by Bon Iver
  • “Youth” by Daughter
  • “Easy Easy” by King Krule
  • “Lonely Press Play” by Damon Albarn
  • “Thinking Out Loud” by Ed Sheehan
  • “Don’t Wait” by Mapei
  • “Follow” by Tom and Laura Misch
  • “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” by Neutral Milk Hotel

‘Fuck Yeah’ Jams for the Interstate

  • “i,” by Kendrick Lamar
  • “Fuckin’ Problems” by A$AP Rocky
  • “212” Azaelia Banks
  • :”Monster” by Kanye West
  • “No Role Modelz” by J. Cole
  • “Novacane” by Frank Ocean
  • “PARTYNEXTDOOR” by Recognize feat. Drake
  • “Pursuit of Happiness” by Kid Cudi (Steve Aoki Remix)
  • “IFHY” by Tyler the Creator
  • “Black Skinhead” by Kanye West

Laid-Back Tunes for Backcountry Roads

  • “Atlantic City” by Bruce Springsteen
  • “Snow” by The Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • “Out of My League” by Fitz and the Tantrums
  • “London Thunder” by Foals
  • “Gold on the Ceiling” by The Black Keys
  • “Colours” by Grouplove
  • “When I’m Small” by Phantogram
  • “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” by Tame Impala
  • “Bambi” by Tokyo Police Club
  • “Do the Panic” by Phantom Planet



2. Apps are Awesome

Here are two travel applications that I adore and that can change the way you look at your journey into the unknown:

Ever felt that itch to explore but unsure where to start? Roadtrippers can be your muse. You just type in your location and magical pins drop on the app map, laying out everything from quirky restaurants to scenic overlooks to strange tourist attractions. All the pinpoints are rated and you can read user reviews before you take your time to visit a spot.

When you’re roadtripping without a specific destination, it’s great getting lost in the scenery for a little while, but you definitely want to make sure you can get back on track. Maps.Me is perfect for those looking to go off the grid for a bit, especially down backcountry roads where mobile data just doesn’t reach. It’s a GPS guide that works without an Internet connection. I’ve used it in Laos, Vietnam, and America, and it’s never failed to put me back on route to civilization.


3. Always Pack Light

I know, I know, you’ve heard it countless times from every travel blogger and backpacking extraordinaire. And, as yet again you kneel over your overstuffed suitcase, realizing you can’t possibly fit one more piece of clothing in it but you haven’t even packed your socks yet, you throw your hands in the air and cry out to the gods-of-all-things-travel “but seriously, what does packing light even mean?”

I’ve been there plenty of frustrating, mind-boggling, stressful times. And I’m here to help.

When you prepare to pack, ask yourself this question: how many places will you visit where it won’t be be possible to do laundry? And why are you bringing anything that can’t be worn twice without washing (underwear excluded - I usually overpack on those)?

Balance is key, especially when you’re preparing for travels into the unknown. You’re not totally sure what you’ll need, what weather you’ll encounter, and what kinds of activities you’ll end up partaking in. So you have to take a cold, calculated look at the amount of space available and ask yourself this: is it worth carrying with me? And if it’s not, leave it.

If you do have to prepare for several seasons, bring clothing that’s durable and packable. (And that doesn’t mean you can’t be chic!) Thin cotton tank tops and shirts are perfect for layering, as are denim and flannel button downs. A good button down can double as both a shirt and a sweater. And of course, if you’re into hiking, there’s (my personal favorite piece of travel gear) yoga pants. Light, non-wrinkly, comfy-as-all-hell, and strangely fashionable at the moment. Seriously, I’m so into the crazy print yoga pant fashion trend. It’s changed the game for backpacker ladies, everywhere!

If you have to leave everything else behind, bring the following items (in order of importance): water, a GPS device, sunblock, bug repellent, a portable charger, some sort of camera, and an extra hoodie.


4. If You’re Headed into Nature, Bring Extra Water & Snacks

Some of my favorite high-energy hiking snacks include: cashews, instant coffee, Clif Bars, pre-packaged tuna-and-crackers packs, Quest Bars, and dried mangoes. Keep hydrated, stay smart, and make sure you don’t get into a situation where you pass out alone on a less-traveled mountain path.


5. Last But Not Least: There are More Good People in the World than Bad

This is not an excuse to do stupid shit, like hitchhike alone at night or get blackout drunk with a group of total strangers that you meet on the road. It’s just a reminder that there’s no reason to be paranoid or scared of stuff you really don’t have to be. A smile or kind gesture can go a long way when you’re alone in a foreign place. Never be afraid to ask for help and always keep an open mind when traveling. It’s this kind of new-experience-craving mindset that leads to the most incredible, unexpected adventures.

So take backroads, greet strangers with smiles, try out the mom-and-pop restaurants, and don’t make yourself more of an outsider than you have to be.

Cheers folks! Make sure you never miss out on another spontaneous adventure, whether it’s a day trip tooling around a part of town you usually don’t venture through or a weekend getaway with a destination chosen at a whim.

Samantha's Definitive America


by Samantha Adler

The rolling forests of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic are entirely engulfing. With their blue and green hues, dewy crisp breath, lush foliage, and temperamental, seasonal mood swings.

A seemingly odd find in the heart of the American wilderness was a parking lot. An empty, expansive lot, dropped atop a mountain.  

That asphalt slab was strangely patriotic. Even amidst the defining, impressive backcountry, I felt a surprising fondness towards the lot. It was a familiar and comfortable sanctuary after five hours of driving through, up, and over many mountains.

The US has always been a wild country of explorers and adventurers. Now, we’re leading modern expeditions in Jeeps and Priuses.

Repetitive lines on blacktop mark a place to rest, park your gas-powered stead, and admire the complexity of this huge country. Whether you’re cutting through the suburban jungle, city bustle, towering forests, or flat, flat desert.

Parking lots are the watering holes of America, a microcosm of its diversity, its good and its bad. To dogs waiting patiently with tongues wagging, notes of kindness left stuck on windshield wipers, helping hands carrying heavy loads for those in need, laughter from impromptu cookouts on pick-up beds. To unwanted stalkers, boisterous and vile exchanges, newly discovered dents and paint chips, and hidden dangers in the absence of street lamps.

These parking lots are definitively American to me. They’re relics of a country of explorers behind the wheel.

Cassia's Definitive America

Indianapolis, Indiana

by Cassia Reynolds

I have a special place in my heart for the highways of the American Midwest, yellow dotted lines on straight, wide strips of black speckled asphalt. It’s a timeless love for the scenery: a big, empty sky over endless, flat, green farmscapes. Maybe aesthetically I’m a minimalist; there’s just something mesmerizingly simple about all that open space. I can stare out the window for hours, getting thrills from the sparse huddles of cylindrical granaries that rise above the cornfields or the single hilltop adorned with a quaint, red-painted barn, breaking up the monotony.

And maybe that’s it; the terrain is so boring that I begin to appreciate the beauty of the small things that I see.

Whatever it is, I’m drawn to the quiet charm of this place. To the trees: pines, oaks, firs, spruces, and maples. To the neighborhoods with brick houses and freshly-cut front lawns and barefoot kids running through the grass. To the busy parking lots of the shopping malls with their perfect, infinite rows of soccer mom minivans and SUVs and shiny paint jobs that glint under the sun. To the temperate climate, with its four distinct seasons that perfectly balance a brutally cold winter with a swampy-hot summer. To the parks and lakes and fields and green, green, green everywhere and everything.  

It’s what I imagine as definitively American in a land that’s so large and compartmentalized and spread out that it feels like five countries in one sometimes.

It’s a quiet, flat place, with not a lot happening.