I was recently interviewed by cheapflights.com travel columnist Taryn Adler. She wanted the low-down on how to plan an epic road trip. Here is a re-post of the interview. The original can be found by clicking here.
Warm weather means road trip season – woohoo! To help you plan, we caught up with the guy behind the wheel at Hippie Van Man, Aaron Neilson-Belman. Here, the veteran road tripper shares his tips, tricks and best advice for planning your own cross-country driving adventure.
Cheapflights: What’s the first thing you do when you start to plan a road trip?
Aaron Neilson-Belman: The first thing I do when planning a road trip is figure out who’s coming along. A road trip should be a collaborative event. It’s far easier to plan with friends than trying to find people to fit into a plan you’ve devised on your own.
In general, I like to go with the flow. Usually the planning I do is limited to establishing a timeframe, destination and perhaps a few points of interest along the way. Part of the magic of the whole road trip experience is the surprises you discover as your journey unravels.
That being said, for out-of-country road trips I also make sure my companions and I have all necessary travel documents, insurance, international drivers licenses (for the drivers) and photocopies of all important documents.
CF: What are some popular routes you would suggest for beginners?
ANB: A road trip I have done multiple times is Toronto, Ontario, Canada to the Florida Keys in the United States.
It’s a fairly straightforward route and you get to see a lot of the diversity of America, both in the people and physical geography. You get a taste of the rolling Appalachian Mountains, fresh seafood from the Maritimes, Southern cooking and hospitality, big city living in NYC and Atlanta, and much more.
The trip can be done as a straight shot (25 hours each way), but ideally you would do it over four days each way to be able to get out and experience the sights along the way.
CF: Are there any tips and tricks you’ve learned that help save money on gas?
ANB: Bring more friends in order to split the cost (laughs)! Friends aside, driving the speed limit definitely helps cut down on gas consumption, and is probably the main way to save money. It also lets you take in more of what you’re seeing.
Making sure your engine is well tuned and your tires and suspension are in good condition also helps significantly in getting better gas mileage.
I don’t have A/C, but in general not using it helps cut down on gas consumption. Plus, it’s more fun to cruise with your windows down.
CF: What’s the best road trip you’ve ever taken and why?
ANB: Most definitely in 2011. I drove from Toronto, Ontario, Canada to Black Rock City, Nevada in the U.S. for the annual Burning Man festival.
CF: What’s the one road trip that you’re dying to do?
ANB: I have been dying to do a trip from Canada to South America. I have decided that this is the year. In August 2013 I plan to set out again for the annual Burning Man festival in Nevada. From there I plan to hit California and then make my way down the classic hippie trail, Route 66. Hopefully arrive in Mexico for El Dia de los Muertos, continuing down the Pan American Highway to Brazil for the 2014 World Cup.
I started www.HippieVanMan.com to let friends, family and fans follow along on the journey via a live-feed, a web video series, photos, blog posts and social media updates. I have even extended an invitation to ride along in the van to both friends and fans.
CF: What are the best resources available to travelers looking to plan their own road trip?
ANB: The CAA (Canadian Automotive Association) and AAA (American Automotive Association) are great resources for planning road trips. They can help you plan your route, update you with travel advisories and they provide their members with roadside assistance and optional travel insurance.
The Internet also offers a plethora of info. From travel blogs to travel sites…chances are someone has done the same or a similar trip that you hope to do. Why not find out what advice they have to give?
Google Maps is a great planning tool for mapping out a route.
CF: What are three things everyone should know before they plan a road trip?
ANB: My three most valuable tips are:
1. Give yourself more time than you think you need. You never know if you will run across something really cool that you want to check out, or if you will experience unexpected problems. Rushing things isn’t fun.
2. Spending large amounts of time in a confined space with the same people can definitely drive people a little crazy. Don’t forget to give your fellow companions a little space now and then, whether it be quiet time or physical space during pit stops and breaks. You will all need it at some point or another.
3. It may be cliché but I like the Greg Anderson quote: “Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.” I think it’s easy to be so set on getting somewhere that you forget to stop and smell the roses.