Monday, May 27, 2013

The Ultimate "Off The Beaten Path" Road Trip Guide

As I mentioned last week, Andy and I took a quick little trip to Nashville, just because. We've been trying to fit in a belated anniversary trip, and we just wanted to go to a city we had never been to before. It was somewhat spur of the moment, in that we chose our destination right before we left, we just knew we wanted to go somewhere.

Some of you asked after seeing some sneak peeks on Instagram and Facebook how the hell I was finding so many random roadside attractions. Well, I love to plan things. I love spreadsheets and research and striking a balance between touristy cheese and off-the-beaten-path local stuff. If anyone reading this would like to sponsor a series of travel posts where I find weird roadside attractions and every photobooth in America for you, I'll do it. Really.

Anyways, since I've done this a number of times now, I wanted to collect some of my secrets into one post for you, to make it easy when you embark on your next adventure. Most stuff I found in my research is for people with kids who are traveling, so I wanted to create a guide that goes beyond "change your oil!!1!" and license plate games. 

Let's start with prep. Packing sucks, and I used to be a shitty packer, until I started following the motto on that list up there "Bring half of what you need, and twice as much money." I don't always spend the money, but I also never find myself wishing I had brought six more shirts. Bring basics, some accessories to dress them up or down, and rewear clothes. It's no big deal, and then you won't have to lug around a suitcase full of shit you don't need and won't wear. When packing, it helps to go off a list, like the one above (found here), otherwise known as 'the only way I ever remember to bring my iPhone charger'. Oh, and always bring tons of undies.

Roadside Attractions
I once spent an entire summer trying to convince my friends that driving six hours to see the world's largest bottle of ketchup sounded like a great way to spend our time and money. No one was into it. So when I met Andy and he was equally obsessed with these oddball detours, I knew I loved him. To find roadside oddities, like this Giant Lady Leg Sundial at a nudist resort in Indiana, my number one stop is always Roadside America. While I wish the site was a little more user-friendly (I would loooove an option to see everything along your route, rather than having to manually search state-by-state and finding your path), but the content is unparalleled. It has EVERYTHING, along with detailed directions from the expressway, user-submitted tips, photos, and a review of how worth it it really is to stop for it. 

On this trip alone, Roadside America directed me to the above nudist resort, that giant pink elephant drinking a martini, a topiary farm, a Willie Nelson fortune teller booth, just to name a few. It makes every road trip better, I'm telling you.

Photobooth Locators
When you go on vacation, you sometimes find you're taking lots of pictures of landscapes, funny signs,  Instagrammy shots, or other very vacation-esque pictures, but maybe not a ton of personal ones. I'm not hating on the arm-out selfie, photobooths are just so much more fun. Plus, they tend to be super flattering and are like instant nostalgia. Sadly, they seem to be dying out, which is all the more incentive to crawl into them while you still can, so one day you can show your children these weird strips of paper photos. The best resource for finding photobooths on your trip is definitely You just tell them where you're going, and you get a list of photobooths there, along with sample photos, reviews, updates on if its still functioning, etc.  I've made a habit of taking at least one on every trip, and they are my favorite souvenirs. 

Find Good Food
It can be so easy on a road trip just to stop at a Taco Bell, because it's right there, or a Chili's, because you know it will be cheap. But why drive 900 miles to eat something you could get in the parking lot of your mall at home? Not that I'm advocating bleaching your tips and wearing a flame-adorned bowling shirt, but this website lets you search by location to find diners, drive-ins, and dives that have been featured on various travel shows. Just please never call them "Triple D's". Thanks.

Assorted tips
  • Pee every single time you stop. In the wise words from the prophet RuPaul, "Mama said never pass up a chance to use the restroom." You never know when the next time you'll see a bathroom will be, so just do it. Also, if you're lower than a half a tank, even just by a hair, fill up. Just do it.
  • Splurge on Spotify Premium. You can get a free 30-day trial for your trip, or subscribe for $9.99 a month, which gets you access to Spotify Mobile. It's great because it lets you make playlists, find practically any song, play the radio, and its there for you when, somewhere around nine hours in, you get a slaphappy urge to listen to, say, Candy by Mandy Moore, and having it at your finger tips will re-energize you in a way that Red Bull never can, making the next nine hours all the better.
  • For an alternative to hotels, make sure to check AirBnB, or this list of the Best Camping Sites in America. Also, booking sites often have no-refund policies, so check the actual hotel site before you book, because often they are the same price but with better cancellation policies.
  • Pack a cooler full of healthy snacks like fruits, nuts, cheese, Naked Juice, etc. Road trips are my favorite excuse to eat McDonalds breakfast, but all the fun food splurges of vacation are going to make you feel like a steaming pile of shit if you don't eat something green and whole.
  • I don't know anything about cars, so I leave you this list of mechanics-related tips from the pros.
  • Bring a blanket. You don't always think of it if you're staying in hotels, but they are great for when you can't agree on a good car temperature, 
  • Crowdsource! I asked on Facebook and Twitter before I left if anyone had suggestions for things to do and see and eat in Nashville, and y'all CAME THROUGH. I packed three days solidly full with suggestions from friends and readers.
  • Don't be afraid to be a tourist. You ARE a tourist. Go see the cheesy shit, have your souvenir picture taken, take the guided tour. You're too old to be worried about if you look like a goon, and who even gives a fuck because you'll never see any of these townies again anyways. 

So pack your bags lightly, keep an open mind, eat some produce, and find some weird shit on the side of the road. You're going to have a great time. 


PS: If you want more content in between r/p posts, follow my personal blog at


  1. I LOVE Roadside America!n You sound like my perfect roadtrip partner tbh. On my road trip in the midwest area, my favorite things I went to were Tinkertown (omg if you ever get the chance, you would looveee this place), Cadillac Ranch, a giant creepy hand holding a mailbox lol, a church with holy dirt, and probably a million things. I had to stop myself from stopping at every.single.thing. on Route 66 though.

  2. Now I'm itching for a road trip :)


  3. This is awesome. Now I definitely have the travel itch again. And yes, definitely pee whenever you can.

  4. I love the packing list! I found it at a chain store in Texas and wish I had it when packing for summer camp all those years ago. I always felt I brought too much stuff for a two week session.

  5. I used to live on road trips. haha.. I live on the rule of, "Bring half as much as you need, twice as much money, and three times as many pairs of underwear."

    To add to the peeing rule, my friends and I got in the habit of bringing our own roll of toilet paper. You never know when you're gonna find a shitty (no pun ended) restroom.

    I probably have more tips, but I won't remember them until my next road trip :(

  6. I love this post! I have a goal of making it to all 50 states.. but I have a few states that I'm still waiting to find a reason for. Roadside America just hit the spot.

  7. I live in Indiana and had no idea there is a random leg sundial. I will have to find this :)

  8. I live in Indiana and had no idea we have a random leg sundial. I will have to find it :)

  9. These are all fantastic tips! I really enjoyed seeing the roadside attraction pics on instagram.

  10. This is EXACTLY how I like to travel! What brilliant suggestions--I'm excited to use them on our next trip to New Orleans. I absolutely love reading your blog--keep up the good work!

  11. This is EXACTLY how I like to travel! What brilliant ideas--that I can't wait to make use of on our next trip to New Orleans. I absolutely love reading your blog. Keep up the good work!

  12. I've been to sun aura resort! where is the sundial though? I couldnt find it. Help!

  13. This sounds perfect!!!! My roommate and I are planning a 3 road trip for 2015. We're starting in Illinois and hitting every state. Starting east from Chicago and then clockwise there on. We have no purpose besides the fact that we want to see the world and the most random attractions like the one's you have here, and just stop in any ol random town. What you've written is really helpful and sound awesome. There is an app I downloaded that's super useful called road trippers. It has random things too like the world's largest rubber stamp for example and it gives you a description or back story with it. Thanks for the advice. If you have any other let me know!

  14. Roadtrippers is also an EXCELLENT site! And the great thing about roadtrippers is you just type in your start point and end point and it shows you everything along the way. Also roadtrippers has an app now so if you have an account with their site(free to sign up) then it will automatically sync trips you make on the website to the app. And the app is free!!

  15. Awesome article! I am road tripping from Toronto to Calgary through the states and stopping in Chicago, Milwaukee, South Dakota in Keystone to see Mt. Rushmore, and Yellowstone. Any suggestions of cool stuffs to see along the way would be awesome!!!

  16. Awesome article!!! I am doing a road trip from Toronto to Calgary and going through the states - Stopping in Chicago, Milwaukee, Keystone South Dakota and Yellowstone. Any suggestions of cool stuffs to see along the way?!


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