5 Things Nobody Tells You About Road Tripping Long Term

5 Things Nobody Tells You About Road Tripping Long Term | biblio-style.com

Full disclosure: it took me about a year to have all my ish together enough to be able to take off on a months-long road trip. I wish you could see all the sticky notes and random lists I had laying around my house. I had packing lists, a napkin with all the legal documents I needed to collect, a budget spreadsheet and randomly, all our family's addresses so we could send postcards (never happened - ha!). 

What I did not have was, like, any kind of tribal knowledge. I've never done a long road trip before and I don't know anyone else in real life who has, so I approached it the same way I approach motherhood: wingin' it. I figured if I needed it at home, I'd probably need it on the road. That's why I remembered three different colors of nail polish and my corkscrew, but not a can opener. And for the record, it took me exactly one day to realize that mistake. 

It took a little longer to figure out the rest of the stuff, but after four months, 26 states and a ton of miles, here's what I picked up --

Daily Showers Are a Thing of the Past

Probably anyway. Unless you stay in a campground every night or have a massive water tank, you're going to get a little dirty. We had a 30-gallon tank that we only used for showers and washing the dishes that we could make it last a week if Ryan, Duke and I each took one shower. And to conserve it, we turned off the water when we weren't actively rinsing. 

If you're planning to boondock - and you should, it's free and the most stunningly beautiful spots we stayed were dispersed sites - water will be too precious to waste on a daily shower. 

Which brings me to my next point...


You're Always Looking for Water 

Ever wonder what it's like to live in a desert? Well, the whole GD country is like a desert when you're not hooked up to a city line or well in the backyard. You're always looking for it. You'll start hoarding it. You'll learn to brush your teeth with a single drip-drop. I started to feel like a grandma who sticks dinner rolls in her purse at a restaurant, I always came armed with some water bottles whenever we wandered into a Walmart. 

When you find potable water,  take advantage because you never know how long it'll be before you find it again or how much it will cost you. We usually tried to get into a campground with full amenity hook-ups once a week just to refill the water.  You pay more for a campground with full hook-ups, but you can go ham on the water, taking a shower, filling up your tank, using two drops of water on your toothbrush, etc. It would generally cost us between $40-$80/night.

Where to find potable water

- FreeRoam App: you can use location services on the app and search for potable water near you. 
- Service Stations: Especially out west, many of the Pilot and Flying J service stations have potable water for freeeeeee. 
- Casinos:  Talk about getting lucky. 
- Campgrounds: not the rustic ones - although, sometimes! You'll want a KOA or privately owned site with hook-ups for definite water lines. 


Ditto on a Place to Dump the Shitter

And yet another reason to visit a campground!

You're limited by the size of the tank in your camper (and if you have one!). We never got close to filling ours up, but as we traveled through the desert in July, after a few days it would get pretty stinky. 

If you stay in a campground with hook-ups, there's usually a dump station right at your site. Even if you don't stay at a campground overnight, you can usually pay to drive-thru and use their dump station before cruising along. My brother-in-law did this and it cost him $25, at which point he started making his kids poop outside. Looooool forever. I'll never stop cry-laughing about that. 

Where to find dump stations

- Campgrounds: they generally have dump stations that you can pay a fee to use one-time. KOAs are a safe bet. 
- Service Stations: Cabellas, Pilot and Flying J are all uping the ante and slowly updating their parking lots to have dump stations as well. Pilot and Flying J are usually free, and Cabellas charged $2. 


You Don't Have to Stay in Campgrounds

I know I practically just preached the gospel of campgrounds and their water tank refilling + dump station unfilling capabilities, but listen, you don't have to stay in campgrounds. In fact, I don't even recommend it. That much

We made it a point to stay in a campground once a week because, for us, it was the easiest way to regroup, but those nights were definitely the most boring nights on the trip. There are some nice ones, but mostly we found campgrounds to be hardly more than parking lots with campers stacked a few feet apart. Efficient, but not particularly enjoyable. 

I preferred dispersed camping - or boondocking - on public land. It's free and the views are knock-your-socks-off stunning, and more often than not, you'll see approximately zero other people. 

Dispersed Camping in South Dakota | biblio-style.com

What is dispersed camping?

Basically, it's making use of publically held land, parking yourself on it and sleeping there for free. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and National Forest Land are open to dispersed camping unless specifically noted. So, in this happy instance, you can assume yes, unless you see a sign that says no. 

There are no amenities so you only have whatever you've brought with you. And don't be an asshole. Don't leave trash. Fires belong in fire rings. And I don't care how desperate you're getting, don't dump your GD black water tank. 

Dispersed Camping Site in Colorado | biblio-style.com

How to take advantage of dispersed camping?

- FreeRoam App: turn on your location services and all the secret camping sites will populate on your map. 
- Freecampsites.net: a great alternative that looks like it hasn't been updated since 1997, but folks leave reviews and valuable information on different free campsites all over the nation. Super handy.
- Come Prepared: There are zero amenities and once, we landed at our campsite without booze. The nearest liquor store was 30 miles away. Don't be us. 


Being comfortable will far outweigh anything else

Last bit - if you're on the road for a while, nothing will trump being comfortable. Bring your stretchy pants, comfortable shoes, and make room for any pillow that helps you sleep straight until tomorrow. 

What you don't need is three bottles of nail polish. Unless that makes you super comfortable. In retrospect, I'd have swapped those bottles for a friggin' can opener. 

Happy camping!

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