Finding places to stop on your road trip

A few years ago, we realized that the driving portion of the road trip seemed like a means to an end.  In other words, it was a necessary evil to get us from one place to another.  It was a “grin and bear” the 10 hours of hellish traffic, static car air and restless leg syndrome.  However, the last road trips we’ve been on we decided to make it part of the fun. 

We plan to stop somewhere to sightsee or somewhere interesting for a bite to eat.  Not only does it make the trip more exciting, but it breaks up the long car rides with fun surprises.  We know it’s only 1.5 hrs to the next stop, not 8 hrs.  Yes, the trip takes longer, but it actually feels like it’s shorter.  Plus you get the most out of your traveling, instead of “wasting” a day.  If your vacation is only 7 days, and two days are in the car, that’s almost 30 percent of your entire vacation!  Better make it worthwhile.

Here are some of the ways I have used to find places to stop along the route.  Sometimes, your route looks like it’s just going to be on the highway, but you’d be surprised how even a slight detour can take you somewhere real cool.

1. Roadtrippers App.  This is a website and an app, so you can use it on your phone or the computer.  I prefer to create the route on the computer, and then log in on the app for directions.  You type in your starting destination and your ending destination, and you can see what things are available en-route.  One of my favorite features on this app is “Photo Op” stops under the yellow “points of interest.  This is where you find all the weird and quirky things like a giant coin, mural or of course your classic “Dolly Dimples Waitress statue”.. check it out here.  You can also select outdoors and see what hikes you could take on the trip.

One of the oddities I found on Roadtrippers near Dayton; Frankenstein’s Castle.

2. Google Maps and TripAdvisor.  This is a combination effort, but it’s simple.  Look at any major cities you’ll be going through, or near, and see if there are any things to do on TripAdvisor.  I’ve found some interesting museums and wildlife areas through this technique.  Sometimes the larger cities don’t have much you want to see, but some of the smaller cities around it boast some interesting stops. 

I actually saw the wildlife refuge on Google Maps and wondered if it was worth a little drive through. And it was!

3. Research local travel bloggers.  If I find a city that seems like it might have potential, I Google the city plus “blog review” or “blogger” and see if any travel bloggers have covered the area.  This is how I found out about a mural and bakery right by each other in Toledo.  I probably wouldn’t have found that any other way, but luckily there are a lot of small town travel bloggers (just like me!) who are covering fun and interesting things to do all over the world.  There are many out there, and they can be very useful if you look them up!

Thank you, travel bloggers! You find the coolest stuff.

4.  Keep your eyes open on the road.  You’ll see signs for places like “Grandpa’s Cheese Barn” or something else that may catch your eye.  If it’s being advertised on the highway, chances are it won’t be too far out of the way.  (Although, I have seen something advertised, like a restaurant, you pull off and it’s 15 minutes down the road!  Ugh.)  Or you might see a fresh fruit stand… which makes for a fun stop!

Local cherries for the roadtrip? Sure beats brown lettuce from McDonalds.

5.  If it’s pretty, find a place to pull over.  Many of the road trips we’ve been on overseas have such gorgeous scenery, it’s hard to just keep driving by without at least stopping to soak it in.  I like taking pictures, so sometimes it’s good to just take a full stop to snap some pictures and enjoy the scenery without the dried-bug-smeared windshield getting in the way.

Even a 10-minute respite of fresh air can be welcome after 4 hours in the car.

What about you?  Do you have any rituals to make the road trip better?

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