Insider advice

Guest post | Five Things I Learned Road Tripping the American Southwest

I’ve had the pleasure of working with Andrew Uncharted, with his guest post (and insanely amazing photos) on Five American Southwest Roadtrip Tips. You can find out more about him at the end of the post, but first read his epic travel tips!

Road trips are the best! Packing up and adventuring on the open road makes for some of the most memorable travel experiences you can have. I’ve come up with a few simple tips (five, to be exact) that I learned during my girlfriend and I’s week-long trek through Arizona and Utah. Now, these tips aren’t exactly rocket science, but they should help you avoid common pitfalls and truly maximize your travel experience!

1) Rent a car with 4-wheel drive

If your planned trip takes you down dirt roads or if you’re planning on going off-roading, you’ll definitely need a vehicle with 4-wheel drive. This is especially important driving across the desert or through steep, mountainous routes. States like Utah and Arizona have narrow, cliff-side roads that often get covered with ice during the winter. As a Floridian, driving on ice scares me more than a Category 5 hurricane (except Irma, she made me nervous).

Orbitz, Hertz, and other rental companies offer 4-wheel drive vehicles, usually starting as an upgrade to their Mid-Sized SUV. The added cost will make the trip more expensive, but that’s worth not getting stuck in a desert somewhere, right? A prime example is when we almost got stranded on a random dirt road in Kauai! If not for our GMC Yukon, we would have gotten stuck in the soft sand on the drive to Polihale Beach! Now that I think about it, getting stuck in Hawaii actually sounds like a good idea…

Five American Southwest Roadtrip Tips

2) Camp whenever possible

Camping is one of the best ways to experience the environment you’re exploring. On top of that, campsites are much cheaper than almost every hotel and even some hostels! Our stay at the Slickrock Campgrounds in MOAB, UT was only $30, which included free showers and free wifi! Plus, seeing the entrance to Arches National Park right outside of your tent is a fine way to wake up, wouldn’t you say?

As random bonus, you can drink tent beers! It sounds weird, but trust me. Crackin’ open a local, craft brew after a long day of hiking is a unique and satisfying feeling. You have to try my personal favorite tent beer, MOAB Brewery’s MOAB Especial Golden Wheat. It’s a refreshing pick-me-up (or put-me-down?) when your feet are sore and your legs are numb.

Five American Southwest Roadtrip Tips

3) Check the weather conditions frequently during the trip

Use us as an example, we had two weather scares during our road trip through Utah and Arizona. One almost derailed the entire trip, while the other made us change our mind about camping in  Zion National Park.

The first was a heavy snowstorm that was projected to pass right over our path to Horseshoe Bend. The drive looked so intense that we considered abandoning the rest of the trip and snowboarding in Park City instead. Luckily, the storm dissipated at the last moment and we were able to continue safely and not-frozen..ly.

The second weather intrusion came towards the end of our trip, when we arrived at Zion National Park. The weather forecast originally had the temperature at a modest 50-60 degrees as the low. When we arrived at the park, uninformed and bushy-tailed, we found the HIGH of the day to be in the 60s. That meant sleeping in a tent would be frosty business, which didn’t sound too fun. Don’t let the weather catch you off guard on your adventures and always make sure to pack for every eventuality!

4) Bring more water than you think you need

Story time: Fairyland Loop is a strenuous, 8-mile hike through the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon. It was slow going, since the constant changes in verticality puts a real strain on your legs. We thought we packed enough water, thinking we wouldn’t sweat as much since it was somewhat cold out. In actuality, we ran out of water four miles into the hike! Luckily, it wasn’t in the heat of summer or we could have been in real trouble. That goes to show you, dehydration can sneak up on anyone. A 1-gallon jug per person might seem like overkill for a hike, but it’s better to have more than get stuck like we did!

5) Don’t pass up on charitable opportunities

There are always people in need and if there’s a way for you to help while you’re on the road, you should. For example, we purchased camping equipment at the start of our UT/AZ road trip, since it was too expensive to ship. Once we reached the end of our adventure, we decided to give away the gear to a local Boy Scout group we found online. The Scout leader, who was semi-stunned at the offering, said he had just the Scout in mind! A younger boy’s parents didn’t have enough money for the required gear for the troop camping trip and now he would be able to join his friends! If you can help someone less fortunate while still enjoying your adventure, that’s a win-win don’t you think?

Those are my five, simple tips to maximizing your road trip. Thanks for reading and I can’t wait to hear from you soon! Until next time!

Andrew Santoro / Andrew Uncharted
I’m an adventure blogger, travel photographer, and South Floridian taco enthusiast. I’ve figured out how to travel cheap, far, and wide while still working a regular day job. I want to take what I’ve learned and help you do the same! Check out my website and social media for more useful travel tips and tricks.

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