My Solo Cross-Country Road Trip

Adrenaline started rushing through my body as I looked behind me to see the city of Baltimore. I was on highway I-95 and could see the skyline that painted Baltimore in front of overcast skies; the Raven’s stadium stole the spotlight and I could see the busy morning streets that usually fill Charm City. Wow, I’m really doing this. I connected my aux cord to my phone and hit play on Spotify to shuffle my road trip playlist. Leon Bridges’ “River” played and I started to feel at ease. I got this. I planned this trip pretty well

…right?

To be honest, my decision to drive across the country was a bit spontaneous. I was contemplating between that or flying – but then that meant having to sell my car and deal with that whole process. I honestly didn’t want to give up my Honda Civic as it has been so good to me. But…I have never driven more than 6 hours on a road trip by myself. However, driving was far more intriguing to me because I liked the challenge of completing a cross-country drive on my own. After I decided I was going to drive from Baltimore, MD to Boise, ID I set out to build my itinerary.

The planning process

After researching many road trip planners and sites, I found the almost perfect website that helped me start my solo venture: My Scenic Drives – the ultimate road trip planning website.

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I call it almost perfect because it seems a bit outdated with its graphics, and you have to do a bit of navigating before you realize the awesome features the website offers. Not only can you plan different stops along the way, but you can also:

  • choose how many hours you want to drive each day (and what time you want to start and end)
  • add the car you’re driving and estimate mileage and gas costs
  • plan your stays at hotels if you decide to go that route; you can even book the hotels and see the ratings on their site
  • download the trip onto your GPS
  • share your trip with family and friends
  • and my favorite feature: you can completely avoid tolls (I know GPS allows you to do this but sometimes it reroutes you and it’s just a mess)

I was planning to have to pay for tolls and set cash aside because I didn’t think I could possibly avoid all of the tolls. To my surprise, I managed to drive the entire way without having to pay a single cent on toll roads. It was incredible. Also, this was crazy timing, but I got out of the east coast right before hurricane Florence hit. I wasn’t aware of the storm until I was in Indiana.

Excitement aside, there were many factors that went into planning this road trip.

Tips to consider before starting your driving adventure:

  • get your car serviced (oil change, check tires, filters, battery, etc) and make sure you have a spare tire.
  • check with your insurance or credit card company to see if they offer roadside assistance, if not get AAA for the time you’ll be on the road
  • share your itinerary with family and friends (download your trip offline on GPS)
  • iPhone users, turn on your “sharing location” feature under Find My Friends. The people you share this with will be able to see where you are at all times. I shared this with my sister and a few friends. Android users, I’m useless here – sorry.
  • purchase a car phone charger (especially if you’re directionally challenged like I am – you’ll need it).
  • buy an old-school map – it will come in handy if for some reason your phone dies and you can’t access GPS. Can you believe this is how people got around back in the day?!
  • download your favorite podcasts and audiobooks – I listened to My Favorite Murder with Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark for the majority of my trip. Great choice when you’re driving by yourself and you start suspecting everyone is a murderer.
  • stock up on all the snacks you love

I planned all the above within 3 days, but if you want to actually plan like a normal person, plan your trip at least a week in advance. I let my friends and family know about my trip, however, I did not tell my mom. Not only did I want to surprise her, but I knew if I told her she would freak out and make me wait for her to fly out to Baltimore to help me drive. Even if I didn’t wait, I know she would call me 100 times a day and that would just add to my anxiety. Mom, if you’re reading this I know you mean well and I love you!

Let’s get this show on the road

I started my trip with an open mind and a cautious heart. I didn’t expect everything to go as planned; I wanted to spark up conversations with strangers but also keep my guard up. I planned to only drive during the day and to stay at hotels at night. Staying at an Airbnb might have been cheaper, but I wanted to have the option to change my plans at the last minute. Thankfully, I only had to stay at one hotel because I was able to stay with a friend at one of my stops. I drove through 11 states: Maryland, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Utah, and Idaho.

Break down of my trip

Stop #1: Richmond, Indiana; Hotel: Holiday Inn

I didn’t explore much here, unfortunately, but I did have a meal with a stranger that shared her life story with me, which was amazing.

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Stop #2: Rochester, Minnesota; stayed at my friend’s place and explored Rochester a bit

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Stop #3: South Dakota; this was a spontaneous decision…originally, I was planning on driving through Nebraska, but I went to go see Mount Rushmore instead and it was wonderful! I continued my drive afterward.

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Stop #4: Wyoming; so this is where I was a bit reckless…I was supposed to stop in Laramie, WY but instead, kept driving because I had energy and I’m impatient. Before I knew it, it was dark and I got reeaallly tired. So I stopped outside a gas station for a bit and fell asleep in my car. Mind you, this was a very busy and well-lit gas station. Oops?

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Stop #5: Idaho! 35 hours, 11 states, and 2,432 miles later I made it home! I FaceTimed my mom at the Welcome to Idaho sign and she started bawling and yelling at me. They were happy tears, but she was so mad at me for driving by myself, haha.

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Costs

Car Service: $19.77

Gas: $185.96

Hotel: $140.00

Food: $45 (meals and snacks)

Tourism: $10 (Mount Rushmore)

Total cost: $400.73

Not bad, right?! If there was anything I planned right, it was my budget, the “meal prepping” and the snacks. I made breakfast burritos and turkey & avocado sandwiches that lasted me 3 days. I didn’t stop at any fast food place, and I made sure to pack enough snacks and plenty of water.

Lessons learned

  • September is the BEST month to go on a road trip; kids are going back to school, no one is really going on vacation (not on the road at least), and there isn’t a lot of traffic. I am grateful I had such a smooth drive through the country.
  • Early morning drives are the best; I started each morning around 5am or 6am.
  • Don’t drive during an intense rainstorm and don’t rely on the driver in front of you to lead you (this actually happened and I’m not sure how I’m still alive). I literally could not see anything except the dim tail lights of the car in front of me.
  • Don’t turn on the “avoid tolls” feature for Wyoming. The drive through Wyoming was SO long. I took a lot of back roads and lost service for a good two hours.
  • Don’t fall asleep outside a gas station

This was my first solo cross-country road trip. It was challenging in the best way possible; I had a meal with a stranger, drove through an intense rainstorm, stopped by to see Josh in Rochester, saw Mount Rushmore for the first time, and surprised my mom. Just me, my Honda, and the open road – what an amazing and freeing adventure!

Hopefully, my tips and lessons learned will help you when you plan your next road trip. Let me know of your road trip adventures (and if you have any tips to add) down below!

P.S. I’ll be uploading a video to my YouTube channel on my whole solo cross-country road trip experience soon!

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Got wanderlust? Here are some of the best beginner travel reward credit cards

Want to travel and earn rewards while doing it? Of course, you do. I’m always down to have a credit card company reward my spending habits. Whoever first came up with travel rewards on credit cards is a genius. In my last post, I emphasized the importance of credit. Why? Travel credit cards are why. When used wisely, they can really pay off.

The information below was last updated as of August 13th, 2018.

I consider these “beginner travel credit cards” with the exception of the Chase Sapphire Reserve because: $450 annual fee. Pocket change, right?

Ready to maximize your travel? Here are some travel credit cards I think are pretty great:

Credit Card Annual Fee The Good Stuff Foreign Transactions Additional Info Current Offers/Bonuses (as of 8/13/18)
Southwest Rapid
Rewards Plus
 $69.00 2 points/$1 spent on SW and Rapid Rewards hotel and car purchases; 1 point/$1

spent on all other purchases; 3,000 anniversary

points each year

3% of each transaction in USD all points count towards a Companion Pass (lets a friend fly with you for free) Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1000 in the first 3 months
Southwest Rapid
Rewards Priority
 $149.00 2 points/$1 spent on SW and Rapid Rewards hotel and car purchases; 1 point/$1 spent on all other purchases; 7,500-anniversary points each year; $75 annual travel credit; 4 upgraded boardings/year when available; 20% back on in-flight purchases None all points count towards a Companion Pass (a friend gets to fly with you for free!) Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1000 in the first 3 months + earn 25,000 points after you spend a total of $15,000 within the first year
Chase Sapphire Preferred $0 for the first year, $95 after 2 points on travel and dining; 1 point/$1 on all other purchases; trip cancellation & insurance; no blackout dates; travel and emergency services None 25% more in travel redemption; 50,000 points = $625 toward travel 50,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months + 5,000 points after you add first authorized user in the first three months
Chase Sapphire Reserve $450; each authorized user: $75 3 points on travel and dining; 1 point/$1 dollar on all other purchases; $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases; trip insurance; Global Entry/TSA PreCheck Fee Credit None 50% more on travel redemption when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards; 50,000 points = $750 toward travel; Complimentary Priority Pass to 1,000+ airport lounges after activation 50,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months
Bank of America Travel Rewards None Unlimited 1.5 points/$1 on all purchases, everywhere; bonus 3 points/$1 at the travel center None 2,500 points = $15 20,000 points when you spend 1,000 within 90 days
Bank of America Premium Rewards  $95.00 Unlimited 2 points/$1 spent on travel and dining; 1.5 points/$1 spent on all other purchases; up to $100 in annual airline credit; $100 in TSA Pre/Global Entry credit None redeem for cash back as a statement credit, deposit into BA or Merill Lynch accounts, gift cards, and for purchases at the BA Travel Center 50,000 points when you spend $3,000 within 90 days of account open date
Delta SkyMiles $0 for the first year, $95 after 2 miles per $1 spent directly with Delta; 1 mile for every eligible dollar; first checked bag free; discounted Delta Sky Club Access ($29/person) None Travel accident insurance; priority boarding 60,000 bonus miles when you spend $3,000 within the first 4 months (expires 9/19/18)

As you can see – Chase Sapphire Reserve has an annual fee of a whopping $450. However, when you take into consideration all the perks and credits you receive – it kind of balances out. I would love to get my hands on Chase Sapphire Reserve, but I don’t travel that much…YET. I’m pretty happy with my Sapphire Preferred credit card for the time being.

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this is the fanciest credit card I’ve ever held (it’s heavy!)

A few things to consider if you’re thinking about applying to get one of these travel reward credit cards:

  • most cards have a 17.74%-24.7% Annual Percentage Rate (APR) based on your creditworthiness 
  • all these cards won’t charge you interest as long as you pay off the entire balance by the bill due date – remember my mom’s advice?
  • there are penalty fees associated with each one if you don’t pay the bill on time depending on the balance
  • if you ever read the fine print on something, it should be the terms and conditions on the credit cards you are approved for; here’s an example of one.
  • do your own research – don’t rely on people like me to make up your mind – or do – but still, do your research

Travel on, Marty McFly.

Do you have a favorite travel rewards credit card? Let me know in the comments below.

 

Featured photo by Annie Spratt 

Summer in Boise, Idaho

I have been missing the mountains, so I’m reliving my time in Boise, Idaho through this video:

 

As you can see from the comments, some people felt like they had to bring politics into the mix. It’s so annoying, but hey, its YouTube and it’s expected. The thumbnail picture is indeed in Idaho – the Sawtooth Mountains in Stanley. I’ll post pictures of that trip soon.

Have you ever visited Boise? What was your experience?

Featured photo by Alex Post

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Charm City Bucket List

After three years of being in “The Greatest City in America,” I’m moving across the country — again. That means one thing: checking off things to do on my Baltimore Bucket List. Hint: most list items will consist of eating food 🙂

Pictures below the numbered items indicate I have checked the item off my bucket list.

Here is the list I have composed so far:

  1. Visit the National Aquarium – this place is the largest tourist attraction in Maryland with over 1.5 million visitors each year.

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2. Enjoy an ice cream cone at BMore Licks. This place just opened up and has hundreds of people standing in line every day. They are the only ice cream shop in Maryland to feature over 100 flavors of soft serve. I personally prefer their handmade hard ice cream but both are delicious!

3. Hammer down on some steamed crab. You can’t visit Baltimore and not have some fresh crab.

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4. Walk through Graffiti Alley in the Station North Arts District

5. Visit the Painted Ladies in Charles Village and have lunch there

6. Enjoy a glass of wine at the 13.5% Wine Bar (how cool is that name?!)

7. Wander through the exquisite George Peabody Libary (apparently, it’s a popular place for getting married if you’re into that kind of thing)

8. Explore art galleries at the Baltimore Museum of Art

9. Kayak through Baltimore’s Inner Harbor

10. Try some a lot of whiskey at Sagamore Spirit Distillery

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We’re basically whiskey connoisseurs now

11. See the Inner Harbor from the World Trade Center

12. Drink a cocktail at a rooftop bar

Suggestion on things to add?! Leave them below.

Featured image by Bob Burkhard