Share Your Best Road Trip (or Driving-Cross-Country) Tips Here, Please

Next week I'll be driving from San Francisco to DC (with my older incontinent dog). I've driven cross-country before, but only for fun, not necessity -- and never with a pet in tow. Help?

Dec 14, 2013 at 1:00pm | Leave a comment

So! This Tuesday, I'll start driving across the country. I'm heading from San Francisco (my home of almost 9 years) to my new, possibly temporary (?) home base, AKA my hometown: Washington DC.  I'll be traveling with my 45-pound, 10-year-old incontinent dog, as well as my uncle from Georgia, who will -- thank God -- be helping me drive. I'm anticipating that it'll take us between 4 and 5 days to get there (but I'm intensely hoping for four).

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My neighborhood in San Francisco.


I'm a huuuge fan of road trips (though I've admittedly never done one of this magnitude). When I was 24, I did a just-for-fun cross-country road trip with one of my best friends from college. We took a month to do it, and we happily dragged that shit out as long as we could, starting from North Carolina and ending up back in New York (where I lived then). It was, without a doubt, one of the greatest things I've ever done. This sounds cheesy as hell, but it's TRUE: I felt so much more connected to this country after that trip was over. We saw so much (and so much of it was beautiful) -- I was left wanting to do another big road trip as soon as humanly possible.

Of course, that was more than 10 years ago, and I haven't done another one since. This one on Tuesday will be major, and I really, REALLY hope it won't be awful (driving x-country in the dead of winter isn't quite ideal, but ...). I'm certainly not expecting it to be anywhere near as entertaining and light-hearted as that trip with my friend -- this one is a whirlwind trip of necessity, not youthful leisure. And I'm only driving because I have to; I need to get my car to the east coast somehow, and my dog is too big (not to mention anxious and insane) to fly.

I haven't mapped my route yet (ugh, soon), but I upgraded my AAA membership to the HIGHEST TIER (in anticipation of hopefully not needing their emergency roadside services, like, at all). I'm planning to only stop at pet-friendly hotels, and let Henny (dog) out to pee every few hours, and feed her/medicate her as usual, and bring lots of water and snacks (I even have an Emergency Kit in my trunk). Still, I'm left with questions about all this, so I thought I'd turn to you.

  • Uh, what else should I be doing to prevent this trip from being horrid?
  • Any suggestions for books on tape that I simply MUST BUY that are not embarrassing (I repeat: NOT EMBARRASSING) to listen to with one's uncle from the South?
  • How do you prevent yourself from getting snappish or irritable when you're with the same person in a tiny space for 4 days straight?
  • How does one entertain a dog on a long-ass road trip?
  • Any other tips or thoughts about driving cross-country (especially with pets), please spill here!

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