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?
Publish date:
December 14, 2013
road trip, driving cross country, road trips, moving, pets

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).

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!

I'm on Twitter.