Enjoy Your Drive and Avoid the Highways

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As of December 31, 2023, we are no longer camping much and I an no longer updating this website. I have left it online for the time being, knowing that people still find their way to my articles and find them helpful. Please note, however, that as time goes by, some of the information presented here (particularly on specific products) may become outdated and links may no longer work.
I've enjoyed eight great years of interaction with thousands of other small travel trailer owners. Thanks for all your support, and hopefully a few of us will meet again somewhere in the woods or on the road! - Denny

I'm Retired Now, But When I Was Younger...

Avoid the highways? Well, I was always too busy. When we went on vacations, I was always in a hurry to get to our destination, and always in a hurry to get back home. We were also either staying in hotels, or else with friends or relatives. Taking Interstates was the obvious choice. They are usually the most direct route, and unless there's a traffic problem, there's nothing to slow you down along the way. Furthermore, I could drive at least as fast as everyone else. Sound familiar?

We always try to avoid the highways as much as we can
Our family life was all about work and raising kids. If we weren't working, there was a good chance we were busy with the kids' activities. When we did travel, it was often by plane, because once again, we were in a hurry. Vacations were always these too short breaks from normal life. To get the most from them, we had to be in a hurry to get to our destination. Once there, staying until the last minute before returning home was essential. Avoid the highways? That just wasn't an option.
Driving down a country road is how we love to avoid the highways

Today's It's Different

We are at the point in life where are able to slow down, and really need to. Life was always such a blur that we would lose track of how quickly time was passing by. Today, we see the importance of enjoying each day and getting the most out of them while we can. Traveling is no longer a short break from our intense routine, but has now become a more integral part of our lives. For us, it's important to try our best to enjoy each day, even those when we are just sitting in our truck driving down the road. We've become very aware of how quickly the days of our lives get away.
Avoid the Highways

When we travel today, the thing that makes more difference than anything else is to avoid highways all we can (the Interstates). It takes more time, but makes a huge difference in how we feel and how much we enjoy the days we are on the road. Pulling a small trailer, I always try to keep my speed down to 60-65mph. On the Interstate, this means that everyone else is constantly passing me. The entire time I drive, my full attention is on the traffic. When it's busy, it can get really stressful when there are a lot of big trucks all around going faster than me.

On the backroads, a good bit of our trips have no traffic on them at all. When there is traffic, it is often when we are passing through towns where everyone is driving slowly. Instead of spending all the time concentrating on traffic, driving backroads allows us to enjoy the scenery and the sights. The end result is that we are much more relaxed and the time generally passes much more quickly.

It's actually the Interstates that we try to avoid.  We love the old highways like this one.
Choosing Our Route

There are two parts to choosing a good route. Here's how we do it.

  • Use an online mapping program before the trip
    My favorite for working out the details is Google Maps on a computer (not a phone). For me, the size of a computer screen is key to working with the route. The first step is to set the option to avoid the highways, then put in the cities I want to drive between. I play with the resulting map, tweaking the route and seeing how if affects the time. A priority for me is to drag the route to avoid any big cities unless it is somewhere we want to go. When I have it the way I want it, I either print out the directions or write out some notes that I can use when we are driving.
  • Use a GPS program while driving
    Once again I use Google Maps, but this time on my smartphone. Even though I already know my basic route, the GPS is key for three things:
    • Keeping me on my route. The audible voice directions make sure I don't miss a turn
    • Letting us see where we are along our route
    • Alerting us to traffic backups (sometimes due to construction) along the way
  • Bring maps or a good atlas along with you as you travel
    We always make sure we have our road atlas with us when we travel. It's amazing how often we end up referring to it when we're on a longer trip. We really like the National Geographic Road Atlas. If you'd like to learn more about it, follow the preceding link to the product page on Amazon.

What always seems to work out best for us, is that I follow the main route I had planned in advance. If I follow the GPS too closely, it will try to save two minutes by taking us down some road we wish we'd never turned onto. I want to make sure the decisions I made when I tweaked the route on the computer don't get forgotten. Of course sometimes the GPS doesn't like the decisions I made, so I just turn down the volume for a while to shut it up! Eventually it will adjust and re-align with my choices.

The problems with using GPS

Be sure to read my other article...

  The problems using GPS when traveling with a small travel trailer.

It covers more about the issues we've run into when depending too much on our GPS.

This great road through the Ocala Forest in Florida sure beats the busy highways

How It All Works Out

One of our big trips was between Michigan and Florida. We had a lot of side trips to visit friends and family on our way north, but took a pretty direct route back home.

Google Maps indicated this to be a 19 hour trip by Interstate, and 25 hour trip if we want to avoid the highways. Of course, the Interstate would actually take us longer than that since I tend to keep the speed down a bit when pulling our trailer. So instead of a 6 hour difference, it's probably more like a 3-4 hour difference for us.

I tweaked Google's route just a bit, without increasing the estimated time. We ended up with almost 1300 miles, with only about 20 miles of it on the Interstate.

The trip was full of beautiful scenery and almost no traffic at all. We saw a lot of interesting small towns, but avoided all the big ones except for Jacksonville, Florida. This is where we had our 20 miles of Interstate to bypass the main city. For us, the extra few hours were well worth it. This is the way we like to travel! For more information about how we plan our trips, please visit the Planning Trips section of my free Beginner's Guide to Small Travel Trailers.

Be sure to drop me note if you have any questions.
- Denny

A Note About Map Time

We refer to the travel time shown on Google Maps as "Google Time". It does not consider time spent at traffic lights and other slow downs, as well as stopping for gas and to eat. It also doesn't know how fast (or slow) we drive.

We generally multiply Google Time by about 1.5 to get an idea of how long travel is really going to take. Some times it's more, sometimes less, but be sure to take it into consideration as you plan your trips.

For more information or to purchase the product mentioned in this article, click the images below to access the related product page on Amazon. Thank you for supporting our sponsors and advertisers.
Road Atlas
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Denny Johnson

Denny Johnson

After having spent most of our adult life in Orlando, my wife Fay and I moved to Knoxville, TN in 2020. We are loving the change of seasons and being near the mountains. Plus, this part of the country is loaded with great places to camp. 
We camped years ago with a pop-up camper, but got serious about it when we purchased our Casita in 2014. There was a lot to learn as we started traveling with it, and a lot of conflicting opinions on line. That's when I decided that creating a website would be a good retirement project. I started tinyTowable.com to share things we've learned along the way that have worked well for us in hopes that the information would be of help to others.
However, since moving to Tennessee, I've gotten involved with new hobbies (you can check some out on my personal website at https://www.softrite.com) and we haven't camped very much. So, at the end of 2023, I made the tough decision to stop updating this website.
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This article has been revamped and updated since it was originally posted.

10 thoughts on “Enjoy Your Drive and Avoid the Highways

  1. I’m with you! We avoid the busy highways and interstates. It’s fabulous being retired and not having to rush!

  2. Crazy people drive on the interstate highways, making for dangerous and stressful journeys! Thank you for sharing your experiences. We’re newly retired and recently invested in a Casita. Avoiding super highways just makes sense.

    1. It may be my imagination but it seems the highways have become crazier and more dangerous post Covid.

      1. You may be right, but they’ve seemed pretty crazy to me all along Eddie.

        When we’ve been on them though the last few years, we’ve run into a lot of construction that’s made it even worse!

        – Denny

    1. Kendall Campground in Jamestown, KY Russell. It’s a Corp of Engineers facility. All the COE campgrounds we’ve stayed at have been great, but this was particularly nice. I’ll have a review and photos of it up on the website under our campground reviews sometime in the next week. – dj

  3. Ha! Denny, show you how old I am. We took a trip from Harrison Arkansas to bar harbor and only went on 70 miles of interstate! Another time we went from Joplin Missouri to the tip of Florida staying in state parks all the way, going and coming, and never made a reservation! Yep, those were the days!

  4. I take the road less traveled when possible, and often 4 lane US highways will get you there pretty close to as quickly as the Interstate. But even when on the Interstate I’ve found towing actually makes driving less stressful as I just plant myself in the right lane and do 65. Even when not towing I’ve adjusted my driving habits as just setting the cruise at 65 and not changing lanes 2X a minute is both safer and more relaxing, and really has little impact on arrival time.

    1. Interesting that you find the Interstate less stressful at 65mph. I hate all the big trucks passing us when we do that. – Denny

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