Pit stops are usually one of the highlights of long road trips. Not only are they a great way to take a breather and stretch a bit, but they can also make for some very positive and fun interactions or experiences. Of course, going on a trip without planning your road trip pit stop options might not yield the same experience – you may encounter one of the rundown stops that people intentionally plan to avoid.
A surprising number of people have never considered coordinating that part of their trip, but believe us when we say that it can make a major difference. Working this out in advance will give you peace of mind, and you will avoid those panicky situations where you are wondering where to take a break.
If you have an upcoming road trip and you are yet to make pit stop plans, then we are here to help you out with some great suggestions. All of our suggestions are applicable, regardless if you are traveling alone, with a group, your family, or with pets. Of course, there are some things that you will need to keep in mind depending on the locations you choose – some of them, for example, might be a bit too crowded, so you will need to keep a close eye on little children.
But enough chit-chat, let’s get to the point – the best road trip pit stop options.
Fast food is easy, but is it best?
You can find some variety of fast food in pretty much any small town across this land. It’s a cheap meal, you can usually rely on the quality of the food, you are probably familiar with the menu, but is it really the best pit stop? It depends on who you’re traveling with. If you have younger children, don’t count on there being a play area – many small town fast food joints don’t have a play area, because they don’t have any competition. What you end up doing is going from one seat (in your car) to another seat (in a restaurant) for your break. If that’s what you want, then it can be a great pit stop that you can rely on. But if your kids seem to have boundless energy, then there are some better options below.
I love exploring new restaurants, and look forward to trying new food in different regions, but sometimes it’s just best to go with what you know when you’re on the road. For my money, Subway is the cleanest-eating road trip fast food option that there is, and since a Subway can fit in any little location there tends to be one in every little town, even if it’s in a gas station.
Rest stops? Do your research in advance (if you can)
People with dozens of road trips under their belt can tell you that not all rest stops are made equal. Even if you see them on a map, this is not enough to plan a rest there. Make sure to look for recent reviews, information and even photos online – this should tell you everything you need to know about the rest stop you are considering, if you can even find that info.
But why is this necessary? Unfortunately, some of these rest stops tend to be quite rundown. They might not even have basic commodities such as a functional or at least semi-clean restroom. In fact, you might even find some rest stops that are nothing more than a bit of damaged shelter and a picnic table, all surrounded by mud. Needless to say, taking a break there will not be a fulfilling experience.
On the other hand, finding a well-maintained rest stop is one of the best ways to take a break on your trip. There are both outdoor and indoor options, clean restrooms, parking spots, and even playgrounds. One of the things to keep in mind is that you will not find food there – so make sure to pack a meal for everyone.
Rest stops are a total gamble, and are difficult to map out. Typically it’s a knee-jerk reaction when you see a sign like “Rest Stop 1 Mile Ahead”, which means you get whatever you get. If you’ve seen a particular stop before then you’re good, otherwise I wouldn’t rely on them.
Truck stops are great if you do not mind the crowd
Another great option that will never fail you are truck stops. They are rich in commodities because their primary goal is attracting truckers. You will find clean restrooms, a cafeteria, diner, and often a motel nearby if you think it is better to spend time there instead of driving through the night. Having any issues with your vehicle? Truck stops have you covered, no matter what you’re after.
While all of this sounds great, truck stops might not be perfect for everyone. There is not enough space to stretch your legs unless your plan is to roam around the parking lot. As we mentioned in the heading, they are also very crowded – some people enjoy more silent and relaxing road trip pit stop options.
Last but not least, if you have pets or children, it might be a bit more challenging to manage them during your break. Expect a lot of people moving around, and in and out. Overall, truck stops are an excellent choice if you enjoy being in a more lively space, with plenty of commodities available.
City parks are the perfect pit stop for kids
The last and probably best option we want to talk about are city parks. They are found in just about every small town you pass through, and they can be the perfect spot for a break – especially if you are traveling with children. They are almost always well-maintained, have restrooms, and you will find shops or restaurants nearby. Another advantage is that they usually have a playground nearby, so the little ones will have entertainment too.
They’re easy to find on maps, too. Almost always there’s a big green space about the size of one city block right in the middle of town. One side note, though: some towns might not have enough funds for proper maintenance of all aspects of the city park – the restrooms are usually one of the things to be neglected. While they are usually operational, they might not be very enjoyable to use.
One of the advantages of taking a break at the city park is that you get to drain the energy of children and pets because they will have plenty of space to play in. Pack a soccer ball or football for some easy entertainment. Furthermore, they are an excellent place for a picnic – if city parks are your road trip pit stop option, you should prepare food beforehand. Eating your own meals is also a great way to minimize the odds of stomach aches because of fast food, and save some money while you’re at it.
Obviously the weather comes into play when you’re planning an outdoor pit stop, so if it’s freezing or stormy, we find a Walmart to stop in and walk around in. After a couple of laps and some window shopping, we have all stretched our legs and are ready to hit the highway again.
Is there a best road trip pit stop option?
Hopefully, by now you have realized the importance of having a properly coordinated plan when it comes to selecting road trip pit stop options. It does not take a lot of time to research your options, and you will be grateful to have done so once you are on the road.
As for the best choice – it entirely depends on what you enjoy. If you are a fan of nature, then visitor centers and rest stops are probably the most viable choice. And if you would rather be among more people, then city parks or truck stops are probably better suited for you.