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Lessons from the road

December 13th, 2011

Spend enough time on the road, and you’re bound to figure out a thing or two.  Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned over the past six months:

  • Coffee and Tea: Flying J and Pilot (which are corporate siblings) have the best coffee of any of the major truck stops.  What’s more, they have decent full-leaf, pyramid-bag hot tea available for the same price as coffee.
  • Working: Starbucks might not have the best coffee in the world, but it’s decent and consistent.  More importantly, Starbucks locations provide a consistently good environment for doing work on the road, by which I mean they have lots of power outlets.  Just about everywhere these days offers free WiFi, and most quick-service restaurants have plenty of seating, but relatively few offer ample AC power.
  • Finding hotels: Tripadvisor is fantastic for finding good hotels.  Hipmunk is a good tool for associating hotel prices and locations, and it integrates the Tripadvisor ratings, too.
  • Low hotel prices: When making reservations for a hotel, the path to the best price varies depending on whether it’s a chain hotel or an independent hotel.  If it’s a chain, the lowest price will never be from a walk-in, so always reserve online using either Orbitz or Hotels.com — check them both, as one is often less expensive than the other. There have been at least three times on this trip where I’ve walked in to a hotel, found that the walk-in rate was higher than the online rate, and made an online booking from my smartphone at the registration desk.  If the hotel is an independent, the walk-in price will almost always be lower than the online price.
  • Banking: Banking while traveling can be expensive due to ATM fees.  Even the largest national banks tend not to have ATMs everywhere.  On top of that, in Canada, there are conversion fees.  The solution I found was a checking account with Schwab Bank.  They refund all ATM fees, do currency conversions at bank rates, and don’t charge a conversion fee — which is usually about 3% for other debit and credit cards.

Flying J (and alternate branding Pilot): best truck stop

  1. Kevin Unwin
    December 13th, 2011 at 16:08 | #1


    Just wanted you to know that the Wingmen have been following you and are cheering you on. We are looking forward to you getting home. It seems like yesterday that you were telling us about your trip plans in the locker room. Give us a call when you get home so you can share your road stories with us over a beer or two. Congrats on almost being done and safe travels!

    Kevin Unwin
    Wingmen #10

  2. Jeff
    December 15th, 2011 at 16:46 | #2

    @Kevin Unwin Thanks, Kevin! Glad to hear that you all have been living the trip vicariously!

  3. T O M S U
    December 15th, 2011 at 16:54 | #3

    I’ve been using Schwab Bank for a good while now, and I agree it’s awesome! I made the full switch over from Capital One (after using it only for ATM access, thanks to the refund policy).

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