To Rest Stop Or Not To Rest Stop?

We were coming home from the beach on Saturday when we crossed over Murder Creek, a part of our Birmingham -> Beach -> Birmingham route that always leaves me with a slight case of the shudders. Honestly, I don’t know what it would hurt to change the name of the creek to something slightly more pleasant (though I did understand the history of the name a little better once I looked it up on the Google). It just seems like it would be more fitting to cross Sunset Creek or Shoreline Creek or Palm Tree Creek or SOMETHING.


Anyway, I was trapped in my need-to-rename-Murder-Creek reverie when we passed a rest stop south of Montgomery, and y’all, that place was COVERED UP. There were cars and people everywhere, and even though it was the beginning of or end of Spring Break for lots of folks in Alabama – which means there was more traffic than usual on the roads – I was just as fascinated as I could be. We rarely stop at rest stops; it’s not that we have any big fundamental problem with them, but we’ve just formed other travel habits over the years. I do remember stopping at a rest stop with Alex one time when he was little and I needed to change his diaper, but for some reason I felt very isolated and maybe even sort of afraid. Ever since then I’ve stopped mainly at convenience stores and fast food places, and I have a standard place where I like to stop – and where I feel safe – on most of our regular routes.

For example.

On the way to Nashville we stop at the Starbucks in Athens, AL. On the way to Starkville we stop at a BP in Columbus, MS. On the way to Atlanta we stop at the Starbucks in Oxford, AL. On the way to Memphis we stop at a convenience store in Winfield, AL. On the way to Mississippi we stop at a Texaco / McDonald’s right outside of Tuscaloosa. If we need to stop again there’s a Burger King in Livingston, AL.

But rest stops? Not so much.

So Saturday afternoon I mentioned my rest stop fascination on Twitter, and several people mentioned that they love a good rest stop since it gives their kids a chance to stretch / run around. It made me realize that we’ve never taken a super-long road trip as a family – a five-hour drive is probably tops for us – and I’ve certainly never planned ahead enough to pack a picnic lunch in a cooler. This last thing probably has more to do with the fact that I don’t really enjoy eating outside because BUGS, but as I read people’s Twitter comments, I felt like there’s this whole little piece of Americana that I’ve missed by not embracing the rest stop option.

So. I’m curious. Are y’all rest stop people or not? Do you even go one step further and pack a cooler of sandwiches and drinks before you get on the road? Or do you subscribe more to my method of having certain places where you like to stop for a few minutes before you move it on down the road?

I will be certain to compile our results into charts and also graphs.

Okay. Not really. But I am sure to be riveted by your answers nonetheless.

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  1. NO. I went on a trip with my inlaws once and we stopped at a rest stop at like, 1 am. Now, I don’t do rest stops during the day unless it is a MAJOR crisis, so I was FREAKING OUT at 1 am. I kept telling myself, “We’re all together, we’re all together,” but I couldn’t escape visions of my impending murder by some criminal escapee or criminal wanna-be lurking in the bushes. Gah. The worst.

  2. We love a good road trip!
    Over the years I found that rest stops tend to be cleaner than gas station/convenience store bathrooms-and yes you can say “GO RUN AROUND IN THE GRASS FOR THE NEXT 10 MINUTES”.
    But, there are certainly places we like to stop at as well-and if it’s the middle of the night and empty, not so much on the rest stop-although, that never seems to bother the Hubs.

  3. We have logged some long road trips– including coast to coast, so we have the pit stop thing down. Our preference is to stop at a gas station with fast food nearby. Hubs gets gas, I make the children walk laps around the buildings, then we use the facilities and continue the forced exercise while I order food to-go.
    The “to-go” is key– that way you get an extra half-hour of peace in the car because they’re eating.
    For us, rest stops are only for emergency bathroom breaks. If we don’t need gas– there’s no stopping! ;)
    We pack snacks and drinks.

  4. Many rest areas between Ohio and Florida on I 75 are nice with landscaping, walkways, and clean restrooms…but only in broad daylight for us! Sometimes McD’s is the place to go…love their iced mocha with no whip cream, nofat milk, and chocolate syrup squiggle on top! (Their restrooms are usually clean too…not always though.)

  5. JoEllen says:

    As a child we took a ton of road trips. My Mom would pack a cooler with lunch. As kids we looked forward to the rest stops because it meant we could get out of the car!

    Now that I have a family of our own we rarely drive farther than a few hours. When we make the big trips we fly. If we are in the car we stop at the fast food places for food /potty break or gas stations for gas/emergency ” I’m desperate, I can’t hold it”potty breaks. I’m not even tempted to stop at a rest stop anymore.

  6. We live in Texas, where just about any trip is a long road trip. :-) There are some extremely nice rest stops along the interstate, as most have been updated in the past few years. If it’s not nice, we don’t stop!

    True story – we used to do the cooler thing with drinks so we didn’t have to stop. But we did not think about the liquid in means liquid out equation. :-) My husband would get frustrated at having to stop so often, so we quit with the cooler and just stopped periodically when the kids were little.

    • Some of The rest stops in Texas are destinations themselves. The one outside of Houston on 1-45 has a small lake with beautiful trees and a hiking trail around it along with a huge play area with wonderful swings and ladders and forts. Two sets of restrooms which are both huge, because it is Texas.

  7. Not – when you live in the Boonies like us and have no fast food nearby, roadtrips are a good excuse to enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner!! Besides the fact if you’ve ever watched 20/20 you probably never stop at rest stops. Enough said.

  8. I-20 between Vicksburg and Midland, TX has one…..count it , one rest stop! It’s very large. ( TX) and very clean. You kinda feel obligated!

    • We make the drive from Birmingham to Dallas TX often! I know that stretch of I-20 well and that is a nice rest stop. :)

    • There is a welcome center in Vicksburg that has clean restrooms. And there is a rest stop just across the bridge in Louisiana. But that one in TX? HUGE!

  9. Yep, we’re rest stop people. I agree with the person who said that they seem a bit cleaner than the typical convenience store / fast food restaurant restrooms (although I have been pleasantly surprised by the cleanliness of those lately). I don’t do them at night or if they are vacant, but otherwise, I’m a fan.

    BooMama, between your non-frequenting of rest stops and your hatred of select-a-size paper towels, I’m not even sure I know who you are anymore. :-)

    • Wait! What? Hatred of select-a-size paper towels? I’m not sure I can even comprehend that last sentence. And how did I miss that tid-bit? Please don’t hate on select-a-size.

    • I must have missed that one, but I, too, despise select-a-size paper towels. Will have to look for that post.

    • Lauralli says:

      I can’t get past the select-a-size issue! It’s the only way to go! But, as much as I hate to admit it, I’m pretty much a paper towel user-abuser! Go through way too many of them. I feel a little less guilty using just the half sheets!

  10. When I was 7 or so, my family pulled in a rest stop. As we drove closer, we could see policemen gathered around someone down on the pavement. Right as we pulled up, one policeman begins pulling a white sheet up & over the person lying on the pavement. The guy was dead & they were covering him up. I’m not sure what happened to the guy but with my 12yr old brother in the car, he automatically started cranking out worse case scenarios like murders, robberies, & everyday runofthemill rest stop happenings. My Daddy didn’t go ahead and stop right then & needless to say, I developed a serious case of the rest stop fear that I still haven’t recovered from today!

  11. Jennifer says:

    I’ve had the same thoughts about Murder Creek when we pass over it, I mean how could a sweet little town like Brewton have such a gruesomely named creek?? I’m glad to hear it’s named after something that happened a looonnng time ago and not after something that happened back in the 90’s :)

  12. Terrie Cash says:

    I use to drive from Baltimore, MD to Pensacola, Fl when my husband was deployed on submarines. During that time, I had a toddler with me, so we would stop at the “good” rest stops so we could get some of his energy out by running around so he would sleep better.We would picnic there too. I always stopped when there were lots of vehicles in the parking lot and NEVER parked around panel vans. I was always aware of my surroundings and left if I had the creepy feeling. That only happened once.

    Once my children reached around 4 yrs old, we moved to fast food restaurants that have those lovely playgrounds. That is a whole different can of worms there. I think if I had a large family, we would picnic at rest stops because eating out can get expensive.

    Two years ago a group of 20 people took a mission trip from Pensacola, FL to Hurly, NY and we stopped at rest stops with our packed coolers and boxes of groceries to eat. Was it my preference? Not really, but I was traveling with people who sacrificed a lot just to be able to get to go on the mission trip, so I picnic with the best of them.

    To rest stop or not to rest tops, depends on the circle of life.

  13. Not much of a car riding family either.
    If it is farther than four-ish hours, we use the route that takes us through George Bush Airport!
    We do love a good Bucee’s or Prasek’s to stop at for refreshments though!

  14. I grew up as a road trip family, and now have passed that gene onto my kids. We are road-trippers deluxe. We can pound out a 16 hour roadtrip without even thinking twice about it. We don’t pack a ton of snacks/drinks, as my husband espouses the theory that if we get hungry or thirsty, we’ll stop. He’d rather have one less bag to pack. So we don’t do the rest stop thing as we have nothing to eat/drink from our vehicle! Although, growing up, we never traveled without the requisite picnic and rest stop on the side of the highway.

    True story – we taught 12th graders for 10+ years in Sunday School at our church. We would take the incoming 12th graders each summer on a beach trip leadership retreat. On I37 between San Antonio and Corpus, there is a big rest stop we would stop at for the kids to go to the bathroom and get snacks from the vending machine. The funny thing is that this rest stop has signs all over it that say, “WATCH FOR SNAKES!” No joke. We would crack up each time we stopped thinking about that sign. And no, I never saw a snake!

  15. We always stop at the rest stop outside of Montgomery when we head to the beach. And I always pack a picnic. We eat at the picnic tables and the kids run and stretch their legs. I’m a fan of the rest stop as long as it’s daylight outside, and particularly if there’s an attendant on duty.

  16. i am all about regular travel stops. My husband might even say I’m a bit obsessive about them, as in this is the ONLY place we can stop. When I drive from Kansas City through Kansas to my parents, I stop at Wendy’s in Emporia and antique store/flea market in Wichita (that one is for shopping which is a form of stretching the legs). When our son was in college six hours from home, it was QT in Columbia on the way down and QT in St. Louis on the way back. But one SPECIFIC QT in St. Louis. Right after we got on I-70 and had passed several other QT locations. It’s about routine.

  17. I travel alone quite often between Jackson, MS and Atlanta, GA. I’ve stopped at every rest stop at some point along the way and have never felt scared or unsafe. They have security and I’ve found most other travelers to be very friendly. In recent years, I have been taking my dog, and sometimes my cat with me, which means I have to walk in the designated pet walk areas with them and I’ve never had a problem.

  18. We used to rest stop all the time as a family when i was a kid. We ALWAYS packed our own lunch and would picnic there.
    My dad liked driving in the States as their rest stops were so much fancier. (I cannot make this up.)
    Hubs doesn’t like to stop AT ALL when driving, so we do not rest stop as much in this family as i did growing up, but still, we still pack our lunch and often find a park to picnic in for our lunch. or just eat our sandwiches in the car if momma isn’t feeling up to a discussion about the need to just pull this car over for a minute since we are driving 10 blessed hours and we need a little stretch.

    • Lyn, I solved the hubs not liking to stop AT ALL when driving problem. I started getting behind the wheel and told him to get on the passenger side. It didn’t take long before he knew I was serious. That way when there is a need to stop, I stop, and not fifty more miles down the road while pretending to look for a place to stop.

      I picked up a handy practice when traveling with the CEO of the company I was working with to a meeting on a couple of occasions. Stop at nice hotels when they are available. Always nice clean restrooms. I don’t hesitate to stop @ rest stops if they are nice and well populated. I also stop at fast food restaurants or @ Cracker Barrel’s. When you travel a route often enough you learn where the good places are to stop. When traveling the Interstate system, The Next Exit Directory is a handy publication to have. It lists everything at all exits on the interstate.

  19. We LOVE a road trip! 14 hours is nothing for us and we are gearing up to make that drive to Florida for our spring break starting this Friday. Rest stops are definitely part of our travel although I do prefer fast food because of the better snack options than vending machines. My girls like to take all the “literature” from the visitor centers at the rest stops. I used to be better at packing picnics when the girls were little but now that we have teenagers, WHAT COOLER WOULD BE BIG ENOUGH?! My parents made us run like crazy at rest stops when we were little and we were one of those families at picnic tables digging Cool Whip and mustard out of a baggie with a plastic knife to make a sandwich. Then my mom would take a hot wet wash cloth out of another baggy and wipe our faces within an inch of our lives. God bless the inventor of wet wipes!

  20. Stephanie Walsh says:

    I can remember stopping at rest stops as a child, on our way to the beach or to see family in another state. We never use them now as a family. I guess because our kids are typically hungry and we’ve run out of snacks in the car, or maybe because I’ve seen one too many movies where an actor was crawling out of a rest stop window to escape being killed! No thanks, sistah!

  21. Colleen says:

    I love your blog and rarely comment, but for some reason I love this post! :) We stopped at rest stops all the time on trips when I was a kid, usually along the way from KY to FL, so somewhere in North Alabama! Loved it! We had the cooler and everything, but we were also weird kids that didn’t really care for fast food. Now, I love a road trip as a good excuse for a fast food stop! Everytime I stop at a rest stop, though, it brings back such good memories. There are several around KY that are a rest stop, gas station, and food. The northeast has full-on rest stops that you just pull off the highway into an area with a food court, gas, and outdoor area. It’s mainly to avoid paying the toll to get off the highway, but I love them. I wish we had them here. All in one!

  22. Michelle H says:

    My husband and I plus our 3 kids have taken short road trips and long road trips. We’ve driven to Niagra Falls, Canada and out to the Grand Canyon stopping to see many things along the way. We do a mixture of rest stops, convenience stores, and fast food places. Rest stops always have brochures about all the things to see in that particular state and the restrooms are always clean.

  23. I was never a big fan of the rest stops until we got our little dogs. Now it is a crucial part of our travel plans when we have them with us. There are some great ones out there!

  24. In all our days on the road, I think we’ve stopped at a rest stop all of once. Maybe twice. We are truck stop people. Give me a place where they sell flannel, travel pillows, and hot dogs. And clean restrooms where I’m not afraid I’ll get attacked.

    • My Dad was a big fan of the truck stop. He swore that you would only get a good meal at a good price at a truck stop because truckers wouldn’t put up with anything else.

  25. Becky in 'Bama says:

    It’s a generational thing: YEARS ago (as in when I was young), there were no fast food restaurants/gas station convenience stores at every exit – on every corner, and rest stops were the only offerings for people needing a potty break. Too, people did not use air transportation as much (that was for ‘rich folks’ per my daddy). Growing up we lived in ATL for several years and made many a road to trip back to B’ham. Traveling with four kids, the perfect stopping place was at the state line rest stop (either one) and my dad would always make a big deal about changing our watches (forward an hour, back an hour). Ahhh… those were the days. You could actually see the Chattahoochee River as you drove across it.

  26. Nerd alert! Or maybe I should say, History Nerd alert! When I was a kid, my dad never saw a historical marker he didn’t like. (Should that be “an historical marker? I’m never sure…)

    Anyway, most historical roadside markers are at rest stops. Therefore, we stopped at any and all rest stops he saw so we could get out, read the marker and learn a little history about the area through which we were travelling. This trained our little bladders that we would be stopping approximately every 59.3 minutes, so we all ate and drank to our hearts’ content.

    Fast-forward 45 years and there you have it: I have a bladder that requires a stop about every hour. Therefore, I’m intimately familiar with every stop available throughout the Midwest. In fact, my friends, who love to travel with me because they can get a Vente drink at every Starbucks we visit, have long thought my first book should be, “Bathrooms I Have Known: One Woman’s Personal Memoir.”

    I’m working on it.

  27. When the kids were younger we did a lot more rest stops. I would bring jump ropes or sidewalk chalk for them to use and we would stay for maybe 10-15 minutes before getting back in the car. Some of ours even have playground equipment.

    Now we’re more zip into the bathroom at a gas station people, but I do always feel guilty if I don’t buy something. But then I also feel guilty because I don’t “need” anything!

  28. When I was potty training my oldest child, I despised stopping at fast food restaurants for him to use the bathroom, and in a moment of sheer divine inspiration, I started stopping at nice hotels (Hampton, LaQuinta, etc.) and using the lobby restroom. They are always super clean, and rarely get used since, hello, most people that are there use the restroom in their hotel room! Life.Changing.

  29. I am firmly in the “let’s take a quick stop here at our familiar friendly place, and then move it on down the road as quick as we can.” camp. Forget murder Creek,I have this long-held and unfounded belief that murders happen at rest stops. So there’s that, too.

  30. My husband hates stopping! We used to be able to drive from South Carolina to South Florida with only one stop for gas. When we had kids, it seriously cramped his style. However, if we stop at a rest stop it’s to pee and move on. Now that the kids are older, my bladder is weaker so we still have to make pitstops, but they are still quick. Stops are NOT part of the vacation.

  31. I am with you, not much of a rest stop person. My Mom always told me they were dangerous, and I can’t say I don’t agree. Also, when I was in high school there was a whole family that was murdered by a satanic cult at a rest stop in the middle of the night in East TN where 1-40 and 1-81 split. Very scary stuff.

  32. I actually HATE using any sort of public restroom. I am a germ FREAK and really don’t like the feeling of my thighs shaking like a California quake as I try to squat over a toilet. And don’t even get me started on the size of those stalls! I mean seriously I almost have to stand on the toilet just to get the door closed! ANYWAY, saying all that to say we travel a lot and we have 3 kids, 13, 10 and 9. We stop at the rest areas that have large fields so the kids can play soccer or tag or some sense of running around like crazy. We do have one that we stop at regularly in Williamsburg VA. We live in Va Beach and even though it’s so close to home they have a playground with that padded rubber stuff underneath and the kids love it! They take off the shoes and run around and really enjoy it. I have been to some creepy ones though that I’m pretty sure we will never visit again. As much as we visit rest areas, we also visit our favorite gas stations or border stations depending on where we are traveling to.

  33. I’ve always done both–my bladder is ridiculously small, and now having had two children, I’ll stop anywhere not sketchy.
    I do pack a cooler with snacks. It’s so much cheaper and tends to be healthier snacks, especially with a 7 yr old and 4 yr old. Although, we do stop at gas stations, too.
    We drove last summer as we moved from AL to CA, and being on the road for 3 days, we made many stops.

  34. Janet Worthy says:

    Just like you, we have specific stops on every road trip, back in the olden days (35-40 years:) we always stopped at Holiday Inns while driving from MSU to the coast, to Atlanta, then to Texas! Now that we’re older with joint issues:) anything over 2 1/2 hours, we FLY!

  35. Nelson's Mama says:

    The rest stops in many states are a reflection of their heritage and architecture, I quite enjoy them. They are usually much cleaner than a store or fast food place; I don’t like to use the facilities somewhere unless I make a purchase and rest stops are a really nice place to walk our dog and stretch our legs. :)

  36. We use gas stations, fast food places, Wal-Marts, and rest stops equally. I agree with earlier Texan commenters, TX has some fabulous rest stops. Some of them are almost like museums with gorgeous outdoor settings. We’ve taken pictures at some of them, watched interpretive films, etc. They often have a very park-like setting, and the fresh air is a blessing on a long road trip! However, there is one rest stop in south TX with open-air restrooms. They don’t have doors on the restroom buildings (they do have stall doors, thank goodness). While this rest stop has vastly improved since I was a young girl, the open-air restrooms mean humidity, heat, and occasionally unpleasant experiences. One year, my husband and I were headed south for Thanksgiving. It was perhaps 9 pm. I was walking into the restroom building when I noticed some movement on the ground to my right. I turned my head to see what it was, but it had already moved…to underneath my foot. It was an enormous RAT, and my foot came down on its nasty head! Crunch! I screamed and jumped up and down. My husband and a park attendant came running. The beast was disposed of and I forced myself to proceed with the task at hand, but I still shudder when I think of it!

  37. We road trip a lot. Often, just me and my kids, on very long trips. I play the rest stop dialogue in my head just about all day. Yes, no? Yes, no?

    I should add that I am addicted to watching true crime TV. I KNOW! Can you imagine I would even consider using a rest stop after years of watching that stuff?

    At any rate, it turns out I am more afraid of germs and sugar than murder. Rest stops are usually cleaner and quicker than a gas station. They also don’t have rows and rows of brightly colored candy bars everywhere that make for a wonderful meltdown just before I trap myself in my van with my kids for the next 8 hours.

    I have also learned that many rest stops in the south are staffed with cute little gray haired grannies waiting to serve you coffee or compliment your (seemingly) well behaved kids. It’s always nice to feel loved – even if by a complete stranger – after listening to your kids bicker for two straight hours.

  38. We don’t usually stop at rest stops. We stop at Buc-ee’s. Oh, it’s paradise, I tell you. Paradise. Seemingly thousands of gasoline pumps, clean restrooms (thousands of those, too). And food — convenience store kind, as well as freshly-made items. From pound cakes to barbecue sandwiches. They’ve got clothing, insulated coffee mugs, posters, plaques, wind chimes, and the list goes on and on. And I’m not even a paid spokesperson. Just someone who clearly needs to get out more!

    • Renee Wheeler says:

      Buc-ee Balls are awesome! What’s the real name for them anyway? You know what I’m talking about, I’m sure.

  39. From reading the comments, I guess we have come full circle. When I was little, back in the dark ages, there were no ‘rest stops’. Our rest stops were gas stations and an occasional bush. With the advent of the interstate, the first rest stop I remember was but two permanent ‘porta-potties’. I preferred the gas station!
    Now, there are nice rest stops & we have used them on occasion. But a few scary and gross incidents, and so Starbucks or McDonalds usually get my business.

  40. I grew up taking long road trips in a camper with my parents from California to Missouri and back again. Rest stops were our best friend, until the evening we stopped to eat dinner at rest stop outside of Reno. Once the gun fire stopped, we quickly hustled right on out of there, and I’ve not been a rest stop fan since. That was probably 40 years ago. Give me a Starbuck’s or McDonald’s just of the highway anytime!

  41. Rest stops rarely if ever but you must realize we never get more than 30 miles away from home. Life on the farm means that we always have to leave someone home to feed and water animals or only be gone for limited hours.

  42. Back in my single days I did a few road trips with friends and one guy always wanted us to stop at hotels or fairly nice motels for restroom breaks as he thought they had the cleanest facilities. It was true but slightly weird to go to the lobby and then leave with no official business at the check-in counter. Now with the fam, we are fast food/restaurant stopping folks.

  43. We are mostly stop for gas and food type road trippers. I always thought that rest stops were dirty, neglected, and full of drug dealers waiting to sell you drugs or murder you. But we discovered on a recent multi-state trip that Oklahoma has some new, nice, clean, open, airy, fresh rest stops and they were wonderful when we needed a bathroom break and to stretch our legs.

    I think it depends on the rest stop. I wish there was a way to find the good ones and avoid the bad ones. Is there an app for that?

  44. Also a little FYI…In Oklahoma…avoid the former “World’s Largest McDonald’s” that spans across the highway in Vinita, OK and go for the rest stop a bit down the road. That McDonald’s was old, and gross, and a bit anti-climactic (although I’m hearing it’s currently being renovated?). The rest stop was much nicer and more interesting.

  45. I remember stopping at rest stops as a child. But, as an adult with children who like to get there and be done with it, we just stop at familiar gas stations or fast food places. I am also fascinated by those who stop at actual restaurants and eat a full sit down meal in the middle of a 9-10 hour drive. What?!? Our traveling philosophy is more of the get in, get out, and get on with the drive!

  46. It’s Peach Park and Bates House of Turkey for us. I’ve wanted to find the Starbucks in Athens, but we just haven’t made a stop there.

  47. Rest stops weird me out. And I don’t know about you, but I really need to have some legit fast food to make the road trip more… I don’t know, road trippy??? It just doesn’t seem right to pull over and just eat a half cold turkey sandwich made at home.

  48. Jennifer says:

    The lovely state of Florida has rest areas along their interstates about every 40 miles or so. It is heavenly. And they are very clean. There’s really nothing like traveling with kids with the comfort of knowing you won’t be stuck in some nasty gas station bathroom when the urge hits. We’ve had many a picnic there to while traveling, and kids think it’s all part of the fun. And at the Florida Welcome Center on I-20, free orange juice! With that said, I have stopped at rest areas before and thought, “It’s a shame I’m about to get murdered.”

  49. Renee Wheeler says:

    Not so much anymore but when my kids were little and we barely had enough money to get by, much less take a vacation, we used rest stops. We called our vacations “Baloney Road Trips” because literally – that’s what they were.

  50. Christie says:

    Our family are big road trip warriors and drive from NTx to SoFla at least once a year. Personally, I love rest stops–we always pack picnic lunch, snacks, a frisbee and a soccer ball, so rest stops help my active boys stand a 8 hr driving day. We only drive during the day and I’ve never worried about safety. Honestly, I’ve read/heard/watched far more restaurant shootings than rest stop incidents, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a daytime rest stop incident. The grossest stops I”ve had have always been at little off road gas stations, and the stinkiest, hands down, small McD restrooms. Yuck!!

    But for road trip picnics, state parks are the absolute best. Ya’ll, if you have AAA make sure to have them include them in your Trip Tik. We’ve had some wonderful picnics by stopping at a state park or campground.

  51. Yes, I (we) do rest stops and other places as necessary. It is funny that you mention going to the same one each time as I do find that too. I go to a certain Burger King on my way to Chico to see my daughter. I can “coffee up” and use the restroom before the next need. =)

    My wonderful frugal husband has taught us to pack a cooler for even the short “over the hill” trip to the beach. Even though we sometimes pick up the sandwiches at a Panera along the way. It has saved us money and then we might get to go out if we stay later than planned.

    I have even had to take a nap at a rest stop once on a long car ride to my sister’s house in San Diego (8-10 hours) and I used to leave at night and let the kids sleep in the back. Once I started to nod off only an hour away from the destination but I couldn’t chance it and had to pull over and take a rest. That is where Faith walking really comes into play. =)

  52. When traveling alone, as I have done quite a bit, I try to stay towards populated (and security camera’d) places. I wouldn’t avoid a rest stop completely, but would be more likely to go during the day and with other families there. When we go on long trips I do sometimes pack a cooler, even if just a small one. Sometimes eating out for so many meals gets to be hard on the tummy (and the wallet) and it’s just nice to have some simple sandwiches and fruit, or to drink a pop that didn’t cost quite as much. We also pack snacks like nuts and chips for most any trip (driving or flying) so that we avoid the hotel snack prices. We are not die-hard about it, but just a general trend of trying to save a little here and there.

  53. Jenny F says:

    When we were kids, my family would pack up the camper and head from Ca to Ne.. We stopped at rest stops and even slept a few hours in the camper. I remember entering into Ne. One summer and they had a welcome wagon. There were locals there welcoming us to Ne. with cold lemonade and cookies! It’s been years since I’ve traveled any distance by vehicle, but I have some nice memories of some beautiful rest stops up i80.

  54. Lydialou says:

    I sometimes use rest stops. For example, if we are driving to Florida and go through Macon, there is a really nice one that has lots of people around on the Macon bypass. But I must say that sometimes I have pulled in one and it seemed deserted and I didn’t get out. I am really careful if I am driving alone for a long distance. At those times, I generally go for a stop at a Chick-fil-A where I can get a sweet tea!! My other faves for a pit stop include McDonalds, a place like Quicktrip, a Krispy Kreme, a Steak and Shake and you can not go wrong at a Cracker Barrel if you are in the South!

  55. Shelley says:

    I love that you stop in Winfield!! That’s my hometown..great place!

  56. Jackie Ingram says:

    Well, a group of crows is also called a murder. Perhaps you should picture a crow or two next time you cross the creek? :)
    Here in Texas, we stop at Buc-ees! It’s like the Disney World of road trip stops… Just ask Melanie!

  57. Yes I am a rest-stop gal! Hubby and I travel and have done so when the kids when they were in their teens and also with the grandkiddos- so we are a fan of a good clean reststop- and when the grandkiddos are with us on our annual Kuzins Kamp weekend (no parents allowed!) we certainly utilize one if needed! You should see the looks we get when they all pile out of a rented 15-passenger van! (We have 9!)

  58. None of my driving trips are long enough to visit a rest stop, thank God. I find them scary. I’m pretty sure axe murderers hang out there. ;)

  59. Felicia says:

    Absolutely not! I’ve read way too many scary books to EVER really stop at one when I’m traveling. I would much rather find a good truck stop or McDonalds. Either way, there’s always people around.

  60. anotherlisa says:

    driving from Houston to the coast of Maine every summer, we have our stops down to a science and all we do is quickly potty and gas up. so the “picnic” lunch is in the car, with a cooler to help us avoid fast food. when dinnertime rolls around we gas/potty again and throw in a fast food drive thru. then we’ll stop around 10 pm and spend the night in a pet-friendly hotel. next morning we’re up with the birds, and at the beach house by sunset, barring weather and/or traffic-construction delays on the road.
    this has been done for years with kids, cat, dog and even a snake. and all 3 kids love road trips now, as young adults.

  61. For years we did the Dallas-to-Atlanta I-20 trek, and I have a very precise routine- stop at a gas station every half tank; kids go pee while I gas up; jump back in the car; go go go and never stop. I’m not against rest stops- especially the Vicksburg welcome center- but it just isn’t efficient enough for me on a long trip..need to kill two birds with one stone. That said, some gas stations are N-a-s-t-y. I try to stick to the big Petro truck stops if possible.

  62. Thank you! I often drive from Nashville to Dallas by myself with 4 kids in tow and my kids think I’m crazy because I only have certain places that I stop. In fact, we can’t travel on Sundays because Chick Fil A is one of the only place I’ll stop for a bathroom break. I guess I feel like its a christian environment and if I needed help there would be good people their to help me. Like I said, Crazy! But, the Arkansas rest stops (I-30 out of Texarkana and I-40 outside Memphis) are great!!!

  63. My husband and I LOVE roadtrips…both of us coming from road-trippin’ families. Just about every summer vacation I had involved a trip from Transylvania County North Carolina to Los Angeles, so I know I-40 like the back of my hand.

    The rest-stops in New Mexico and Arizona along 40 are hit and miss as far as cleanliness. New Mexico’s are actually very clean, but because they’re old and the water is very sulphorous, the first impression is kind of gross. Arizona’s used to be very nice…especially the one in Flagstaff, but they’ve gone downhill lately and in fact I think most of them are closed. Having said all that, the stop on the border of the two states is absolutely gorgeous!

    I have seen it all at rest-stops, including snakes in restrooms and homeless people begging, but I have never felt unsafe. We will often stop in the wee hours if the morning to catch a few hours’ sleep and have never thought twice about it.

    I had no idea about your aversion to select-a-size, either! Like a good road-trip, I could not be completely happy without them! :)

  64. Heather says:

    True story…I have always stopped at rest stops here in NC…BUT last year I was coming home from Nashville, TN and I stopped at a rest stop…and short of there being a national disaster, I will NEVER.DO.THAT.AGAIN. I was alone and walked in and out (of said rest area) in close proximity to a family (I’m very safety conscious) and a random guy tried to lure me into his truck. He followed me onto the interstate and followed me, making gestures, for miles and in heavy traffic! I was so scared…I completley forgot that I could have called the police! I was just so focused on getting away from him. I see other women and moms do this all the time that are alone with children. Please don’t stop at rest areas…they just aren’t safe!!!!!!!!! Since then, I have mapped out the Starbucks!!! Look out mocha, here I come!

  65. Amandaqtpie says:

    Do it if only to let your kid run around and get a pack of some snacky-food you haven’t had before. Rest stops are a meeting-place for everyone. You didn’t know that?

  66. We travel a lot with my mother-in-law, and she is terrified of rest stops ever since a family in a neighboring state got murdered late at night at one. We generally stop at Wal-Mart (weird, I know) so we can get cheap gas, snacks, and restroom stops. I’ve stopped at rest stops with big groups but generally not with family.

  67. In Michigan, specifically Northern Michigan, we have roadside parks. Some of them are alongside Lake Michigan. Many have breathtaking views, waterfalls or other beautiful scenery. We have always packed a cooler and enjoyed a long rest.

    As for rest stops, my dad worked second shift and has told me some tales about rest stops at night, but during the day we’ll stop.

  68. Julie R says:

    My family makes a Wichita-to-Memphis-to-Mississippi-to-Wichita journey about 3 times a year. We stop at either the Broken Arrow, OK, or Springfield, MO, Chick-fil-A (depending on which route we are taking) every single trip. Those particular CFA franchises have rather large outside spaces, which comes in handy because we take our dog with us most of the time. There are also a few gas stations along the way that we frequent if needed.

    We don’t usually stop at rest stops. I’m on board with what you were saying about not feeling safe.

  69. I have a vague recollection of some people being murdered at rest stops back in the 90’s, so no rest stops for me. Most of our road trips are from NE Florida to SW Georgia. I always stop at McDonald’s in Live Oak, FL. It’s almost exactly in the middle of the trip.

  70. My dad is a retired VA state trooper and he HATED rest areas so we NEVER stopped at any. He didn’t feel they were safe at all. My husband, however, grew up stopping at all of them. Makes for interesting trips for us as a family because I’m all NO DONT STOP THERE and he’s all WHATS THE BIG DEAL!?!?

  71. We have taken tons of road trips as a family. We too are more fast food stoppers than rest stop stoppers but my grandparents never met a rest stop they didn’t love. And my Papa can tell you where just about every single one is in about a 500 mile radius from our Great State of North Carolina. My dad loves to tell the story that one time they were taking a long road trip and my ever resourceful Mema figured out a way to serve a hot dinner when they got there. She wrapped a roast with potatoes, carrots and onions in a heavy-duty tinfoil packet, laid it on the engine of the car and let it cook while they drove. They stopped at the last rest stop before their destination and ate a Roast Beef dinner on picnic tables fresh off the engine block. TRUE STORY!!!

  72. Melissa says:

    Yes ma’am we do! It’s one of our family memories/traditions to stop at a rest stop at the Michigan/Ohio border on the way from Ohio to Michigan to eat a picnic lunch. My mom always made the same picnic, and we would eat the leftovers and snacks the rest of the trip. She liked it because it saved a little money, was a little healthier, and yes, a good chance for us to stretch our legs for 1/2 hour or so.

  73. When I went to college, 8 hours from my home, I remember my sweet, naive Dad telling me to “just stop at a rest stop” if I got tired. Eeek! As a parent, I would come 10 shades to undone if my daughter EVER wanted to stop at a rest stop on a trip. I think it’s great that they’re there…for people who like them…or for emergencies or if you’re in a big group or if you have a big dog or maybe it’s DAYTIME…but I once saw two “nekked” men running out of the bushes together as we drove by a rest stop on our way to Virginia (I know…TMI) several years ago…so no thanky on the rest stops!

  74. Cracker Barrel is the place to stop.