Packing your car with a bag of clothes, a tent, some drinks, a few snacks, and some rad tunes is all it takes to start a fun road trip. For those that aren’t novices to the road trip life, you know it’s not just the destination that’s important – it’s the journey to get there that’s half the fun. Taking in the sunsets, feeling the wind with the windows down, starting your drive early in the morning with a cup of coffee, and deciding to take the road less traveled is all a part of the experience of road tripping instead of just jumping on a plane to get somewhere. Driving is such a cathartic experience for many road-trippers, and traveling the world around us by car is a way to see so much more than just your destination. For those that would prefer the road to the sky, there are a few trips to make your road trip even better.
Plan or Don’t
If road tripping is really your thing, know that your journey means more than the destination. Being behind the wheel, listening to music, and watching the world through your windshield means more than just arriving somewhere and starting the adventure there. Plan your road trip well by adding in camping spots for the night, a shabby diner that’s supposed to have the best clam chowder, stop in 5 major cities and stay in hostels, and take a detour to see the world’s largest ketchup bottle. Or, don’t plan at all. Pick a day to leave, and a day to come home – and let the rest of the trip happen organically. Maybe you stumble across a waterfall and decide to camp next to it for your whole vacation or maybe you decide to let your passenger pick your exits randomly and stay wherever you end up by nightfall. You have the power to make up your own rules for your trip, so don’t get bogged down by planning if you don’t have to.
Before starting your road trip it’s best to make sure you take as many safety precautions as you can, especially if you’re not planning your trip and just going where the road takes you. You don’t want to get stopped somewhere without gasoline, GPS, warmth, water, or a working vehicle. Having a gas can, traditional maps, blankets, water bottles, and a tool kit in your vehicle is best to help manage bad situations if they happen. Know your options if you get in a bad situation – pay attention to signs that offer a phone or gas station, know where you are, know how to work your car’s OnSar, practice changing a tire, and know the risks to your tires when traveling in the hotter months.
Try Something Different
There are a ton of popular places to travel to across America and every state has a few popular tourist locations that get frequent visitors. State parks, landmarks, popular cities, and amusement parks are great locations that cater to travelers with attractions and accommodations. However, one tip for the road tripping enthusiast is to try something different. The world is full of hidden gems, and it might be a nice change to try to find those gems instead of heading to a destination that is popular for other travelers. There’s something special about finding a place that is yours, that not many people know about, that you can experience with your companions without sharing that experience with other travelers.
How do you find these hidden travel gems? You can stumble across them, seek out travel forums, city tourism websites, or ask around. You don’t have to find anything unheard of, just something a little off the beaten path. You can do a search for hidden travel gems, but be aware that many of these destinations may be hidden to the wider U.S. population, but not to those in that area, so escaping all the tourists might not happen. The Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park may not be known by everyone, but it’s known in the area and is covered in tourists every summer. But, the only way you might find a location hidden to everyone but you is to search for it yourself.
Know Your Companions
Deciding on the type of journey your road trip will become might have to be planned around your road trip companions. If your road trip will be you and a bunch of friends crammed into a car it might be a little more laid back, your companions might be down for anything, and you can choose your journey as you go. Maybe you travel to a city with nightlife, a wildlife location to rock climb, or decide to drive all day and night. If your companion is your spouse, maybe your road trip takes on a more intimate feel. You might stay in a tent under the stars, or stop at unique hotels, or find a beach to relax with each other. If you’re traveling with children you might need to plan to make more stops, travel to amusement parks, or find hotels with pools.
Pick a playlist that the whole car will enjoy, play road trip games for everyone to enjoy, and a journey and destination that will interest your companions. Or, choose yourself as your companion. By road tripping alone you’ll get to choose your own adventure. This is another way to make your road trip a little different. Just take some extra safety precautions and update family members wherever you are. Otherwise, pick your own music, spend some time with yourself, and design your own road trip.
Like we’ve discussed, road trip enthusiasts know that the destination is only half the fun – the road to get there is just as important. Instead of picking a destination, turn your road trip into a journey back home. Create a path that’ll circle back to your home location and find some fun places to stay on your journey instead of picking a destination, going there, and heading back the same way. Why would you do that when you’ve already driven that road, right? Pick a road you’ve always wanted to drive, get off the highway, or pick six towns around your town and just travel to or through each one and see what you find. This way you aren’t driving just to get somewhere, you’re driving to experience the area you’re in.
Sunglasses on, tunes blaring, and eyes on the road spells out happiness for those that love road tripping as their preferred form of travel. Vacations do not start when you arrive at your destination for people who enjoy road tripping, the vacation starts when you get behind the wheel and start driving. A road trip offers long talks, fun games, laughter, rest stop picnics, middle of nowhere camping trips, hotels advertising color televisions, truck stop diners with the best biscuits and gravy in the country, and miles of beautiful scenery. Planning or not, staying safe, going somewhere different, going somewhere that your companions will love, or deciding not to choose a destination are all great tips for road trip enthusiasts to take their hobby from driving to adventuring.
About the Author
Chelsy is a writer from Montana who is now living in Boise, Idaho. She graduated with her journalism degree from the University of Montana in Missoula in 2012. She enjoys road-tripping with good friends, exploring the outdoors, traveling, drinking good beer, and drinking not-so-good beer. Follow her personal blog: Chelsy Scribbles