Yes! I’m proclaiming myself as the road trip expert, the queen of the open road, if you will. After embarking on 15 memorable trips as an adult, not counting the numerous road trips I did with my parents and grandparents growing up, and not counting any trip under 5 hours drive, I think I can confidently refer to myself as that.
The one main thing I’ve learned through all my travels is summed up in a well known quote: “It’s not about the destination, but about the journey”. That saying couldn’t apply to me more, even if I tried. More then any memories and stories of the destinations traveled to, I’ve recounted numerous times to friends and family, the journey.
Like that time we didn’t take the correct detour and ended up driving along narrow winding roads up a steep mountain with the mountain face on one side of the car and a deadly drop on the other, and we lived to tell about it. Or like that time we didn’t realize we were lost till we hit a dead end…at the gates of a restricted army base, oops. And like that time we got pulled over by a state trooper for going a bit too fast apparently, almost got arrested, but got let off with a warning because he had friends that live in Ontario, Canada and do we “know them?” Um sure? Double oops! But then there were the times that we saw a beautiful deer crossing the flat prairie highway, or the time I saw an adorable bobcat feeding in the trees off the road. Or like the time we saw a glorious sunrise driving through the mountains and being able to stop at an observation point and take it all in. And of course all those times that we meet kind souls that helped us along on our travels, restoring my faith in humanity.
The adventures that I’ve encountered on the open road are more memorable, in many instances, than the ones from the destination. For example, if you travel to New York or Chicago or Savannah, you might have a similar trip visiting those places as countless other tourists. You see the must see attractions and visit the most visited sites. But how you get to these cities, the adventures you came across on your journey, will be yours and yours alone (and your road trip companions). No other tourist in each city will have the same story to tell about how they got there.
Even if you are not a “car person” or not a “driving person”, even if you’re a “I prefer to fly” person, I would encourage you to embark on at least one road trip in your life. See where the open road takes you and what experiences you might have. To start you don’t have to go far. Pick a place on the map within a five hour driving distance from home. Make it a one day adventure to and from that destination. But don’t focus on the location you chose, it’s OK if you don’t even get there, focus on what comes up on your way. You never know what you will discover. And after that one day trip, try a weekend getaway. And after that pack your bags for a week or two or three. I know you’ll want to.
Road trips really can be life altering. The memories you create will stay with you forever. The people you meet along the way might become life long friends. And you and your travel companions will be bonded through the experiences you went through together. Not to mention how well you get to know a person during a 36 hour drive!
To help you get out on the road and start seeing the street lines in your rearview mirror, I’ve put together a little list.
10 Steps to the Perfect Road Trip
1) Pick the perfect co-pilot
Unless you are going solo, which you should also try at one point, you want to choose a travel companion that’s not going to make you wish the car had an eject button after 50 miles.
2) Create your kick ass play list
The perfect tunes make for a perfect drive. Not to mention, depending on where you are driving through, you might hit radio dead zones where all you pick up is static. Or worst, the stations that you do pick up will have horrible music.
3) Don’t over pack
Firstly you don’t want the car to be so full you can’t see out the back window. But seriously, you do not need that much stuff! I’m an expert light packer and even I, on a two week, 5 city, road trip, packed too much. All I had was a half full small cary-on suitcase, and still didn’t wear half of what I packed.
4) Do bring a pillow and a blanket
If you are truly going for the full road trip experience, you will sleep in the car! And it’s awesome! OK maybe not the most comfortable, hence said pillow and blanket, but part of the whole package. Plus it saves time and money from trying to find a hotel and gives you more freedom to change directions if a new road presents itself.
5) Pack a towel and toiletries in a separate bag
After a night spent sleeping in the car, under the stars, at a rest stop, you may want to freshen up. Having this packed separate will save you from digging in your suitcase.
6) Stock up on your fave trail mix
Though you will make many gas station stops, the snack selection is less then lacking sometimes. Pack your faves so you have something to munch on when your stomach starts growling and the road sign indicates 200 miles to the next town.
7) Stay hydrated
Over long stretches of road fatigue can start to creep in. Pack a cooler filled with water to stay hydrated throughout the drive. Not only will this help, but having to pee will force you to stop at every rest stop, in turn stretching your legs and taking in the scenery. Win win!
8) Don’t rely on your GPS (or map quest)
Do invest in the old school printed paper map. As much as I recommend getting lost and enjoying the ride, at some point you will need to find your way. Just like the radio, the GPS and your phone might not always work. And if you stop to ask for directions it’s hand if you actually have a map… trust me, I’ve learned!
9) Lose change
As much as I’ve tried, you can not avoid tolls. Specifically if you are road trippin’ through the US of A. Bring change and lots of it! A toll can cost you anywhere from 50 cents to upwards of 20 dollars, say what? Yup. Some tolls don’t have attendants so you need exact change to throw into a funnel. And even the ones that do only accept cash, your plastic is no good.
10) Capture your memories
Bring a camera! No I don’t mean take photos with your smart phone… a real camera. And take lots of photos, of everything. Of the rest stops, of the sunrise, of you being goofy. Commit the adventures you encounter to “film” sort of speak. Cause it’s true what they say; a picture is worth a thousand words.
BONUS TIP: Time
Give yourself the extra day to arrive at your destination in order not to rush through the part of getting there. Stop at lookout points and at rest stops to take in the views. Take the time to relax and enjoy the journey!
Are you all about the journey or the destination type of person? Do you have a favourite and memorable road trip adventure? Share it with me in the comments below.