So you’re thinking about taking a summer road trip. That’s fantastic. There’s a reason our literature and cinema and music all romanticize road trips so fervently: they have long been one of the best ways to truly see and feel the energy of a country or state. Beyond this, many poets throughout time have written at length about the transformative power journeys can have on people and relationships.
This being said, a road trip can be a frustrating and exhausting endeavor if it is not properly designed and planned for. The following will break down the different ingredients you need to keep in mind when planning a road trip.
Pick Your Route
“Goin’ places that I’ve never been,
Seein’ things that I may never see again,
And I can’t wait to get on the road again.”– Willie Nelson, On The Road Again
If you’re going to go on a road trip, you need to at least have an idea of which way you’ll be driving. Road trips tend to be smoother if you know where you’re going to stop, where you’re going to sleep, and how long you’re going to spend on the road. If you’re planning on road tripping in the United States, scientists have developed the “perfect” road trip. This plan covers 48 different states and takes about three months if you account for stops.
If you’re one of those people who loves spontaneity and wants to wander aimlessly, that’s alright as well. To that, we say still make a plan and go off of it whenever you feel so inclined. This way you’ll have something to fall back on if you have no idea where to go or what to do, or your side-quest turned into a dead end. Planning will also help you make sure that your money is going to last the entire trip.
Select A Vehicle
“All he needed was a wheel in his hand and four on the road.”– Jack Kerouac, On The Road
If you’re going on a road trip, you need an automobile to get around in. When choosing a vehicle for the trip, make sure that it’s road safe and capable of handling such a long trip. In addition, you might want to look into alternative vehicles with more space. Something like an RV rental or a bigger van can provide the space you need for comfort and storage. Of course, make sure you are comfortable driving (and parking) whichever type of vehicle you choose.
Compile A Playlist (Or Fifteen)
“Roads were made for journeys, not destinations.”– Confucius
What is a road trip without music? You can and should listen to the local radio stations as you travel, as the music in those situations tends to suit the terrain and vibe of a place. This being said, there will come a time (or multiple times) where you cannot find anything you like on the radio. Prepare several playlists with different moods and genres of music on them, as you have no idea which feelings are going to strike you and where. Make sure to include at least one road trip-themed playlist. There’s nothing like driving away into the sunset, listening to Ramblin’ Man.
Take The Long Way
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,—I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”– Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken
Often the highway is faster, but the back roads are more beautiful. Consider the slower, more scenic routes as you travel, be willing to pull over, and get out and smell the flowers. Of course, always be sensible. Absolutely go down those smaller roads, explore, leap out of your comfort zone, but be sure to take safety into concern. Always tell someone where you’re going and have a few checkpoints where you’ve planned to phone or email a friend or family member, to let them know that things are still going well. Make sure you have a basic first aid kit in your vehicle as well as a few gallons to water just in case it’s needed. If you feel nervous or uncomfortable at any time, listen to yourself. It’s okay to skip over a part of the plan that you are feeling uneasy.
Choose The Right Travelling Companions
“We do not take a trip; a trip takes us.”– John Steinbeck
A long road trip can make or break a relationship or friendship. Don’t plan a summer on the road with just anyone. Make sure that spending six hours straight listening to them talk isn’t going to drive you crazy before you ask them to come along. Also, make sure that whomever you bring is interested in the same sights that you are. There’s a kind of person who wants to stop at every museum they pass by, there’s another who wants to hit up the local bars and explore the nightlife and make friends with strangers for an evening, there’s a third who’s going to want to stop on the regular to get the most perfect pictures for their social media profiles. Considering how popular road tripping has become, a wide variety of people are looking to give it a go. Whatever type of traveler you are, you need to bring along people that will suit your vibe.
Beyond this, it’s nice if, among the group, the basic skills you need to be covered are present. If there’s the need for speaking an additional language, can one of you do that? Can at least one person read an old-school map so that when you’re in Death Valley in Nevada and there’s no cell reception you can find your way? And for goodness sake, make sure multiple people have their driving licenses and know-how to deal with the rules of the road wherever you are going to be driving.
With these simple things in mind, you are well on your way to having a spectacular road trip full of exploration, adventure, and memorable moments. As with any form of travel, always do a little research on travel advisories before leaving to make sure you’re not driving into an environmental or social or political disaster and make sure someone from home is able to contact you in the event of an emergency.