If you live in North America, you’ve heard of the road trip. It’s just you, your friends, your trusty steed and the open road. We all have an idea of what a road trip should be, but there are a few things you can do to make sure that your trip is as awesome as you hope it’ll be.
Disconnect from your phone
Look, I’m as reliant on my smartphone as anyone else. But a road trip is not the time to cling to that umbilical cord. You’re getting on the road to take a break from the status quo, mix things up, and have some new experiences. So keep the phone off as much as possible.
I get that some people will disagree with me here, but I’m over it. In my opinion, you can save the instagramming and snapchatting for when you get home. Take the time to be fully present in each moment while you’re on the road!
Get your car tuned up beforehand
There’s nothing worse than finally getting out on the open road, only to have to get off said road because your car broke down. Do yourself a favour and have your car inspected by a pro before you leave. That way, you minimize the chances of something going wrong once you’re already on the road.
Grab your get-psyched mix
Remember the show How I Met Your Mother, when Ted and Marshall go on their road trip to Chicago? They listed to I’m Gonna Be by the Proclaimers over and over again. It was their road trip song. Wait, you don’t remember that? Maybe I’m getting old… or maybe you need to go watch the show, because it’s awesome.
Anyway, music makes all road trips better. Make a playlist with your favourite tunes to take with you, and let the good times roll. I find that when you listen to a song a bunch of times during a specific event or experience, memories of that experience get tied to the song you were listing to at that time. Then, any time you hear that song in the future, you’ll be reminded of the good times you had back in the day.
Ask a local where to grab a bite
Too often, guidebooks, GPS, and even websites like mine give crappy or overdone recos on the best restaurants in an area. It’s like asking someone where you can find the best mom and pop coffee shop, and being told to check out Starbucks in response. Gee, thanks for that one!
The best way to find out where to chow down in a given city is to ask the locals. Strike up a conversation, and ask them the simple question. Most folks will be only too happy to help. As a bonus, you’ll likely end up with a few extra stories as a result of doing this!
Plan, but not too much
The fun of a road trip lies in the journey, not the destination. If you have the time, don’t be afraid to take a quick detour from your planned route, if you get wind of something cool down that path. Maybe it’s a scenic lookout you didn’t know about, or maybe it’s a haunted tunnel.
Whatever it is, give yourself permission to go check it out. These are usually the decisions that will take your trip from “yeah, it was pretty good” to “You’ll never believe what we saw!!”
There are two important reasons to do this. First, it saves room for souvenirs, which you may or may not want to collect along your journey. Second, it increases gas mileage. The lighter your car, the less gas it uses as you drive, and the longer you’ll be able to go on each tank. It’ll save you money and, just as important, time, since you won’t need to refuel as often.
Besides, do you really need that fifth pair of shoes?
Make a budget
People often assume that a road trip is cheaper than just about any other long-distance vacation, but that isn’t always the case. Do you best to estimate your costs before you leave, and make a budget for the road.
You’ll know roughly how far you’re traveling, so you can guess how much cash you’ll need for gas. The same goes for lodging and food. If you’re camping, your accommodations costs will obviously be way lower than if you’re staying in hotels. Point is, make sure you have the funds available for wherever you go and whatever you choose to do along the way!
List out the items you need to bring
Different trips require different packing lists, but there’s nothing worse than getting out on the road, only to realize you forgot your sleeping bag or something. Don’t be that guy (or girl). Make a list of all the things you’ll need to bring, and cross things off as you get them into your car. I say this as someone who would probably forget his head if it weren’t attached to his body. It’s not fun!
Wrapping it Up
A road trip can be a great way to see the world around you. It fosters our sense of adventure, allowing us to improvise and be spontaneous along the way. With the right people, you’ll strengthen friendships, and end up with stories that you’ll tell for years to come. With the right preparation and mindset, you can make your next road trip everything you want it to be. Remember, the point of the journey is not to arrive. Safe travels!