ROAD TRIP. This pair of words evokes many emotions. Some see it as a torturous journey on the way to something better, wishing desperately that they had taken a plane, train, or ANY other kind of automobile but a car. Others look at the road trip as a means to an end, completed with adequate planning and quick efficiency. And yet, there are also those who look at the word with fondness, treasured memories, and some of the best stories ever told. I am proudly in category three—I love a good road trip, whether it is solo or with a group. The unplanned moments were always the best—like finding a new favorite restaurant because I went a little too far off course, taking a couple hours to hike after noticing a trail on the side of the road, stopping at a random B&B because the day didn’t go as planned. These are the travel moments I live for, and road trips are the best times to experience them.
We have all seen the movies, as well as the hip online pictures of girls with bracelets letting their hair down and arms out of the car while speeding down an open road. These are glorified images of reality, but the feeling that comes from the drive, at least for me, is not inaccurate. Various concerns about fuel emissions and cars as an environmental concern aside, there is something about being on the road that transports us (pun intended). There is a timeless and freeing feeling that accompanies many when making a long (or short) trip in the car.
ROAD TRIP ESSENTIALS:
A KILLER PLAYLIST
Unless you don’t particularly like music or prefer quiet contemplation (no judgment), this is an essential part of the road trip experience. The vibe of your music depends on your preferences and group size, so take these into account. Preparing music is my favorite part of the planning process for road trips, and the fact that I still use a CD player makes me feel like I am working harder for it, somehow. I like to make a good mix of upbeat and slower tunes to jam to. Variation is key, and prevents lulls and boredom, especially if traveling solo. Not feeling the music? Try audible books or podcasts. Inspiration can come from anywhere, and these are great alternatives to making the most of a road trip or meaningful drive via sound.
There isn’t much to this except getting a good mix of healthy and indulgent. Trips, in general, are meant to be enjoyed, so I don’t believe in limiting yourself when it comes to food. Go ahead, have those favorite chips you usually avoid, but have a banana after so your body is fueled efficiently for long bouts of sitting. Snacking is also a great way to stay awake. Energy drinks don’t usually leave me feeling very great, but if I have something to chew on, I am less likely to doze off because another part of my body is working. Bring a small ice chest to keep drinks cool and for healthier perishable foods. Also, have everyone bring their own snacks so everyone is happy with the selection in between stops.
Yes, you have packed your clothes for your destination, but what about for the drive? Wear or pack layers in an accessible bag so you don’t have to rummage through your luggage every time you get cold or need something else. If you are going to be anywhere near water, you may want to pack a swimsuit, too, just in case!
There is nothing worse than being stuck in a car with someone without a good attitude, who is either unable or unwilling to make the most of a situation, despite challenges. One of the most essential things to bring on a road trip is a good attitude, as well as an open mind. This is especially important in groups. Let me clarify this. You are entitled to feeling any emotion as it comes. This is a rule I believe firmly in any situation during life, not just during a road trip. As humans, we feel things, and this should be embraced. But it is also important to be respectful of the group and the journey. It might be a good idea to bring along a personal activity or item that helps calm you down, or one that allows you to escape into yourself for a little bit. Trust your group to give you space, but also try not to let your frustration bring the whole group down.
While screaming songs at the top of my lungs is definitely a favorite driving pastime of mine, there are also other activities that help keep the drive fun. These include, but are not limited to:
- Serenading random people during traffic, windows down.
- Making up random stories about people in other cars. Take cues from what you see, and then run with it. This can get so fun especially with groups.
- Reading! (Only for group trips—don’t read while you are driving, please). There is no better time to catch up on that book that has been sitting on your shelf than a free 2+ hours.
- Car games: Go down memory lane to your childhood, and bring those fun car games back. “ABC signs,” and “I’m thinking of,” or countless others (well that is what I called them, I’m pretty sure no one will know what I am referencing).
- TV/Movie . . . but only if you must. Embrace the drive, yo!
BORING, RESPONSIBLE STUFF
- Money: Bring enough to split the gas and get food along the way, as well as enough for unplanned stops/attractions and backup in case something goes wrong.
- Car Protection: If neither you nor someone in your group has a AAA membership, have a plan for if the car breaks down. No one wants or expects to deal with this, but having any kind of protection really helps things go much smoother in the event of an accident or car trouble.
- Medicine: Keep some in stock for any maladies on the road (Ibuprofen, Tums, Dramamine, etc.)! For more natural and homeopathic remedies, see this awesome article.
- Comfort: Sitting for many hours in a car can take a toll on your back, so make sure to bring a pillow to adjust as needed—I have found this makes all the difference, especially for the driver.
SOLO ROAD TRIPS
Solo road trips can be a different beast entirely. Instead of a loud and social drive, solo road trips are a great opportunity for self-reflection and relaxation. When driving solo, you are in control and only have to worry about your own needs. This is the best time to play your favorite music (especially your guilty pleasures), make stops whenever you want, and take detours that sound fun. I’ve recently begun to listen to podcasts during longer drives, which can be both entertaining and insightful. The most important thing to remember during solo road trips is to enjoy yourself and the journey.
ROAD TRIP BLISS
Yes, planning is important—but your drive shouldn’t be limited to only things you have prepared for. In my opinion, this takes out most of the fun. And unless you are on a real serious time crunch, allow yourself to let go a little bit. Plan to not have a plan and see how it goes. Because it will never turn out the way you think it will. You will have to pee way more than you originally thought, you will get hungry for anything but what you have packed in the car, and some of the best sights often take a bit of a detour to get to. The moment you acknowledge that getting there is half the fun, the more the drive will seem less like a means to an end, and more like an adventure in itself.
I think each one of us seeks some sort of freedom, be it from a hard situation, daily life, or a yearning for something more. We long for a journey that takes us to unexpected places, anything that alters our path, even for a short amount of time. The funny thing is, while many of us crave this, seeking it out is often the hardest part. Allow yourself to find your bliss outside of a predefined path. Allow yourself to get a lost. Allow yourself time to think and laugh and just be. Allow yourself to find your bliss and love the drive as much as the destination.