Heading out onto the open road is a quintessential vacation in America. Whether this is your first journey or you’ve traversed the country five times already, you can always enhance the voyage by setting a few road trip planning rules before you start.
1. Discuss your schedule and budget before you get on the road. Every group in the car has a different dynamic, so be sure to take this into consideration before setting out. Will this be a leisurely drive with plenty of side trips where the journey matters more than the end point? Or do you have a distinct destination in mind? Will you be camping, staying in Super 8’s or living it up in historic mansions? Eating sandwiches every day for lunch or dining out? Make sure that everyone has the same expectations before you start your road trip planning.
2. Limit your mobile phone use to mapping, uploading pics quickly and checking for messages. You didn’t come on this journey to scroll through your Facebook feed and read Twitter updates. You planned a road trip vacation so that you could get away from the screen. Put the phone away and instead talk to your trip companions, daydream out the window and simply be okay with your thoughts as they arise.
3. Go to the bathroom when you can, because you never know when the next one will appear. Even if you’re stopping for snacks and to fill up with gas, it’s a good idea to “empty the tank” while you can.
4. Throw your trash away. Still at the gas station? See those giant garbage cans (and hopefully, recycling bins)? Take the opportunity to clean up your side of the car and get rid of any empty food packages, drink cups, used tissues etc.
5. Speak up about your needs. If you’re really hungry and about to pass the only restaurant for 200 miles, it’s up to you to speak up and stop so that you don’t become hangry later (hangry = hungry + angry). If your trip will be ruined if you don’t take the 5-mile detour to the World’s Largest Ball of Wax, say so. If you’ve sat in the back middle seat all day and your back is about to get tweaked, let your friends know. Having an amazing road trip is up to you.
6. But be prepared to compromise. You’ll probably eat somewhere that’s not your top choice, stay at a hotel you wouldn’t pick and stop for a sight that you’d rather pass up. The key to successful traveling is to be flexible. Keep an open mind and you might just find a new favorite.
7. Respect the driver and keep her or him company. Nothing sucks more than driving for the nth hour late at night, and everyone else in the car is asleep. At least one person must wake up and keep the driver company. If not, the driver can pull over for a power nap (or hotel stop) at any point – in fact, the driver can do this anytime, anyway.
8. Have fun! These are the times that you’ll remember when you’re old.
“If you come to a fork in the road, take it.” Yogi Berra
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Image: Jose Cuervo Elorza