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Adventure On the Road: Tips and Tricks of a Seasoned Trekker

by Brian Garcia

Ah, the great American road trip - it's like the U.S. version of backpacking through Europe. Taking your first road trip is somewhat of a rite of passage. You're finally branching out from the known, driving past those familiar streets and landmarks and striking out to explore the vast, diverse landscape that is our country.

There's definitely something alluring about packing up the car and heading west. While there are fewer variables out there now than when early American settlers did it, there's still an element of the wild and untamed when one thinks of this country's desert, mountain and Pacific coast regions. If you've never seen the Grand Canyon, you're in for an unforgettable treat. Sights like Mount Rushmore and the Black Hills of South Dakota can make for an awesome adventure as well.

What can a road trip do for you? The experience is unique for every individual. Getting out of your comfort zone and routine can be merely refreshing for some and life-changing for others. Some have said that "travel is the best education." We tend to become miopic and short-sighted when we stay in too-small of an orbit for too long. Perhaps you just need a break from your job? The daily grind and driving past all those used car lots in Nashville can be stifling. There's no doubt that the open road can be liberating for the soul. If you're feeling the call, it just might be time for a change of pace and some stunning new scenery.

As poetic and amazing as the great American road trip can be, it's not all sunsets and Skittles. If you want to still love your traveling companion(s) at the end of the road trip, there are some things you should keep in mind. Don't be like the Griswolds in those National Lampoon movies. Take heed and consider this advice before embarking upon your epic adventure:

Set Your Course

Start by finding out everyone's travel style and preferences. This can go a long way in avoiding fights and misunderstandings later, when it could be difficult to turn back. Of course, you'll all want to be on the same page about the driving route and destination. Take a vote and be clear about all the stops you'll make along the way. Leave room for flexibility and unplanned detours as well. Negotiate ahead of time things like general frequency of rest stops and how often you'll eat out.

Plot Your Overnight Stops

Again, there should be some room for flexibility here, but be sure to have a general sense of how much you'll be driving each day before you depart. Be sure there's a decent-sized city near each anticipated daily end point. Try and plan for cities with desirable, affordable lodging and perhaps a tourist stop you wanted to see anyway.

There's an App for That

With mobile technology as advanced as it is, there are a slew of apps for your phone that could enhance your trip even more. Of course, there are lots of great mapping and GPS apps, but you'll also want Yelp or Urbanspoon for help in finding great local restaurants in the area. Just remember that some portions of your trip may not have the best cellphone service.

Stick to your Budget

Avoid the nightmare of running out of money halfway through your trip by budgeting accordingly. Give yourself a daily expenditure allowance, and make sure you stick to it.

Make your Chariot Worthy of your Adventure

Of course, you'll want to be sure your road trip car is "seaworthy." Get a full safety inspection and/or tune up and oil change if needed before you launch. You'll also want to deck out the inside of your car with plenty of road trip games (Mad Libs are fun), snacks, handi-wipes and a first aid kit.

Pack Accordingly

Clothing for every possible climate you could encounter is essential. And don't forget a car phone charger. A road trip can yield unforgettable experiences and memories that will last a lifetime; just make sure they're good ones. Following these tips can help to increase your chances for a harmonious travel experience.

Brian Garcia Originally from Memphis, Brian lives in the Baltimore area and writes for several online magazines.

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