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
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.
Clothing for every possible climate you could encounter is essential. And don't forget a
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.