Ready, set, road trip!
Thinking about taking a road trip but not quite sure where to start? Read on to find helpful hints and tips on how to ensure a fun, carefree trip and a few tid bits about my own road trip from New York to Florida.
As a right of passage, every college kid should be mandated to take a road trip. To be honest, who doesn’t like road trips? Granted, people who get car sick but that’s besides the fact. In my opinion, there’s nothing better than you, a few of your good friends, the open road, and some tunes. Being in a car for more than an hour opens up possibilities that aren’t usually thought of; like reminiscing over past events, talking about the future, you know.. all the good stuff. With the right people, the destination hardly matters and it’s the journey that everyone remembers. Fortunately for me, I’ve taken one of those memorable trips and even with all the good and the bad, there’s nothing I would’ve changed about it.
Pre-trip priorities: This should answer “The Basics”:
Where and when are we going?
Where are we staying?
Dude, where’s my car?
As fun as it looks in the movies when a bunch of people just pile into a car and drive, it can get a bit trickier than that. With no planning, it’s easy to get lost, waste time and money; both of which leads to arguing. When a bunch of people argue in a small space, it’s just not too much fun. With every ‘project’, you must first figure out who’s going. Depending on the vehicle, a good amount of people should be around 2 to 5. You can always add more if you’d like but make sure to pay attention to the plan details once the number of people change.
Once you’re settled with the crew, you need to start thinking about how much everything is going to be. From the gas to the food to the lodgings, everything should be spilt up evenly so as to remain fair. When making a list of items to think about make sure to include these things: food for the road, gas, accommodations, and tolls.
After dividing the expenses up, your destination and route should be your next priority. Taking time and distance into consideration, be sure to pick a realistic location that everyone agrees on. It’s not going to be easy with a group of people but a unanimous decision is important for the trip to be successful. When suggesting places remember to think of the group as a whole and not just of yourselves. Once that’s done make sure you and your crew take the time to sit down and look over a map before heading out. You need not plan every pit stop and every photo op but outlining a route always helps. No one’s telling you what to do so have fun when picking your path. Keep in mind of landmarks and other fun stuff you might be able to find online that’s on your route. Also, having a GPS system or a cellular phone with GPS-capabilities never hurts!
Also when planning a route, a driving schedule is important as well. Nobody wants to drive the entire way while everyone else just hangs out. From all the people going, finding out who has a valid driver’s license and
Next, you’ll have to set the date and time of your voyage. It’s important for you guys to stay on schedule – especially so you can beat traffic. Depending on how far you’re going, a long weekend is always an optimal choice for road trips. Bear in mind if people are working or have class the day you get back so you know how to space out the driving time and stop overs.
Another important factor is where you’ll be staying in your destination city. Some who aren’t staying more than a night choose to sleep in the car but it might not be as comfy. For short stays, a motel or inn is a good choice for those on a budget. Hotels are also available if you’re looking to stay a bit longer. Look up possible rentals before you leave so you might be able to save a few bucks. It’s always cheaper to reserve online then just walk in!
Since you and your friends will be spending an ample amount of time in the car, you’ll want something that’s big enough to accommodate everyone comfortably. If you have access to a van or SUV, they are always good choices. Renting a car is always an option, though it also means added cost. Should a rental car become utilized, the costs should be divided evenly amongst the passengers as well. When picking a car, remember space, gas-economization, and comfort. No one wants to get stuck in car for hours with barely any leg room or when it’s hot and there’s no air conditioning.
Stop & Go?
Pit stops are definitely keep to making a road trip memorable! Remember, seeing things you won’t normally see at home is why you’re taking the trip in the first place! If you’re not in a rush, explore a little but try not to stray off the road too much since you don’t want to get lost. Then again, if you have GPS that shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
Also, don’t forget to keep your eyes open as you travel! Everything from gas stations to shopping malls could potentially become a stop on your great journey. Keep your eyes peeled for signs on the side of the road that mention landmarks or points of interest or even rest stops. Trust me, those little rest stops come in handy if you need to fill your tank, fill your stomach, or just need to use the bathroom. Depending on where you’re going, try to get online before you head out and look up some interesting attractions that are on the way. Also, try and find some local favorites, like bars or restaurants, in your destination city and on the cities on the way. Look on various travel sites or use search engines to find stories about favorites in wherever you’re headed!
Don’t forget the film!
With today’s digital hype, it’s probably fine to forget the film – though the batteries are another story. Digital cameras are great but I always bring my Polaroid along as well. Polaroid pictures just seem like the perfect way to preserve those ‘once in a lifetime’ moments. Let’s not forget that sometimes one frame just isn’t enough so bringing a video camera is also another necessity if you’re thinking about documenting the trip. There are many digital cameras that have video and sound capabilities, making it easy to capture you and your buddies’ every inch of the way.
Another fun way to document the trip is make a ‘trip journal’. All you’d need is an empty notebook, binder, or whatever you want to use. Pick someone out of the team and dub them your official ‘Trip Historian’. That person will document each stop, each joke, everything and anything he or you guys feel is important; from menus at places you’ve eaten to the toll ticket from the highway. If you’re not using a Polaroid, just make sure to tell them to leave space on the pages for the pictures you can later insert. Trip journals are a more personal approach to noting everything down, almost like a captain’s log.
Also, when you’re traveling the radio stations tend to go in and out so be prepared and burn a few CDs. Ask your friends what kind of songs they’re into or make it fun and have everyone going burn 1 or 2 CDs. It’ll be cool to see what everyone put on their own mixes! Another good investment is purchasing an AM/FM transmitter for your iPod or other MP3 player.
Hit the snooze button!
As much as you’d like to keep going and going and going, sleep is a necessity – at least for the driver. If everyone has a valid driver’s license, you could cut down on snooze time by making a driving schedule. Depending on how large your party is, it’s always good to have at least two people awake – one to drive and the other to navigate. It’s just not safe for the driver to be looking at the map and also try to focus on the road.
Driving segments should be around 1 to 3 hours long, maybe longer but consult with your team first. Also, should the driver ever feel overly tired, the navigator is always a good proxy until the next shift starts! Switching driver is good so that no one’s ever too sleepy on the road, especially when it gets dark.
Now that you’ve planned, checked, and made sure you’ve covered everything it’s time to start your trip. Besides all the preliminary stuff, you can pretty much wing it! If schedules can be altered, feel free to turn down that road you’ve been eyeing or enjoy an outlet mall for a few hours! The possibilities are endless when it comes to road trips, which tend to ensure they’re quite the memorable experience. There’s really nothing that can step in your way – as long as you obey the speed limit of course!
By Daryl Nuncio