Road trips are undeniably fun. And we all know how we envisage them, like a scene out of Crossroads, singing along to Shania Twain in an open top car with Britney Spears… No? Just me?
Anyway, so road trips are a great way to travel, but there are some things to always remember. I’ve road tripped Australia, USA, Canada and France (and I know I’ll do many, many more) and this is what I’ve learnt to make them a hell of a lot more fun.
1. All about the music, man
I genuinely could not imagine a road trip without music. And when you’re cooped up in a vehicle, you’re going to feel excited to tired to bored, and you need music to cover all grounds. For our USA/Canada road trip, me and my boyfriend made 20 mixed CDs. They were labelled from ‘Top Tracks 1’ to ‘Dreamy Pop Rock’ (i.e. Bon Iver, The xx, The National), ‘Bluesy Rock Mix’ (i.e. Alabama Shakes, Tame Impala, The Black Keys), ‘English Rock’ (a nice tribute to my nationality, including The Vaccines, Oasis, Radiohead, Arctic Monkeys, Coldplay and The Who) and even ‘Songs to Listen to’.
Now, obviously, these CDs are all songs to listen to, but we had a couple of CDs of music we had been meaning to listen to for a while, and where better than a road trip? Every day life gets you distracted and you think ‘Yeah, I’ll get round to it’ but never do. So trap yourself in a car and forcefeed your ears a little new love. Done.
On my road trip in Australia with my 3 best girl friends I made there, we were a lot more cheesy and basically tortured ourselves with the song 500 Miles (How I Met Your Mother style) just because, simply, it was a laugh. Music on a road trip just bonds you.
2. Be spontaneous
The beauty of a road trip is that it’s on your schedule. And the beauty of that is that you can ignore it. That’s right. Why do we need to be all about the plans? When you’re driving along, and you see something you like, STOP. Let your curiosity get the better of you and take a look, explore. How often do we get to do that in life? Just completely ignore what we’re meant to do and go chase a butterfly, that kind of thing. It makes life that much more fun and you can feel the way it stimulates your mind, its creativity.
So if you see some sort of waterfall from the window, take the detour. On our Great Ocean Road road trip we stopped by Erskine Falls and just hung out there for a while. If we saw somewhere we liked, we’d go. If we had an idea, we’d do it. We stopped in the road because I spotted koalas in some trees (very exciting to a British girl).
In Vermont, I saw a road sign for a moose – picture of a moose and all, just like deer in England and kangaroos in Australia. But I said no, we won’t stop, it’s inconvenient, then instantly regretted it. Never saw another one. I came away with this shoddy moose sign instead (to be fair, it’s still funny)…
3. Don’t get lost
Take an up to date map (to look super cool like an 18th century traveller) or print some out from Google maps beforehand (though I don’t think the trees would like you for it and I myself don’t encourage it). Best option, though, is a Sat Nav/TomTom. I recommend this a lot more than what me and my Sat Nav-less boyfriend did: using his iPhone. Fine for when we were still in the USA (him being American and all), but once we got into Canada, we were 3G-less – obviously not wanting to pay extortionate amounts for internet. Also, it won’t be good for your phone battery.
4. The boring, practical stuff
SO VERY NECESSARY. I know it’s boring, but it could save your butt. Or at least a lot of money…
Tolls: Know where they are and have the right cash in the right currency as a lot are paid by with change.
Parking: Factor in the cost of parking, if there even is parking, and if the hotel you’re staying at (if that’s what you’re doing) has parking.
Gas: Simple one here. Don’t run out of it. Factor in the cost. Fill up when you actually have the opportunity.
Breakdowns: Make sure you would know what to do, who you’re going to call (Ghostbusters?)
5. Take breaks, you poor thing
You’ve been driving for a while. Even if you’re switching drivers, you’re all in the car. Stop frequently enough to give drivers a break and generally to stretch your legs and get fresh air. Sometimes you can be in a car for so long that when you’re told to get out, you can’t be bothered. You’ve planted yourself there, you’re finally comfy in your artistically developed arse-print. This might seem like an achievement at the time, but it is a bad sign. Get out of the vehicle.
6. Do Stuff
What I mean by this eloquent point is to make sure you’re not driving all day so when you reach your destination, it’s too late to do anything. We always left early in the morning to be able to explore the place with enough time in the day to make the most out of it. We did this when we got to Toronto, and when we were at the Finger Lakes we were still able to make the wine tasting we wanted to do. For a really long drive this may not be able to be avoided, of course, but see what you can make out of it.
7. Jam of the traffic variety
To avoid stress and worry in the car, give leeway for the chance of traffic. You don’t want a lack of planning and forward thinking to make you miss your white water rafting session (this never happened to us, because we actually didn’t even encounter any traffic, but still…) or whatever.
Just the sight of sweets/candy makes me get all happy and excited. As sad as it sounds, for me this can make a road trip more fun. In Australia with the three girls, we stopped by a glorious sweet shop and shared them between us. If times get really low, this can at least bring some discussion to the table – y’know, which is your favourite, etc…
9. Flexible attitude
Things don’t always go to plan on the road: you might miss a turning or lose the car behind you – for Great Ocean Road, there were 3 car-fulls of people. It was difficult to keep track sometimes, like when 2 cars didn’t make it to Erskine Falls, or when one car disappeared, sadly because it hit a kangaroo…
When these things happen, staying calm is always a plus. Accepting the incident and working around it is the thing that’s going to help, not that the schedule has been ruined and getting yourself caught up on that.
You’re spending a lot of time in a confined area with the person/people you’re on a road trip with. They probably will annoy you a little bit, you might not be quite in the mood. But you’re there to have fun. Try not to let the little things annoy you. Treat it the same as the road trip itself: it’s this chunk of time losing yourself and exploring somewhere new – with a road trip comes a carefree attitude, so try to think that way with your friends too. Drop the worries and the pet peeves, it quite frankly doesn’t matter on a road trip. A sour atmosphere (that everyone’s bound to notice) isn’t worth it in the grand scheme of things. So enjoy it, and laugh :)