Whether you’re taking a road trip by choice or out of necessity, this mode of travel can actually be a lot of fun. When we hop on a plane to get from point A to point B, we’re completely removed from our surroundings. Road trips force us to experience routes we have never seen before, atmospheres and terrain we have never driven through, and introduce us to new points of interest along the way. They are the one way to travel in which the journey really can be just as enriching as the destination. Here’s how to get the most out of a road trip.
Cover the basics, so you can enjoy the extras. Ahead of your trip, make sure your vehicle maintenance is up-to-date, your gas tank is full, and that you have a cooler full of snacks and drinks in the trunk. How many gallons does it take to fill your gas tank and how many miles will you be driving? This should tell you how many times you’ll need to stop for gas along the way (as long as you don’t veer too far off course). Being prepared for how much you’ll need to spend on gas, and packing food so you won’t have to stop and spend too much on it before you get where you’re going, gives you freedom to make spontaneous stops. Is there a crazy roadside attraction 10 miles ahead, a world-famous aquarium, or a restaurant that was featured on Food Network? Because you planned ahead, you probably have wiggle room to stop and explore.
Research lodging possibilities ahead of time. Part of the fun of road trips is being a bit flexible, so don’t stress about booking all of your hotel stays along the route in advance. (What if an unexpected stop put you behind schedule?) You do, however, want to know what your options are before it is 10:00 p.m. and everyone is crabby from being in the car for 12 hours. Google hotels, campgrounds and AirBnB possibilities from home before you set out on your adventure. There might even be unique options that will turn a mandatory part of your trip into a memorable stop (themed hotels, boutique hotels, something with a waterslide…). Do you just want a place to lay your head and free breakfast in the morning? Do you need a more homey setting to keep the kids in a routine? Do you need pet-friendly accommodations? Take all of this into account and don’t feel limited by a standard hotel chain (though that may be exactly what you need, and that’s OK, too).
Pack new entertainment for the kids. Stock up on games and activities that your kids have never seen before and hand them out only when the trip begins. Select a few items that work double duty (plastic dinosaurs or cars can be fun on land and in the hotel bath tub). Remember to bring a few items for active play at rest stops, like balls and jump ropes.
Document everything. Pack a camera, a GoPro, or a journal…however you keep track of it all, you will look back at these memories with fondness for years to come. Even things like getting stuck on the side of the road with a flat tire become stories to tell after the dust has settled. Treat the trip like a reality show and you’ll definitely be entertained the entire time!