Road Trip Tips

Traveling soon? There are some pretty compelling reasons to make it a road trip. No ticket to keep track of, no gate changes, no wardrobe worries, no security checks, no luggage limitations, no annoying seat mates (unless you invited them), more options for sightseeing, better food, and a lower overall cost.

Despite those great reasons, not everyone reacts to the idea of a road trip in the same way. Some recoil in complete revulsion like they’ve just found liver and onions on their dinner plate. Others will run and get in the car at the mere mention of the words.

Our culture generally embraces the idea. Several iconic movies have depicted great road trip stories: Thelma and Louise, National Lampoon’s Vacation, Rain Man, Little Miss Sunshine, the aptly named Road Trip and for those who like two wheels, Easy Rider are but a few of the successful movies on the subject. But there are many more.

A road trip is most enjoyable when properly prepared for. Many websites maintain some awesome checklists (including free PDFs you can print.) Some are “duh: items, like license, insurance and registration. Here are some you may not have thought of:

  • Sunglasses
  • Blanket
  • Travel pillow
  • Travel mug
  • Reusable water bottle
  • UV window shade
  • Extra jacket
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Meds ( non-prescription pain relief and anti-inflammatory)
  • Reusable shopping bags
  • Mints
  • Towel
  • Daypack
  • Sun screen
  • Body wipes
  • Lip balm
  • Hair brush
  • The four “T’s”, toiletries, toothbrush, toothpaste, tissues

Of course, the most important thing about any road trip is to pick a route or destination. Some outstanding suggestions include:

  • Black Hills of South Dakota
  • Route 66
  • Blue Ridge Parkway
  • Pacific Coast Highway
  • Jackson, Wyoming to Glacier, Montana
  • North Carolina’s Outer Banks
  • Olympic Peninsula

There are many more that could/should be on the list.

For many, the single most valuable reason to take a road trip is to harvest the memory of it. It’s one of those gifts that keeps on giving as recollections move across the mind’s stage. A smile is sure to follow, even when the little catastrophes come to mind.

Road trips are often social binders. Those who travel with us, those we might meet along the way, are connected to us by the common memory.

As a teenager, I would invite my four younger siblings on day trip adventures. To the beach, the mountains, to who knows where, the destination never really mattered.

We still laugh and remember 50 years ago getting to Morton, WA when they were holding their annual “Loggers Festival.” The only street through town was blocked off for the the big parade. We waited patiently for it to pass and pulled into line at the back of the parade. With windows rolled down we offered sweeping “parade waves” to the citizens lining the streets. They clapped and cheered us on our way and genuinely seemed glad we joined in. I do wonder from time to time what they thought a ’54 Ford full of kids was doing in the parade, but that doesn’t really matter. The joy of the moment and the wonderful memory we share are what matter and created only because we were on a road trip to Mt. Rainer.

My daughter and I share perhaps the weirdest of my road trip memories. It took place at the changing of the millennium, Y2K as it was known. She had taken a job in Texas and I was helping her move from Yosemite, CA where we had been working.

I should have known it was going to be a weird trip when, after driving my limit, I turned the steering wheel over to her in the middle of Nevada somewhere on a dark, dark night. She awakened me at an intersection an hour or two later not knowing which way to turn. I looked at the road map in the very dim light of the truck cab. I found the intersection I thought we were at and told her we would follow the highway marked by the red line and it would take us right to Las Vegas. (Obviously this was in the pre-GPS era.)

When daylight came, I realized the red lines on the map were for demarkation of the county lines, not highways. For a while, where we were and where we had been, was a mystery. She finally pulled over and we both slept for a bit.

That was Tuesday night. We woke up Wednesday morning to a bright sunny day in a parking lot off of Route 375 with a sign that said “Earthlings Welcome.” Upon entering the store I saw the calendar said Thursday.

“You’re a day ahead of yourself aren’t you? This is Wednesday?” I said, trying to correct the store clerk.

She answered, “Don’t think so, we did Wednesday yesterday, pretty good day too.”

I wanted to stay and argue the fact but my daughter, ever the peacemaker, ushered me back to the truck with my chips and Dr Pepper. She showed me the Las Vegas newspaper, its date was Thursday, December 30.

Somehow, someway Area 51 had stolen a day from us. We’ve never reconciled where it went, and we can’t account for it. But remembering it together, laughing about it and the retelling of the story binds us, father and daughter in a very remarkable way. I’d gladly give up a day to have that connection. That’s the power of the road trip.




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