Road tripping is a great way to vacation. You’re on your own agenda, going only as far as you please each day. You get to stop and see whatever tickles your fancy and you never know what kind of experience you’re about to run across. Yes, indeed. Hitting the open road is an excellent way to relieve stress and leave your day-to-day worries behind. Unless, of course, you’re underprepared, overly goal-oriented, or unable to truly relax and be present in the experience. Here are some basic road tripping “dos” and “don’ts” to help ensure that that isn’t the case.
Road Trip Planning
Do take the time to sit down, select a few key attractions that you would like to visit, and plan a loose route between them. Get an idea of the mileage between places and a sense of approximately how many hours of daily driving it will entail to get from one destination to the next.
Don't try to plan every little detail of your trip. Part of the fun of road tripping is having the ability to spontaneously partake in the random experiences you are certain to come across. Many aspects of your experience while you’re on the road are out of your control. This is OK. In fact, it’s better than OK. Being willing to release control of what you think you should experience and learning instead to just “go with the flow” is an important skill to have for life in general. Plus, you’re just going to drive yourself (and anyone you’re with) crazy if you try to plan every little detail of every day of your road trip and keep everyone to it. Vacations are supposed to decrease stress, not create it!
Do plan for time to “smell the roses” during the course of your journey. The biggest mistake people make when vacationing (aside from trying to plan every detail) is trying to pack too many activities into the agenda. If you do this, you’ll end up spending the entire vacation rushing from one destination to the next. You’re so focused on getting to the next goal that you don’t even notice anything else that might be available to you along the way. That old adage about how life is a journey, not a destination is aptly applied here. Select only a few key activities or destinations and plan for plenty of space in between them. Remember, the point of road tripping is to enjoy the road.
Don’t be afraid to get off the beaten path. All of the major GPS navigation services will take you on the safest, largest, quickest thoroughfare available. This is great if you're trying to get from point A to point B in a hurry, but makes for a boring drive if you're intention is to do some epic cross-country road tripping. Bust out that paper atlas and look for alternative routes wherever possible. You will be astonished at some of the breathtaking scenery and experiences you will encounter when you get off the main roads. A word of caution, however—many backroad routes require four-wheel drive or high clearance vehicles, and may be seasonal passages only. Be sure to inquire with the locals before heading down that dirt road.
Road Trip Preparation
Do take the time to pack and prepare for your road trip like a proper scout. Along with packing the clothes and personal items you’ll need to be comfortable while you travel, this also means checking your vehicle over before you go (look at the tires, check the fluids, etc.). Make sure you've got a spare tire and the tools to use it. Buy a can of Fix-a-Flat or an air compressor that plugs into the cigarette lighter as a backup. Consider buying one of those self-jumping battery tools, or at the very least, make sure you're carrying a pair of jumper cables so that you're not stranded should you have to deal with a dead car battery at some point in your trip.
Don’t leave without notifying your credit card companies and your banks of the dates and route of travel. If you forget this step, the card companies may shut down your cards when they start seeing transactions that are outside of your normal service range. The last thing you need is to find yourself locked out from your cash when you’re trying to get a room for the night after a long day on the road.
Do buy a paper atlas. No matter how good your service provider, there will be areas where your phone is going to fail you. You don’t want to be lost in a cornfield somewhere because you were assuming you could navigate your whole trip by GPS. Buy a paper atlas, print out detailed directions for places you will be visiting, and write down a few emergency phone numbers, in case you need to resort the old-fashioned method of hitchhiking to town and calling for help.
Don’t plan on eating food you find along the way. Doing so will only end in a steady diet of gas station grub and the resulting intestinal discomfort. Instead, pack a cooler with healthy road-tripping food like trail mix, jerky, sandwiches and fruit. Bring along at least a gallon of water, which can be refilled along the way.
Hitting the Open Road
Do take frequent stops and every opportunity for exercise that arises. One down-side of road tripping is the effect on your body that long hours in the car can create. Avoid an aching back, neck and shoulders by regularly stopping for stretching/movement breaks.
Don’t flip out if your road trip doesn’t go as planned. Refer to the adv
ice at the beginning of this article about learning to roll with whatever may arise. Road tripping is an opportunity to change your headspace and refresh your perspective about life. Don’t waste it being upset because something didn’t go as you had it planned.
Last, but not least, do enjoy yourself. If you find yourself getting stressed out or uptight, take a breath and relax. This is an opportunity for you to get some fresh air, make new discoveries and absorb all of the experiences this good earth has to offer. Your only job is to be open enough to truly enjoy the ride.
Have a favorite “do” or “don’t” for road tripping? Add it to the list in the comments below!