Road Trips

Stop and Smell the Road Trip!

Assuming your road trip isn’t for business purposes and you’re not in the process of a move, then your road trip is a vacation, right? Most people think that a road trip is all about their destination; just hurry up and get there.

This attitude destroys all of the unique fun of a road trip – the journey itself. If you just want to get there quickly, fly! On a road trip vacation you’ve got to stop and smell the roses, check out that cool sight, wander around that funky general store, park at that scenic overlook and take in the glorious view.

Part of your stops will be serendipitous – see a sign on the highway that appeals? Pull off that exit and see what it’s all about. The other part is all about planning and that’s the real secret to great road trip.

Here are some tips to help you plan your best road trip yet:

  • Once you’ve selected your destination, decide on your route. One must-do is to plan to get off the highway and take back roads as much as possible. Yes, it will take you a little longer to get there, but, oh, how much better the trip will be! You’ll see small towns and all their unique shops, see all the evidence of people’s lives there, and luck out on various festivals and shows that may be hard to find out about any other way. Most of the best road-side stands I’ve ever been to I found this way. I’ll never forget those perfectly ripe peaches we ate at one, our faces dripping with the juice!
  • Next, select the sights you’d like to see along the way. Be flexible here and re-route yourself for worthwhile attractions. There are a lot of guidebooks and websites out there to help you find all the great sights that are all over the U.S. Make sure to stop in the major cities along the way, spending a day there if you can.
  • Plan your hotels along your route, never doing more than 6 hours of driving a day – 5 if you’re on a cross-country road trip. This will leave you plenty of time to stop for meals and to see your selected sights, not to mention you won’t be miserably tired of driving! If possible, stay in fun and unique places. I’ve stayed in spooky old Victorian houses, high-rise super-modern hotels, and in sweet little bungalows with a view of the sea and staying in places like these really made a difference in the vacation.
  • Have a destination? Depending on what it is (some places have so much to do you’ll need many days), and how long you want the road trip to run, plan on spending a few days at your destination. You’ll want a breather from driving and you’ll get a chance to really soak it up – your destination is why you went on this road trip in the first place! If you’re really pressed for time, plan to spend a full day there, arriving the night before and staying a second night before heading back.
  • Inject some fun into your road trip with road trip games. There are lots of them on the internet or you can just make up your own. Make sure to find ways to include the driver or take turns driving so they can play, too.
  • Create a compilation CD or a playlist for your MP3 player of music that you can play in your car. If you create a mix of songs that reflect your trip – not only classic road trip songs but also songs about your destination and the places you’re passing through, it will not only make your road trip more enjoyable, you’ll also be able to easily recapture that vacation feeling whenever you play those songs, even when you’re back in your daily grind.
  • If there are any great or unique restaurants along the way, try to work them into your plan. Eating regional foods really adds to your road trip and gets you into the groove of the place you’re visiting. Plus that type of food is usually at its best where it’s at “home” – there’s nothing like lobster in Maine, shrimp in Louisiana, and Mexican in southern California.

If you use all the tips listed in this article, your road trip is guaranteed to be a wonderful one that you’ll remember forever.

Copyright 2009 Tara Waechter

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