Everyone needs a break every now and then. Whether you go to school or work, life can be stressful and monotonous. Maybe it is time that you relax and take a vacation with your friends. There are many different types of vacations that you can take, but how about taking one that is about bonding, adventure, and going to places you have never been before. This type of vacation is a cross country road trip. You and a couple of friends will get in a car and drive coast to coast. Go for a week or more and see all that the United States has to offer. A road trip is the perfect example of the phrase “It is about the journey, not the destination”. As fun as this will be, you can’t just hop in a car with no planning or preparation. In order to have the best road trip ever, you need to plan everything accordingly and think everything through. This way there will be no mess ups and a lot of fun.
1. Pick a Route
It might seem fun in theory to just jump in a car and go wherever the car takes you. However, that is not really practical, and you will probably end up lost or in places that are unsafe. This is why you need to make sure you have a route planned. The most important thing to mark is your end destination. It can have a special meaning, like a city or beach that you are dying to visit, or it could just be a fun little goal. With a goal in mind, it will be easier to figure out the rest of your route. Think about how long you would like your trip to take so you know what kind of roads you should take. Those roads can be quick highways and scenic backroads or you can get a mix of both. Think about which states you want to drive through when planning where to drive. These are ideas you should think about well before you go on your road trip so that there is no stress. This is a vacation, and if it runs smoothly, it will feel like one.
2. Figure Out Some Checkpoints
While this road trip may involve seeing a lot of sights, that does not mean every stop has to be a sight. Some stops are purely out of necessity. You should have an idea of these stops. The most important one is where you will sleep each night. Figure out roughly where you will be by the end of each day. Book some cheap hotels ahead of time at estimated stop locations. It is also reasonable to want to play a few nights by ear if your stopping points are unclear. Also, figure out when you can stop for meals. Plan times for lunches and dinners and make a list of some possible restuarants. You may not have time for this everyday, it might just be a snack day, so figure out what days work best for the trip. You may also want to figure out how many hours it will be before you decide to take some breaks to stretch your legs and get some fresh air. You are not trapped in this car, so plan on when you will take a breather and look at the world on foot.
3. Stop at Cool Destinations
One of the most enjoyable parts of the road trip is what you will see. It is one of the main reasons to pick a road trip over just taking a plane. There are a lot of parts in America that you can see that you might not have normally visited. Every state has their own little claim to fame, and you can finally see some of them. These could be places like the Four Corners, Mount Rushmore, Mall of America, Cedar Point, and more that are off the beaten path. Do your research on what is fun in some states that you could pass through. The whole point of a road trip is to see parts of this country that you would not normally see. You could explore some quirky landmarks and gain some shared memories with friends. This road trip group will all have photos to last a lifetime from these monuments and destinations. It won’t all be driving, sleeping, and eating. It will be a time where you get out of your comfort zone through learning and exploring.
4. Arrange to Visit Friends/Family
You or your fellow road trip passengers might have some friends in the middle of the country that you have not seen in a while. These could be old college friends or colleagues that have gone off on different paths than you. There might also be some family members that live in the middle of the country that you don’t get to see much. You might be having a lot of phone calls with these friends and family members, but that does not compare to the real thing. Take advantage of this opportunity on your road trip. If you are a coastal elite, you may not know when you are going to be in the middle of the country ever again. Try to see some people that you care about on this journey. You could even stop in specific states just for these people. If they are important to you, these friends and family members deserve a visit. This will be a trip that is memorable and close to the heart.
5. Plan Out Driving Schedules
It is going to take you a while to drive across the country. Sure, you will be making stops on this road trip, but it will still add up to so many hours of driving. That kind of burden is no fun for just one burden. They would have to stay awake the whole time and they do not get to participate as much in goofing around. This is why you need to make driving schedules. Figure out which of your friends can drive and are comfortable with driving on highways. Once you know that, decide what would be a fair way to divide up the driving. Make sure no one has to do a lot more driving than anyone else if they are not okay with that. If you plan this out ahead of time, everyone will have a great time with everyone having a chance to relax on the way.
6. Set Some Bathroom Rules
I don’t think I have to explain that going to the bathroom is basic human nature.. It is something that we all just have to do, even on a road trip. In the comfort of your home, you have the freedom to decide when you want to go to the bathroom. You will not necessarily get this freedom on a road trip. Your group is trying to stay on schedule, like reaching your hotel for the night before dark or meeting up with people by a certain time. You may not be able to afford time to waste for every individual person. Now while you probably don’t know where every bathroom in the United States is, you should plan a general window for when there is time to go to the bathroom. Make sure everyone tries to go at this time so that people don’t complain half an hour later. Also make sure there are enough in a day for a normal person. This is supposed to be an enjoyable time, which means minimizing any possible fights.
7. Pack a Blanket
Everyone on this road trip is going to be in the car for a long time. You may be in the car for hours on end, being forced to sit in the stiff car seats. Even though you guys might not be doing a lot of energetic activities, some of you may get a little tired after a while. This could be from not having a lot of time to sleep the night before or from just being the type of person who needs naps. In order to have a good sleep behind a seatbelt, you are going to need to pack a soft blanket. This can be something that everyone in the car can use, with multiple people being able to use it at once. There does not need to be fights about it, everyone can have some room to rest. It may not replace an actual bed, but cuddling up with something soft can work in a pinch. The right blanket can be very cozy. To help your nap more, it can also work as a pillow if you bunch it at the top. Sleeping in a car can be tough, so you have to be prepared in order to make it easier.
8. Bring a Paper Map
Everything these days is online so paper copies of anything may seem unnecessary. However, technology is not always the most reliable. You have to make sure you get to your destination safely and on schedule. This is why it is good to have a physical map, just in case. At certain points on your road trip, you may get to places without signal where a GPS may not work as well, or your phone may run out of power if you forget to charge it. You have to prepare for all scenarios on a great road trip. A paper map will never run out of power and it does not need a signal. It will always be there and can always help get you to where you need to be. Have a passenger read it out to you and there will be no worries that you are off schedule. Even though it is old school, it is always reliable.
9. Have Some Snacks
Many hours in a car is going to inevitably lead to hunger. While you may have time to stop for some meals the other day, people can not control when they get hungry. If someone’s stomach starts growling when you are in the middle of nowhere on the road trip, that may lead to some trouble. That is why you need to come prepared with some snacks. Obviously don’t go with something that needs to be cold like ice cream, or something that needs to be heated like ramen. Before you leave on your trip, go to your local gas station to pick up some simple snacks. Items like chips, cookies, candy, jerky, and anything with the strength to be left out for a while are the perfect road trip snack. And make sure that you pack a lot, because you never know when you might need them. Make sure everyone has something that they will be happy with eating before you hit the road with your food haul.
10. Make a Killer Playlist
There will be a lot of fun and goofy conversations on your road trip which will make the trip memorable. However, no matter how tight your friend group is, some people might need a break from talking and they will just want to chill. However, silence can be boring. That is why you are going to need some music. The radio may not work on certain backroads, so you need to have your songs prepared. Download a lot of songs before your trip so you can have something fun to listen to on the go. There are a variety of types of songs that you can put on this playlist. If you just want to relax in the car, go with something like “The End of the Line” by The Traveling Wilburys. If you want something with more energy to sing along with, put “You Give Love a Bad Name” by Bon Jovi on your playlist. At the end of the day, go with songs that everyone in your car loves, and think of the playlist as the soundtrack for your next great adventure.