Let’s Hit The Road!
One thing people ask me when they hear stories about my road trips is “how do you come up with good things to do on a road trip?” They tend to become even more intrigued in that I neither own a car nor drive, but tend to do the bulk of the planning while a friend of mine with an indulgent husband lets her take “the good car” and then she does all of the driving. We’ve been doing some sort of trip at least once a year for the last four or five years now and it’s so much fun, we sometimes start talking about “the next trip” before we’ve even finished the one we are on!
Planning a road trip can be fairly easy to do, especially now that the Internet exists. You can map out tentative routes, estimate travel times, check out attractions and book accommodations all ahead of time. And you can run your ideas past the rest of the travel party via email and shared maps. You get to devote as much or as little time to it as you want. Here are some of the basics of how I do it.
Making Plans for a Road Trip
Determine how far you want to go in a day – Some people like long driving days mixed with days off for sight-seeing and rest. Some people like smaller chunks of driving broken up by interesting things to do. Talk with everyone who’s going to be doing the driving and find out what their interests and limits are. On our trips, it’s one driver who can do a hard day of driving but prefers some chunks with interesting stops, and she doesn’t like to drive after dark in strange places.
Find mutual interests – Finding attractions that appeal to everyone makes for the most fun. On my road trips, museums are always good, nature/geology features are too and weird pop culture stops are a favorite.
Leave a bit of flexibility – Since weather and road conditions can be unpredictable, it’s good if your plans allow for some changes that may happen suddenly. You might be well on the road and discover you have to change your route, or that a shift in weather suddenly makes a planned activity impossible to do.
Agree on comfort/sparseness – When people get pushed too far outside their comfort zone, or suddenly have to spend money that they didn’t plan for, it can turn your road trip from “fun” to “nasty” very quickly.
How “Rough” Is Roughing It?
This is one of the trickiest parts of a road trip. Before you hit the road, make sure everyone understands how remote you’ll be (or not) and to what degree of roughing it everyone can handle (or not). My road-trip-sister and I do a lot of car camping. We are okay with pit toilets, but aren’t up for digging cat holes. We can live without a shower for a day or two, but then we both want one. We tend to get hungry at similar intervals and prefer to most of our own cooking to keeps costs down. And when super-crappy weather strikes, we both are ready to skip the wet tent action and spring for a cheap motel. Here are some of the various degrees to which you can explore the great outdoors.
B&B/motels – My elderly parents do this version of the road trip frequently. They drive their hybrid mini-van but stay at bed & breakfasts or motels. This costs more in terms of cash, but it gets you real beds, real bathrooms and aside from some snacks for the car, you don’t have to deal with food.
RV camping – This is a cross between what you read above and what you will read below. With a recreational vehicle, you have a mini mobile home that you drive to wherever you wish to visit and then pay to park someplace legal. Campgrounds often feature special spots for RVs with hookups for electricity, sewage and water so that an extended stay is possible.
Car camping – This is the version that my friend and I do the most. We have a car loaded with tents, sleeping bags, a camp stove, food and our clothes, and then we stay at state parks or private campgrounds. We try for the cheaper end of campsites to keep costs down. A lot of our camping food is heat-n-eat meals mixed with an assortment of fresh fruits and veggies that we acquire along the way, along with ice for the cooler.