Road trips are awesome! Like really, really, REALLY awesome! I personally love this type of vacation more than any other type. Mainly because I get bored easily…and because I am an adventure junkie and always looking for the next exciting adventure! Thankfully, I come from a long line of people just like me so we travel well together!
My girls, two aunts, one uncle, one cousin, and myself are all on a three week road trip together right now. This is not our first road trip together and certainly won’t be our last. I would say at this point we collectively have enough knowledge between us for me to write a blog about the ten rules everyone needs to know and follow before setting off on a grand adventure cross country in your car!
Here are what we believe to be the 10 most important rules everyone must follow on a road trip:
Rule #1: Love who you travel with! Being locked up in a vehicle with anyone for three weeks is hard no matter how much you love and adore said person(s). It really does help if you have a great relationship prior to setting off on your adventure. Humor goes a long way in this type of environment as well!
Rule #2: Be flexible!! I cannot stress this one enough! When you are on a road trip you may not make it to the destination that you thought you would make it to when you looked at the map originally. You may not be able to eat at the same time that you normally would eat each day. The people you love may not want to eat the same foods that you are craving at the moment. There may be things that the other folks want to do or see that simply bore you to tears…but guess what? The same goes for the things YOU like or want to do! Just be willing to roll with the flow and everyone will have a good time.
If the group has ONE person who is mostly in charge…who is THE MOST flexible…who will be willing to set a course that MOST will enjoy and be willing to change direction mid-stream if that’s what the majority seems to want…then you will be golden! Our leader on this trip is my Uncle Jimbo. He planned our original route and has readjusted the route several times to accommodate all of the women traveling with him. He’s a good, good man! Always take an “Uncle Jimbo” with you when you go on road trips!
Rule #3: Pack light! Road trips mean just that…you are on the road a lot! So, you don’t want to drag a whole bunch of stuff in and out of hotels/motels/cabins/cottages/tents every single night! Just take a few essential items and leave the rest at home. Odds are…you will bring home a lot of junk anyway. Don’t drag it all with you in the beginning! (Why oh WHY did I not write this blog before we headed out? I always pack ENTIRELY too much JUNK! Ugh…)
Rule #4: Wear comfy clothes in layers! Road trips usually carry you into unfamiliar places. Those places generally have different climates, weather patterns, and elevations. If you have on layers (or if you pack layers) you will be able to add to or take off clothing so that you remain comfortable. Road trips are NOT the place for dressy clothing, heels, or lots of accessories. Just gather the basics and be prepared to wash your clothes somewhere along the way. Trust me…I saw a lady in her mid-sixties walking around in Keystone, SD with heels on. She not only looked miserable…she made me miserable watching her because it was raining and 43 degrees. That is NOT high heel weather in a mountain town!
Secondly, you will be sitting and riding a lot. Don’t wear tight or binding clothing (especially girls!) because those long stretches between potty-breaks may lead to unwanted infections or irritations. Go comfy or stay home. Being healthy is more important than being cute when you are thousands of miles away from home. Besides, you are on vacation…nobody knows you anyway! Ha!
Rule #5: Take your kids! Yes, really. Take your kids with you hit the open road! There are so many fun experiences out there…and kids can have the best learning experiences ever just by going on cool road trip vacations. Classrooms, books, and computers can’t teach kids what traveling can. There is no better teacher than the open road.
Quick traveling tips for kids:
- Take along the movies and electronics for long stretches on the road, but take them away when the car stops. The only exception is for taking pictures…and NOT just selfies! Don’t allow those gadgets during short trips or for less than an hour of travel time. Kids tend to zone out…which is not what road trips are about! Fully engage your child in the activity you are participating in at the moment…and be excited about it! Excitement is contagious!
- Pack LOTS and LOTS of snacks! Believe me…you will be glad you have them on hand and readily available!
- Stop and look at cool things often. Getting out of the car to see a historical marker or never heard of monument provides movement and photo ops. Everyone needs this, but kids really need it about every two hours or so.
- Take ‘hands on’ things to do in the car (like coloring books, games, cards, or whatever) to keep their hands (and minds) moving!
- Use the travel time to talk, sing, laugh, and enjoy each others company. Quality time is so easy to stock up on when there’s nothing happening but tires humming on the asphalt!
Rule #6: Use the resources you have near you at the moment to find the coolest stuff! With technology these days, finding cool stuff to see and do on the road has never been easier. Just download good travel apps (my go to is TripAdvisor); google your current town/location; or stop and ask a local where the best things to do and/or eat are in the area. I love asking the locals’ opinion! They haven’t let me down but a handful of times over the years. Go for it!
Rule #7: Make sure to get plenty of rest. Generally speaking, riding in a car usually doesn’t make you very tired…unless you are doing it for 4-9 hours a day for several consecutive days! Driving, riding, getting in and out, seeing so many new things, eating different foods, walking around cool sites, hauling luggage in and out of lodging, and taking a cazillion pictures tends to wear people out.
Pace yourself! No matter how well intentioned a person might be….they will never be able to do or see it all. Never! So, give yourself some grace and time to rest if you feel yourself getting bone weary. Spend two nights in one place instead of one. Slow down and don’t try to drive as far as you thought you could originally. Be flexible!! Remember…it is a vacation after all. You don’t have to be going ninety to nothing if you are tired. That’s just for when you are at home! LOL
Rule #8: Take Pictures! I mean take thousands of pictures! You can always delete them later, but you can’t take them after you miss the moment. We are on Day 6 of 20 and I have taken over 2,500 pictures on my camera alone. That does not count the ones on my phone and my kids’ iPads.
Pictures can never do justice to how beautiful and vast our country’s scenery truly is, but if you take pictures you will at least be able to go back in your mind and recall how you felt standing on the edge of a cliff; or in the middle of a wide open prairie when you are telling people about your trip one day. Think of pictures as the notes you take in class. They will serve as great reminders of things you forgot you had experienced.
Rule #9: Share your experiences on social media! We live in a digital world. Everyone has a social media account of some sort. It is so easy to leave feedback for everything from food to lodging these days. That feedback helps other people who dare to try new adventures themselves. So…check-in, tweet, tag, post, and rate every part of your road trip journey. You will be surprised how many things you discover because someone else suggested a site or place that you had no clue existed. I have been so thankful for my friends’ suggestions and advice! You never know what might become your most favorite memory of all.
Rule #10: Road trips do not have to cost a fortune! 2016 happens to be the centennial year for our National Park service. Every 4th grader in America qualifies for a free voucher…meaning everyone in the car with that 4th grader (or senior adult!) gets in FREE! Ah…who doesn’t love FREE?!
The U.S. has so many neat and amazing things to do and see in our national parks. Just look up “Every Kid in a Park”, fill out the online form, PRINT IT OUT, and hit the road. Easy-peasy!
Also, if you travel in groups there are tons of discounts available. In our case, we share hotel rooms as much as possible. If we stay on the current average my 20 day road trip will cost me less than ONE WEEK at the Beach!! Yes, you read that correctly! And, we have not stayed in a sleazy hotel yet! In fact, we have had extremely nice accommodations the whole time.
One more way to save major bucks is to eat breakfast for FREE at your hotel and then eat again mid-afternoon. This saves you lots of money by not eating the higher priced meals late in the evening and if you pack your own snacks or sandwich foods from home you can stop anywhere and enjoy a picnic as you travel. Those are the best meals…and kids LOVE it! By saving daily on meals, you can afford to splurge when you find really neat, fun places along your way!
Great road trips are filled with long stretches without food, spotty to no cell/internet service, miles of pavement, and boring moments when no one really has anything to say, but guess what? THAT IS OK!!!
Boredom is an emotion that we need to learn to cope with just like anger, gladness, and even sadness. Boredom is a part of life and we all need to learn to cope with it. Just like anything else in life the only way to get better at something is to exercise. I tell my kids all the time that it is perfectly ok to be bored…as long as we know how to act when we are bored! I gotta say, they are pretty awesome at occupying themselves these days.
I hope these ten rules help…and I hope that I have inspired someone else to hit the road one day. Road trips are so much fun, but so many times people are afraid to go on an unconventional vacation. If you are scared…start small. Try a long weekend somewhere new and see how it goes.
You never know…you might just end up becoming a road trip king or queen like us!
Happy and Safe Trails Y’all!