Learn how to hit the road in style and make the most of your next road trip. Unlike other forms of travel, the journey really is as important as the destination when taking a road trip – or at least it can be if you plan to be a little spontaneous! Here are a few great tips to help you navigate your way to a weekend of fun and the trip of a lifetime.
To Thine Own Self Be True
The first rule of the road is to personalize the trip to your own interests and aptitudes. Sit down and make an inventory of those activities, sights and sounds that thrill you the most then begin sending away for information. Select the ones that tantalize your imagination to use as the “cornerstones” of the trip. Use the following to plan the perfect road trip:
• Travel Guides: While most travel guides target tourists, there are a few that feature specialized travel needs including disabilities, traveling with your pet or out-of-the-ordinary places. Pick up a few different ones to get a perspective on what is available.
• Maps: Before setting out on the big trip map out your destination while leaving plenty of time in the schedule for impromptu diversions. Mark out your main route but indicate potential fun spots or other scenic areas of interest with a different color then take time each day to visit one or more.
• Event Directory: Even the most ordinary location can turn into an extraordinary experience at different times of the year. Local festivals and events are a fun way to soak in the charm while participating in the fun. Contact your local Chamber of Commerce or state Department of Tourism to request an event directory.
Add a little additional time to rest stops, meals and even mornings just to allow yourself the luxury of living in the moment. Today’s chaotic lifestyles require precision time-keeping for nearly every moment of the day; the freedom to do what you want, when you want is exhilarating in its own right. Whenever possible, try to purchase tickets or passes with flexible time periods to maintain the ability to create and change your itinerary when the mood hits you.
Expand Your Horizons
Don’t risk falling into the same old rut. Once you pick out the cornerstone activities and events, it is time to expand your horizons and experience something new. That is easier said than done for most people so the following tips are reliable ways to avoid the well beaten path.
1. Hit the road – in the car of your dreams! Set aside a little extra cash to rent the car of your dreams for at least one day during the trip (or better yet, the entire trip!). If you already own the car of your dreams then perhaps a special boat, bike or other form of transportation will be more to your liking. The point is to travel in style—a new style that you have never experienced before!
2. Try the local food at least once each day. Make a point of stopping at the local diner when passing through a small town or stop to buy fruit at a corner produce stand; few things excite the senses like experiencing a new flavor or smell. It’s actually easy to fit into a pre-existing schedule by simply asking the locals where they eat. In most cases it only takes a few minutes of extra driving from the main interstate highway to find the best local diners.
3. Do something memorable. From sky-diving to spelunking, most people have an adventurous side just waiting to let loose. Perhaps a little extra fun is more your style; try a local country line dance or renew your vows in Vegas. The main objective is to make memories that you will cherish.
4. Track in real time. Modern technology makes it fun to record the trip and share with others in real time. Before leaving, set up a website and then upload photos, update a blog and share your journey with others as you go. It’s a great way to stay in touch with family and let them join the fun.
5. Wear something new. Act on the old saying “the clothes make the man” and actually buy one of those tourist trap hats or comfortable t-shirts. You will be surprised to find how quickly it puts you in a vacation mood! Part of the fun of a road trip is being a tourist so go with the flow and try out a new style. If you typically dress casually then rediscover how elegant you feel wearing formal wear to a dinner and dance. For those who spend most of the day in a suit, locate the nearest beach apparel or casual clothing store to reacquaint yourself with comfort. If all else fails then simply give in and try out the “cheesy tourist” outfit.
6. Bring home a reminder. Take time to look around at every location then select something that exemplifies the spot; it might be a rock, flower, shell or souvenir. Have each person do the same and then label the items at the end of the day—you will be surprised at what catches the attention of each person.
7. Be an off-beat tourist. Select a wild and wacky theme that complements your interest then connect the dots that lead you down the path less taken. One of the great things about this nation is the robust collection of oddities, oddballs and downright odd spectacles to be found in nearly every city or town.
8. To reserve or not to reserve – that is the question. Making reservations is essential for business travel but there is an added charm to stopping for a sleep-over any time or place during a road trip. If you simply can’t bear the idea of complete spontaneity then go ahead and make reservations; just be sure to select a few out of the ordinary hotels or resorts to balance your itinerary. From luxury resorts to remote cabins, there is something for everyone.
9. Alerts and reports. When planning the perfect road trip there are practical considerations to keep in mind including weather reports, road construction, local events and even emergency situations. It is a good idea to obtain copies of current events for destinations where you intend to spend more than 24 hours. Maps and GPS units may not have routes around recent road construction projects so take time to verify that your anticipated route is available….or simply keep an alternative set of plans just in case. Remember, always carry contact information and pertinent medications with you in the event of an emergency.
Finally, to plan the perfect road trip be sure to bring along a solid selection of your favorite tunes, treats and tales. Stock up on a variety of bottled water, fresh fruit, crackers, and other snacks; new music plus a good book or two for the pool or to relax at end of the day.
Most of all, take time to have fun and experience the sense of freedom that only the open road can provide.