Ah, the summer road trip. The essence of youthful spontaneity, adventure and insanity all rolled into one. While there are some tips here that might be considered no-brainers, they’re still rather important. And hopefully, with a few dozen road trips under my belt, I can offer some advice on things you may not have thought of. Here we go.
1. Choose carefully with whom you would travel.
Mark Twain said it best: “There ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like someone or hate ’em than to travel with ’em.” Roommates you’re already pretty well acquainted with are usually good choices, as are lifelong friends. Some people may surprise you by being total strangers in the beginning and ending up great friends by the end of your adventure. But remember, we’re talking close quarters here – people’s tensions are going to get hairy at some point. For God’s sake, respect everyone in the vehicle.
The best people to take with you are the folks you know will listen to you, take you seriously and band together if anything goes wrong. Great conversationalists with good taste in music who smile a lot are my favorite road trip people.
2. Be absolutely sure of your vehicle.
Being stranded is no fun at all. Make sure the fluids have all been recently changed, the tires are in good shape, the alignment’s good, the brakes are in good working order and all that fun stuff. It couldn’t hurt to have a tune-up by a trusted mechanic before you head out. ?
While you’re out there, remember to keep checking your tire pressure and your fluids and don’t forget to take some extra oil and such with you. Use quality gas and try to keep the tank as close to full as possible. I like to fill up every time I stop, but that can eat into your time, so try to do that while everyone is doing the bathroom and snack rounds.
Just in case something goes wrong, have a back-up plan. Have phone numbers of people who can help you if you’re stuck on a highway out by Ship Rock. Be able to change a tire, or at least bring someone who can.
Be mindful of road conditions – especially in unfamiliar territory. And please be a courteous driver. Don’t tailgate or brandish weapons or race other vehicles. Especially do not drink and drive. Always, always have a designated driver. The more trouble you avoid, the more fun you’ll have.
3. Take emergency funds.
Not emergency beer money, not emergency coffee money. Emergency cash on hand for actual emergencies (and bribing Mexico’s highway patrol). Do not touch it unless you really need it. Just trust me on that.
4. Research your destination.
Know where you’re going, how you’re getting there and what to expect when you’re there. The unexpected is a part of the adventure, but don’t take it too far. Bring a map. It helps to be able to plan a back route if you find some roads have been closed off. Know what parts of town to avoid-believe me, there are places that you really don’t want to know about. Look up gas prices in the area and read the weather forecast. It helps to also know what news, traffic and weather stations to tune in to.
5. What to bring, what not to bring.
You want to travel as lightly as possible, as you’re sharing the space.
I love my clothes. This has gotten me in trouble. The best thing to do, depending on how long you plan on being out, is to bring a few versatile garments that work well together in various match-ups. Do not bring an outfit for every possible occasion. Most of them usually won’t happen.
Always bring water and snacks. Most people like soda and energy drinks, but those can’t re-hydrate you or serve as emergency coolant for your car. Always have a roadside kit, jumper cables and a spare tire in the trunk. Other stuff to always have includes hand sanitizer, insect repellant, sunscreen, a towel, cheap kitty litter (traction if you get stuck), a first-aid kit with ibuprofen, a car phone charger and camera with an extra memory card (or film).
6. Music issues.
Even if your friends have similar tastes in music-or so you think-they might wait until three in the morning during their turn to drive to put on their friend’s bands’ emo demo. Being snapped awake by what sounds like a little girl screaming is no fun at all (unless you like that sort of thing). Always bring your own music and a good set of headphones or at least some ear plugs.
7. Use the bathroom at every stop.
And try to avoid diuretics like coffee and beer.
8. Save the phone for emergencies.
So your significant other couldn’t come. That doesn’t mean you should spend every waking second on the phone with him or her, as it is really, really annoying to other people.
You’ll have a lot more fun if you’re not all nervous.
10. Finally, take full advantage of the experience.
While you’re out there, take tons of pictures, eat the local food (if you’re in Mexico, avoid tap water and street-vendor popsicles), talk to the locals, find out where all the good stuff is happening. You never know what you might miss if you’re not paying attention.
Have fun and drive safely!