One of the last greatest adventures you can have in this country is kicking up the dust and hitting the road. Leaving your home for someplace yonder, someplace unexplored, and someplace so deliberately out of the way that you have to spin the globe twice just to find it can be so liberating and life changing that you may never want to come back.
Everyone dreams of escape, yet no one ever combs over the fine details that will devour your fun if gone unchecked. There are etiquettes to follow, games to play, and warnings to heed to, all of which no road tripper, novice nor sage is above.
Making sure your car is ripe for the trip is the most important step. Oil changes, wiper fluid, working breaks and headlights are all things that can’t be overlooked. Your insurance papers, passport and license should be stored somewhere within reach and not in the trunk underneath several duffel bags full of dirty laundry and empty road sodas.
Among the worst case scenarios you could find yourself in is being pulled over after driving all night listening to your friend tell you about some awfully dark and humiliating detail about himself that’s got you very nervous and ceaselessly perspiring; only to suddenly find yourself getting a ticket. Or worse, being thrown in jail in the middle of Mankato, MN for breaking some ridiculous law that you can’t make out from the Police Officer’s local jargon and making it worse by stalling.
Write a well-thought-out list of what to bring. Keep in mind less obvious items you may need in case of an emergency. Flashlight, first aid kit, lighter, swiss army knife, toilet paper etc. You can never be too prepared so make the list in advance and add items as needed. Bellhop.com has a great list to get you started.
Choosing the right friend or two to join in on the trip can make all the difference. You’ll want someone who you’ll get along with no matter what. Don’t commit to any length of time with someone you can’t stand otherwise you’ll be sorry, and so will everyone else.
The kind of person you bring along is also dependent on the type of trip you’re taking. If your trip is city-centric you don’t want someone who’s only interested in the outdoors. While an ideal candidate is absolutely a person you can trust, they might also be someone who is a little more outgoing than you are, because while you should always be smart, road trips aren’t always about playing it safe. Those larger-than-life friends can really make this trip the adventure it deserves, and just because you’re in Winnemucca, Nevada and your navigator runs downstairs to ask the concierge where the nearest brothel is, doesn’t mean you can’t at least drive him there and wallow in the experience of setting foot inside one of those places.
Another key element in picking the right people is coming to an agreement on how much this trip is going to cost. Gas, hotels, food and unexpected expenses need to be drawn out and split evenly or in some way you can all agree on. Imagine having to split every speeding ticket your maniacal friend gets while you sleep? You’ll find yourself broke or heading to Mexico before you know it.
Have some idea of the gas prices along your route and make sure you’ll have to enough to pay, which should also include tolls and hotel rooms if you don’t want to end up sleeping the car
Prepare a trove of alternative destinations and routes in case anything should arise. Having a backup plan will save you when you pull into the General Patton Memorial Museum in Chiriaco Summit, California and you’re less than thrilled at what you find. Keep a current atlas within reach. Smarts phones are nice, but you’re going to want to keep those charged, especially if you’re using the port for important items like an mp3 player or GPS. If you’re sleeping in tents, an atlas will tell you which state parks have showers and whether or not you can build a fire.
Staring down the same road for hours at a time is dull. Arizona, for example has this stunning red and orange landscapes, prime for evening drive into Tucson, while West Texas has an exuberant amount of nada. It’s impractical and dangerous to have one person do all the driving, so figure on a set amount of hours per tripper. Listening to music will help you, and don’t bank on local radio stations to carry you along. Load up on your favorite podcasts and standup albums as well, it’ll be nice to switch it up.
Road trips are the opportunity of a lifetime; it’s rare that a group of friends find the time or resources to take off all at once. Whether you’re looking to start a new life elsewhere, or itching for adventure, exploring the country is a great way to grow as a person. Take in everything and talk to anyone who’ll have a conversation with you. Say yes more than you say no, depriving yourself of the excitement will only leave you with regret.