Road trips rule. Didn’t you learn that from Thelma and Louise? OK, so their road trip wasn’t perfect – they shot a guy, robbed a liquor store, and ultimately jumped off a cliff. But, along the way they cruised in a convertible, sang along to their favorite tunes and picked up Brad Pitt – so it wasn’t all bad.
It’s the 25th anniversary of that epic road trip film and girlfriends across the country are thinking about road trips…or maybe just Brad Pitt. But it’s not all about girlfriends. With lower gas prices, summer road trips are on the calendar for gals, guys, friends, couples and families. A successful road trip requires a bit of planning – and a dash of flexibility. Having shared priceless moments on many road trips, I have a few tips to help you plan yours.
Pick the Right Road Trip Partner
Let’s face it, some people just don’t travel well together. I know couples who will never drive together because they always end up in an argument. And I know friends who cannot handle more than a few hours in the car with each other. Neither of these are examples of great road trip partners.
The ideal road trip partner is someone you know well enough to understand their driving habits, can tolerate for hours in a car, and has the ability to navigate. My BFF and I have been friends for over 30 years and are total opposites, but we travel very well together.
She’s cautious, reasonable and prefers to be in control – as in driving. I’m an eternal optimist, unreasonable at times and constantly pushing the limits…which is probably why she prefers to drive. Lucky for her, I’m passive and perfectly happy to let her take the wheel while I navigate.
And that’s my point: when you plan a road trip with a friend, be aware of your differences. If you’ve had a longstanding friendship, you can draw from that history to create a memorable trip in the best possible way.
Map Out a Reasonable Route
My family always took summer road trips when I was a kid and my Dad always tried to cover as many states as possible in a day. Restroom breaks were few and far between and sightseeing was done through the van windows. I still have fond memories of all those fast paced road trips – even if we did see all the covered bridges in Vermont before daylight – but I do prefer to take it a little slower now and see more sights along the way. Besides, I don’t think any of my friends or my husband would want to cover seven states in a day.
When you’re making your road trip plan, give yourself extra time each day to allow for plenty of stops for food, restroom breaks and to check out all those weird roadside attractions. You don’t want to miss things like Car-Henge in Nebraska or the Corn Palace in South Dakota – seriously, you must see these things.
Pick a Reputable Rental Car Company
Reserving a rental car with an off-brand rental car company may save you a little money, but it’s important to be sure the company is reputable. I arrived at a Las Vegas rental car counter with my BFF only to be told there were no rental cars available – despite the fact that she had prepaid the rental. It took a little convincing, but we were ultimately able to get a car – seems no one but us wanted to drive a convertible in July in the desert.
On another road trip through Belize, I chose to rent a second-hand car from a local business to support the local economy. The SUV was fine for the first two days until the brakes went out just as a herd of goats entered the roadway. Fortunately, no goats were injured in the making of that road trip, but I learned a valuable lesson - it’s generally best to go with a name brand rental company with newer vehicles.
Familiarize Yourself with Local Road Signs and Rules
If you’re road-tripping in the USA, the rules of the road and the road signs will usually be familiar. But if you choose to road trip in Europe or elsewhere, it’s a good idea to take look up the traffic laws and standard road signs before your trip. Also make sure your GPS is programmed to English before you leave the rental car office. On a recent road trip through the Netherlands, my GPS gave all traffic warnings in Dutch. Obviously, that wasn’t very useful. And some of the road signs I’ve encountered in Germany would require a masters in geometry to decipher.
Bring Along Some Entertainment
Road trips with friends or a significant other probably won’t require more entertainment than your favorite tunes, but if you’re road tripping with the kids, you will need to pack a few surprises. Nothing will ruin a road trip faster than kids arguing in the back seat or whining "are we there yet" for the 100th time.
Many newer cars come with built in DVD screens but if yours doesn’t, bring an iPad or other tablet along with some favorite movies downloaded. Also pack a few plastic containers with new crayons, coloring books, puzzles and books. And always pack snacks – for the kids and the grown-ups. Road trips require snacks, it’s an unwritten rule.
Wherever you choose to road trip, remember this is one of the times when it really is more about the journey than the destination.
What are some of your most memorable road trips?
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