Ever since highways and affordable automobiles made them possible, road trips have become almost like an American tradition. Families are always piling into campers or sedans and driving to state parks. Family road trips have been the source of fun and frustration for years, and there’s no reason for it not to go on.
Meanwhile, college students and literature buffs often get in their cars and go off to find themselves because of Jack Kerouac’s semi-autobiographical novel “On the Road.” The book has been an inspiration to frustrated writers, bored collegians, and sophisticated drivers. These people sometimes pack their bags, load their cars, and take off in search of the next great story from the American heartland.
But most people don’t look forward to hitchhiking when their car suddenly breaks down, or aimlessly driving around until the fuel needle hits empty. You can have an epic road trip, with a car full of friends or on your own, if you take a few sensible steps.
Pick a destination and a route
Unless you’re taking a page from Kerouac himself, don’t leave your home unless you already have a destination in mind. You can choose a location that you remember fondly, or one that connects with you in a special way. You can visit the classic road trip destinations of America, like Yellowstone National Park, Big Sur, or the Grand Canyon. Or you can try these underrated places for your road trip adventure.
The distance will tell you how long your road trip will take. Depending on your destination, it might be as short as a couple of hours to as long as a week. This information will be necessary for the next step.
Clear and coordinate your calendar
Before you turn the key and drive off, make sure that you actually have the time to take a road trip. Check your calendar and see when you have nothing important or there’s an appointment you can’t move. You should avoid any dates that have work events, previously arranged engagements, and medical appointments. If you plan on hitting the asphalt on a weekday, file for leave.
Anyone you plan on bringing along should likewise be free from appointments. Nothing sours a road trip like somebody bailing out hours before you leave or worse, right in the middle of the trip.
Check your vehicle for damage and have them repaired
No matter who owns the vehicle, be it a rental agency, a friend or yourself, check it for any damage and issue it might have. You can find many checklists online that can help you go over the vehicle that you’re going to be spending the majority of your time in. This becomes even more important if you’re planning on driving longer than a couple of hours, or even out of state.
Fill the tank to maximum capacity if you can. If the tail lights are flickering, replace them. If it’s faulty, have the car’s automatic transmission repaired. Make sure your vehicle is in great working condition to avoid getting stranded or injured.
Pack the Snacks
While you should obviously pack clothes and toiletries if you expect your road trip to take more than one day, no matter how short your excursion, you’ll need snacks. Luckily, generations of road trippers have collected much wisdom on eating on the road.
If you’re bringing a cooler for your food and drinks, keep it accessible. You don’t want anyone elbowing each other while they root around for their meal. Bring plenty of water, and take every opportunity to refill your bottles and canteens. Juice and soda can become unpalatable when warm, and if your cooler’s ice melts, you could end up thirsty. Water should always be available. Prepare any meal beforehand, so you don’t have to rip lettuce apart for a sandwich or fumble with a knife to cut cheese.
If you’ve done your due diligence in preparing for your road trip, then you’re ready. Hop into your car, alone or with trusted friends, and start your engine. Enjoy that special road trip feeling of having nothing behind you, and everything in front of your windshield.