Ahh. It’s almost summer time. Time to hit the road!
Ever since I was old enough to remember, I have always wanted to take a trip on Route 66 across America. This ever-wanting to wander has been instilled in me due to lots and lots of family vacations from a very young age — most involving lots of driving.
The first big road trip that I can recall was when I was 4 years old. I vaguely remember it, but I do remember that we went to a Native American reservation in Oklahoma, which to this day I would like to return to. This trip was to visit family in Phoenix, Arizona, and to see the Grand Canyon. The four of us in my direct family rode in my mother’s maroon 1989 Ford Taurus with maroon-suede seats. Awesome. And, very hot. Somehow, my father managed to fit TWO(!!) 6 foot tall stand-ups in the car: Bettie Boop as a carhop and John Wayne. Of course.
Because I have spent so much time in a car traveling, I feel like I can give some helpful tips to those looking forward to a summer adventure.
1.) Make a loose plan
If you have a limited time, highlight on your list the “must-see” places you want to go, but don’t make the list so exhaustive that you don’t enjoy yourself. I have been on too many family vacations based on trying to fit everything in a small amount of time. My experience is that the most spontaneous decisions are usually the most memorable and fun!
2.) Don’t over-research your trip
Surprise is a good thing. If you are like me, it is better to have NO expectation than a big expectation. There is less chance of a letdown if you don’t psyche yourself out.
3.) Put a REAL map in your hand
Don’t rely on your smartphone. We’ve all had trips where our phone tell us something “cray-cray”. Or, goes completely into a dead zone. Great. Personally, I prefer to use a map and disconnect. Enjoy the person you are traveling with and the sights. Get your face out of your phone, you can do that in your bed at home — don’t do it on the road.
Seriously, how much cooler is this than looking at a tiny screen?
4.) Bring a REAL camera
Once again, smartphones are great, sure. But, it is a lot more rewarding to bring a camera and actually photograph your trip. If you instagram your trip, a.) you’re more likely to have your place robbed; and, b.) annoy everyone around you. Wait till you get back to post your favorite images instead of cluttering up everyone’s newsfeeds with junk. I am saying this as an avid “I take pictures of everything I see” person. (Aside: nothing annoys me more than being at a concert and not being able to see the artist because everyone is too busy trying to record or take pictures of the band. Concerts are to be enjoyed, so enjoy them. Yes, I am a crabby old man. I want to listen to the music, man.)
5.) Make a playlist or a CD
THIS is singularly the biggest thing I do before I go ANYWHERE. I have to have my tunes. Be mindful of your travel-mate, keep some things neutral. I like to theme my playlists. If I were to be going somewhere in the American Southwest, cowboy country; North East — I’d probably be listening to The Strokes. Fit the mood.
6.) Don’t overpack
Don’t be a jerk, simply put. You’ll thank yourself later so you can bring cool things home. Remember that you are taking this trip for the experience, let yourself be free and don’t worry about dolling up. It’ll make everyone happier, and it will make you more confident — believe it or not. Say it with me, “ponytail holders.”
7.) Keep your change
Keep a coin purse or a cup handy in case you come across a toll-road or parking meter. It’ll make your life much easier. Less stress, more happy. Bring some cash, too, just in case you eat at a tiny roadside diner without credit card machines. They exist, and they are super cool.
8.) Let someone know where you are
I know I’m going back on all my anti-phone usage, but this is for a different reason. Text or call someone reliable and let them know where you are stabling your steed for the night. This is for just in case. Or, if you have family members like me, it will allow them to sleep at night. Kind of.
10.) Leave the attitude at the back door
Don’t judge people by the car they drive. Make friends with a friendly face. People really do like you! The enjoyment of this trip is truly up to your mood. Kick back and enjoy it. If someone cuts you off, let it go. We all make mistakes. 🙂
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