Road trips! It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re going, there’s just something that makes driving excursions completely memorable and amazing. We’ve asked men’s lifestyle and travel expert Joe Miragliotta from Joe’s Daily to share his best suggestions when it comes to building the perfect road trip.
When I was in my early 20s, there were very few vacations I think I enjoyed as much as a road trip. Granted I was so broke, they were basically the only holidays I was able to take. Still, you just can’t beat that feeling when you and a couple car’s worth of your friends all pile in and set out to discover new things together. While this particular kind of road trip isn’t the one I take these days, that magical feeling that came with them is always there. If you’re new to this kind of vacation or looking to mix things up a bit this summer, check out my list below for how to build the perfect road trip.
1. Pick a theme before your route
While it might seem intuitive to head straight for a map when you begin planning a road trip, in most cases, it’s actually a much better idea to decide on a few things first. A road trip doesn’t have to be a cross-country extravaganza where you make your best attempt at seeing literally all there is to see. While it’s definitely a good time (and something everyone should probably do once in their life if they have the chance), a more themed experience is probably the way to go if you don’t have weeks to spend.
As for what theme to choose, the world is your oyster—or, at least, the road-accessible parts. Enjoy wine? How about a winery tour of the West Coast? Outdoorsy? Perhaps a journey through the best hiking trails in the Midwest. History buff? A visit to the country’s various Native American archeological sites would be pretty cool. Just start with what you love, and the ideas should begin to come pretty easily from there.
2. Set parameters you’re comfortable with
Once you have the “what” part down, planning the “how” comes next. While it might be tempting to cram in as many things as you possibly can, the key here is to be honest with yourself. How long do you want the entire trip to take? How long are you willing to be in the car for any given stretch of time? How long do you want to spend at each location? And, the big one, how much can you reasonably do when you consider the answers to all of those questions? Potentially having to whittle your trip down might seem like a bummer—and I’m not saying it’s not. However, the disappointment of missing out on something completely, especially if you left another place early to get there, is so much worse. Make sure to set relatively loose timeframes to make up for unexpected factors like traffic and the occasional roadside attraction and you’ll be much happier.
3. Do your research
At this point in the process, you’re basically finished with most of your planning. But before you solidify things completely, take a moment to be sure you’re not going to miss out on anything you really might want to see or do. Of course, you can start by searching around the internet, but don’t forget to ask your friends. There’s nothing worse than telling someone you’ve just returned from somewhere, only to find out there was a phenomenal restaurant or shop right around the corner that you completely missed out on.
4. Make the most of your time in the car
If you’ve chosen to take a road trip, chances are you don’t completely hate long stints in the car. Unfortunately, there can be a large gap between being fine with something and truly enjoying it. Lucky for us, defining this time as an enjoyable part of the trip is actually pretty easy to do. Start with tried and true games like 20 Questions. Picking something out from before the time of cellphones is a good way to keep the driver entertained along with the rest of the group. Of course, you’re not going to play games for hours and hours. To fill in the longer periods, consider an audiobook or educational podcast (bonus points if it can be tied into the theme of the trip).
In terms of snacks—the other big deal when it comes to the car part of a road trip—instead of sticking to the favorites you have all the time, try having a contest to see who can find the best local treat from each stop. It’ll keep you satiated while adding a little extra amusement as well.
5. Incorporate geocaches
I can’t quite remember how long it’s been, but when I first learned what a geocache was, my mind was totally blown. I thought it was the best idea ever and have made a point to incorporate them into every road trip I’ve gone on since. For those who are like me, you should definitely check your route to see if there are any geocaches along the way. If not, consider creating your own with trinkets you’ve found throughout your trip and leaving it at the point you’re the farthest from home.
6. Set up a shared album and/or hashtag
Thanks to the help of modern social media tools, keeping track of an entire group’s pictures is easier than ever. Before you set out on your journey, take a moment to set up a shared album and/or hashtag for everyone to use. This can be especially fun if the trip becomes a yearly occurrence or you’re all spread out over multiple vehicles. It’ll be a great way to share visuals to go along with the weird stuff everyone keeps talking about in the other cars via those walkie-talkies (that you should absolutely bring).
7. Be present
While I admit this is good advice for any vacation, the pace of a road trip can make being present and mindful especially difficult. Always try to remember that the journey is such a huge part of the experience you’ve chosen and each moment should be properly acknowledged. Even if it’s something that seems negative like being pressed for time while that one person in your group can’t seem to be coaxed out of the gift shop. Every part of your trip is going to quickly become a memory, so appreciate them for all they’re worth.
Joe Miragliotta of Joe’s Daily is an official Travelocity Gnational Gnomad. Gnational Gnomads is an exclusive group of high-profile travel and lifestyle experts who offer tips and inspiration on behalf of Travelocity.
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