I recently took a fabulous two-week, 13-state road trip out west. For those who are contemplating vacation with an aggressive driving schedule, I have the following suggestions:
TRAVELING COMPANION: If you're traveling with others--particularly if you're traveling with just ONE other person with whom you will spend 24/7 for days at a time--make sure you are truly compatible. Be certain your goals and objectives for the trip are similar. Choose similar priorities and be willing to compromise on the smaller stuff. Understand each other's strengths and weaknesses and plan accordingly. Traveling on this kind of road trip with another person is a lot like being married--albeit a temporary, very short marriage with an agreed-upon and amicable end in sight--which is surely the easiest and safest kind of marriage possible
TRANSPORTATION: If you don't want to put 6,000 or so miles on your car (which we did) or aren't sure your car can handle the possibly tough mountain/icy terrain, rent a vehicle. For two weeks, our rented SUV only cost us just under $700, split between two of us. SO well worth it.
And, point of fact: The morning of the very day we left, I ran to my neighborhood Dollar General for extra dog food, cat litter, and toilet paper for my house-sitter. I came back out to a dead and unresuscitable minivan, which had to be towed to my (now far too familiar) auto place. Sigh. Probably a good thing this didn't happen in the middle of BFE, Montana.
COSTS: Save ahead for the trip, if possible. A couple years ago, we started putting $100 each, every month, into an envelope. We missed several months and stopped totally some months back, when life (Life: Really? WTF?) interfered. But what we did save was enough to cover all our gas and part of our motel expenses.
Choose motels that offer a free breakfast. I'm not a breakfast food fan, but I found enough options to please me and fill me enough so we didn't need to stop for lunch. We brought along a Rubbermaid tub in the backseat--filled with stuff like nuts, beef jerky,and granola bars--that served us well for necessary afternoon snacks and lunches. And occasionally, our lunch was Twizzlers and popcorn. Don't judge us.
DIRECTIONS: Don't just count on your car's GPS, your Garmin, your phone's Waze app, a AAA TripTik, or an atlas. Use ALL of the above. We found ourselves occasionally lost in BFE when one or more of these sources failed us. You need to be able to count on something else--as well as your patience and good humor.
ENTERTAINMENT ON THE ROAD: Bring along lots of music--radio stations are not always available on a desolate highway in Bumf*ck, USA. When you aren't having to pay close attention to routes and traffic patterns, audiobooks are a great option. (Thanks,Tina Fey!) Bring along some tour books to discuss out loud what to look for along the way or destinations ahead.
Also, old-school road games and current Facebook engagement-type topics are perfect traveling fodder. What's your favorite book, movie, dessert, city, etc.? This will make for terrific conversation, and you'll find out things about each other that you never knew.
Of course, in just general conversation, you'll also find out stuff about each other you never would have guessed. For example, that your traveling companion thinks ALL THOSE rock formations resemble penises. My friend Cindy will probably never look at me the same way.
Road trips open doors to new worlds. They change your life. And they change the way you look at life.
Why not broaden your horizons and see what's out there?
Let me know if you have any questions. Happy Travels!