Featured in Guides

How to Road Trip Right

Tips From an Expert Road-Tripper

Always stop at tourist traps like South of the Border for gas and restrooms!

I'm a bit of an expert on  road trips. I've driven from Massachusetts to Colorado twice, and back once. Each trip was about 30 hours of driving. I've driven from Massachusetts to Florida several times, to North Carolina, to Montreal, to Buffalo, to Toronto, to Philadelphia. I did a road trip from the Amalfi Coast to Venice while on my honeymoon in Italy. By my estimation, I've driven about 18,000 miles just on road trips.

To lend some perspective, circumnavigating the globe is 24,901 miles.

In my time driving around, I've learned a few things, and I'd like to share those lessons with you.

First, you need to consider who to travel with. In my case, I've had a few road trip partners, and with each, I've experienced different levels or types of enjoyment. Most commonly, I've driven with my wife. On other occasions it's been friends, my ex's father, my son. My son is probably the least enjoyable, but he's not quite two yet, so driving up and down the east coast with him is miserable, but it's to be expected. One friend, who drove with me to Colorado, brought along Disney's greatest hits, and for hours and hours of corn fields, the two of us screamed along with Aladdin, The Lion King, and The Little Mermaid. Which brings me to my second tip:

Plan your musical strategy!

On my first road trip with my best friend, we drove to Philadelphia. Our plan was to get cheesesteaks and see the city, and then get back to Massachusetts by the end of the day so that we could work the next day, and we made a big mistake, musically. We brought an iPod, but had a car that didn't have an iPod hookup, and this happened to be the one year anniversary of the death of Michael Jackson. So every hour or so, we entered a new radio station zone, and heard "Billie Jean" and "Thriller" and "The Man in the Mirror" a dozen times each. We heard non-stop chatter by the DJs about Michael Jackson. More than twelve hours of driving was dominated by Michael Jackson, and whether or not you're a fan, it was too much!

Think about food!

When you're on a road trip, food is going to come into consideration, but if you're like a younger me, you'll think about speed and convenience and not about longer term effects. Slim Jims may seem like a perfect non-refrigerated snack to store in the car, but too many can add an otherwise unnecessary and long pit stop, or at least keep the car from smelling very pleasant for a good portion of your time. Fast food can have this same effect. Just because you don't have to get out of the car to get it doesn't mean it's the best option!

Consider your speed!

I'm from Massachusetts, where the speed limit is 65, but in much of the rest of the country, it's 70 or 75, so on a road trip, you might tend to feel that you can go faster than usual, but you have to be careful. Often times on these long drives, you're not going to be as alert and ready to react as you might think. Speeding also becomes tempting as you get closer to your destination, but part of the fun should be the view, and most of the natural beauty of the country is better enjoyed at 65 or 70 than at 80 or 90.

My last tip: Don't bite off more than you can chew!

When I drove to Colorado or Florida each time, I would be in such a rush to get there and wouldn't want to spend time or money on a hotel along the route, that I pushed myself too hard. The truth is, sleeping in the passenger seat while you're partner takes a turn isn't enough to keep you going. Adrenaline might help a little, but even that will wane eventually. So stop and take actual breaks. To misquote my mother, "it's not going to do you any good if you die on the way."

Stay safe and drive on!

Now Reading
How to Road Trip Right
Read Next
10 Signs You Need a Vacation