Ah, the good old fashioned road trip – it seems like every family has fond or maybe not-so-fond memories of a vacation that involved packing up the car and hitting the open road. Take my cousin for example. She can tell you in great detail about the time 40 years ago when she was sitting in the back seat of their 1967 Ford Fairlane, a couple of hours into a day-long road trip, when my uncle, who was driving, decided to open the window and spit. Eewww, can you say YUCK? Grossness aside, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out what’s gonna happen if you open the window to spit when you are going 60 miles an hour on the interstate. Unless you have spittle that can defy the laws of physics, it’s gonna end up squarely on the forehead of the person sitting in the back seat.
My own road trip memories are much more pleasant. I remember things like stopping at a lake for a quick swim and the picnics my mom made. I also remember a lot of music in the car. It was always a fun adventure. It wasn’t about the destination but the journey to get there! Consequently it’s something we love to do with our own kids, although we rarely seem to have enough uninterrupted vacation time to hit the road instead of the airport. Which leads me to my first tip:
Be realistic about how far you want to travel in the time you have. No one is going have fun traveling for 12-hour days, only to get there and have to turn around and go back home. Take the time to plan your trip and include time to stop and smell the roses!
Stop at roadside attractions and points of interest. It’s good campy fun to pose for pictures beside the World’s Largest Oil Can in Rocanville, Saskatchewan or at the Snake River Canyon in Idaho. At a recent stop at the SRC, my husband realized we were at the site of Evil Knievel’s failed jump attempt in 1974! Of course the kids had no idea who Evil Knievel was, and that took some explaining. “Ahhh…, he was a guy who liked to jump over things no one ever jumped over before.” The look of bewilderment on my daughter’s face was hilarious. The best part of stopping at points of interest is the folks you will meet. Take some time to say hello; everyone has a story to tell.
Take time before you leave to figure out where you are going to stop each night, and book ahead. You don’t want to end up in Elko, Nevada thinking there will be lots of motel rooms, only to find out you arrived smack-dab in the middle of their annual Cowboy Poetry Festival, and there isn’t a motel room to be found this side of the Montana border. With websites like tripadvisor.com it’s easy to find a nice, clean oasis, even if it’s just for one night.
Break out the tunes! Before heading out on the road, each member of our family gets to put together a playlist of their favorite songs. I even have a playlist of the songs I remember my folks listening to when I was a kid. Hello Buck Owens and George Jones! We have sing-along songs, sad songs, inspirational songs. We have an eclectic taste in music, let me tell you. In this age of personal music listening devices, it’s a fabulous opportunity to find out what kids these days are listening to!
Pack a picnic! Even if it’s just for the first day, pack a nice little lunch. Doesn’t have to be fancy. Even sandwiches and some fruit taste fabulous when on the road. Be sure to take some hand sanitizer and wipes for cleaning up a roadside picnic table. I always like to take a good selection of healthy snacks and drinks along on the road – it saves time and money. Urbanspoon.com has also led us to several out-of-the-way cafes and restaurants where we have found some good local eats when on the road.
There you have it. A few tips to help you enjoy your trip. Remember, don’t drive like an idiot, and don’t spit out the window, and you are sure to have a great time.
Be sure to include your road trip tips in the comments!