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Happy Trails! Road Trips Made Easy!

You want to experience the romance of the open road and drive the 2,451 miles from Chicago to Santa Monica of Route 66, or travel completely around the Great Lakes, or visit a national park or two.

Perhaps, you want to spend some quality time with a sibling, old friend, college roommate, or your partner. Gas prices remain a bargain compared to recent summers and you want to avoid the hassles of flying.

Time for a road trip!

Before you hop in the car with your fellow traveller, it’s worthwhile to become a bit of a road scholar and read a few tips for successful road trips:

  1. Get on the same page. Discuss your travel goals. Do you both agree on the destination? (Need ideas? Visit: for “America’s Best Road Trips” and “Ultimate Road Trips”). Are you traveling pedal-to-the-metal to get to the destination quickly, or do you want to savor a few Kodak Moments along the way. Is your partner a road warrior wanting to drive 12+-hour days, or will six hours suffice? If you like museums and your partner wants to see offbeat sights, you might have a problem. Do you share the same sleep cycle? An early bird will not do well with a night owl. We all poop, but do we have similar habits? That is, some people need to go first thing in the morning and hate to use public restrooms, while others can go whenever nature calls and wherever they need to stop. Do either of you smoke? Will that be a problem? A meeting or two in advance could reduce arguments later!

  2. Get a sense of a budget. Use “My Trip Calculator” to get an idea of how much to allot for gas. Then, jot down other trip costs. Hotels? Camping? Stay with friends? Meals? Miscellaneous fees for tolls, and admission for cultural or recreational options?

  3. Clean the car inside and out. Make sure car maintenance is current (oil changed, tires still have ample tread, fluid levels topped off, etc.).

  4. Have a road map. Even if your vehicle has GPS, having a printed road atlas is very helpful. Bring a bold yellow highlighter to mark your route, so you can monitor progress and visualize where nearby landmarks and roadside destinations are located.

  5. Music! Consider satellite radio subscription, like Sirius XM Radio, which has travel and weather info for more than 100 U.S. cities. Or, go “old school” and burn mix-tape type CDs with your favorite travel-oriented songs. (What is your ultimate road trip soundtrack?). Discuss your musical tastes with your partner. Your idea of “great music” might differ from your fellow road tripper.

  6. Divide driving and navigating responsibilities with your travel partner.

  7. Make sure to have roadside service contract and have the emergency phone number easily accessible on your cell phone. Some insurance companies include this service in your annual premium. Or consider your regional AAA, or if you are over 50-years-old, AARP Roadside Assistance from Allstate .

  8. Have all relevant documents in your glove compartment: proof of insurance, car registration, car maintenance manual, etc.

  9. Pack light. One bag each. Don’t forget sunscreen, sunglasses, a phone charger for the car, battery charger for your camera, and loose change for tolls.

  10. EATS! Trail mix (healthy eating options that are NOT messy and will fill the gaps between restaurant stops) and plenty of bottled water.

  11. Bring a spare car key. Hide it in a magnetic key case (or use a zip-tie, see YouTube video).

  12. Keep a journal and also take pictures. Even if you only jot down a few notes at night or in the morning, you’ll have some documentation of the trip to accompany your photos.

  13. Clever way to keep your car from smelling like a trash can: Keep a large plastic cereal container with a lid to use as a portable trash can for the car. Great for apple cores and banana skins. No need to stink up the car!

Okay, now it’s time to hit the road, Jack!

Some lessons learned from going on a road trip with a friend can also be found in Laughing at the Sun: The Story of the Man Who Changed His Spots by Michael Nejman


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