Planning any vacation is a time consuming activity. After coming to some consensus as to the location, one must start planning out where to stay, what to do, and, on occasion, who to go along with. I am quite fortunate in that when my vacation time hits the calendar; my travel is already made for me. I, on most levels, require some coaxing to get me to do most things – and planning a vacation, along with washing dishes, is number one of things that I would mush rather delegate to others.
When the begrudging task of having to plan a vacation does fall squarely on me, I start out wanting to pick something that I’m certain everyone will enjoy – my steam and my moxie, however, soon run out to a point where my wife takes the reins and saves me from what she refers to as ‘vacation planning overload’.
In my younger years, travel consisted of my family piling into my dad’s Chevy and driving down to Florida from our house in Massachusetts. I-95, the major interstate that, in some parts of the east coast resembles more of a parking lot then a highway, wasn’t entirely constructed – so part of our drive was on A1A. It was on these small side-roads that I became very interested in the road-trips.
If taking to the open road is something that is a quick fix to your ‘vacation plan overload’, then you would be well advised to do some planning before you start up the ignition. Yes, the planning of a road-trip is just as tedious – but it will serve up something different from the ordinary.
1. Check that all your car parts are working.
I have to say that I don’t ever remember seeing my dad check his car – but we were able to drive a long distances – so he either did check it or cars back then were built to last. Either way, it will save you a great deal of headaches if you bring it to a mechanic.
2. Pick your destination.
You might think that this is the first one on the list, but if you don’t have a car running accordingly, that Howard Johnson at the end of town might be the only place you’ll be spending your vacation. There are hundreds upon millions of places to explore, so try and pick a spot that has something for everyone going on the trip.
3. Map out your drive.
With the invention of the GPS, this is a piece of technology cake! Way back when, we didn’t have GPS’s we had MAP’s and it was hectic. My wife is the smartest woman I know, but if you put a map in her hand, its like kryptonite to superman – the folding and unfolding is also a mess. Save time and invest in one of these gadgets if planning on a road trip. You might even be able to rent one.
4. Pack like any other vacation.
I recall a movie starring Chevy Chase called Vacation. A family ventures out to have a journey of a lifetime. I thought that the plot of the movie was similar to the trips that I took as a child. When packing for your trip, remember to separate valuable items. Keep money orders and cash separate – and make sure your entire luggage is secure.
5. Stop at every chance you get.
My father was the type that really disliked stopping until we were at our final destination – and to a degree I have inherited that cause. But really – if you have planned to take a road-trip, part of the adventure is seeing what lies between your start and end points.
6. Get lost.
I say this in a ‘tongue in cheek’ kind of way. When I say get lost, I mean to find a safe spot and just try to blend in with the locals as best you can. If you don’t really want to hang around too long, you will always have that GPS to get you back on track. I have often said that there is no better way to walk in someone’s shoes unless you know where they bought them.
7. Keep the lines of communications open.
Talking to people you may find, that there really is not much difference between you and them. After getting over the initial shock of hearing a very deep Southern accent from a gentleman in South Carolina, I found a travel guide to some of the best bar-b-q spots in all of the Carolinas! Spots that I would have never imagined walking into – and my taste buds thanked him considerably. We still exchange Christmas Cards to this day!
8. Stop to stretch your legs out!
Something that the whole family had to hound my father about growing up (see #5) – can really make for a very uncomfortable ride. Of course, you can stop and stretch out your legs when you stop to fuel up, but it really is important to just stop and get some fresh air at every chance you get. Your legs (along with other vital organs) will thank you!
9. Pack your lunch!
Sometimes, there is just no where to stop, and if those hunger pains hit you when all you see is miles and miles of highway, you certainly will feel like a hero if you packed something to eat. Just be forewarned, if you find yourself in a long stretch of road and decide to finish off that 36oz cup of soda – if you take in water, you will make water – so in moderation, please.
10. Travel with friends.
Although there is a lot to be said about taking some of these road trips on your own (I drove from New England to Key West by myself and had an amazing time), you will miss out on a lot of things that you would otherwise have enjoyed with a friend. Be careful that you actually like the friend that your traveling with, otherwise you might want to just stick with #5.
A fun and exciting way to travel is by the way of the automobile. Millions of little areas of this country are just waiting for you to come and discover them. Here’s hopping to our chance meeting on the open road.
Photo by Stig Nygaard