There’s nothing better than a road trip for relaxing, enjoying spectacular scenery, and taking great photographs — unless you’re the driver. Then, you face hours of monotony behind the wheel on long, straight roads. Even worse, you might have to negotiate less-than-ideal road conditions, such as hairpin turns with sharp drop-offs, while your passengers marvel at how beautiful the drive is.
So, how do you go on a road trip if the thought of driving for long distances (or at all) doesn’t appeal to you? Obviously, you’ll need someone else to do the driving. Having been a passenger on a half dozen vacations, I can say with confidence that you can convince someone to do all the driving on a road trip and still maintain a relationship with that person after your vacation has ended.
However, you can also make life a lot easier for your spouse, friend or whoever will be driving you around by keeping them happy and taking on as much of the other tasks and responsibilities associated with a road trip as possible.
Get the driver involved in, and excited about, the trip
No one wants to take a road trip to a destination with which they are not familiar or about which they are not excited. Take the time to involve your travel partner in selecting a destination and the stops you will make along the way. If you have your heart set on a particular area of the country, share photos and descriptions with the driver to see if they like the idea as much as you do.
Enthusiasm is contagious, so capitalize upon it. I’ve actually given a PowerPoint presentation that included photos and details about places I wanted to visit on a road trip, though on most occasions, simple conversations will suffice. Find restaurants that you know your travel partner will like or roadside attractions you think they would enjoy, and incorporate those choices into the conversation. Even better, let the driver choose restaurants and hotels for the trip.
Do all of the planning
If you don’t plan to participate in the driving on your road trip, make things easier on the driver by taking charge of the logistics. Let your driver know that if they take care of transportation, you’ll take care of everything else. As needed, make the necessary reservations for lodging, dining, and rental vehicles. Carry the confirmations with you on your trip so that you can breeze through check-in and checkout counters.
To make sure that you have enough time to experience everything you have planned for your road trip, create an itinerary. It’s a running joke in my family that I prepare trip itineraries in military time, beginning with breakfast at 06:00 hours. You don’t have to go overboard — you just need an idea of when and where to stop, sleep and eat. Make sure your driver signs off on your itinerary, particularly the driving distances and times.
Know where you are going
Gather point-to-point driving directions for each leg of your road trip. If you have a GPS (global positioning system) device, plug the addresses for all of your stops into the device before you leave for your trip. Once you have departed, you will simply need to choose the appropriate address on your GPS device, rather than worrying about entering each address on a case-by-case basis.
As you document driving times and distances in your itinerary, make a note of any long distances that may require a stop to refuel, go to the bathroom, or simply break up the drive. Some GPS devices can be particularly useful for locating a gas station or restaurant in your vicinity. However, don’t rely entirely on your GPS device — it may stop working or provide unreliable information when you need it most. Take a map or printout as a backup. My GPS once tried to lead us on an off-road adventure in the Utah desert, but I knew better thanks to my written directions.
Make the drive fun
Even if it feels corny, plan a few ways that you can entertain yourself (and, even more importantly, your driver) on your road trip. Hours into a drive down a long, flat stretch of road, you’ll be happy that you have something to do. If “I Spy” and the “License Plate Game” don’t cut it, make up your own activities. I like to reminisce about past road trips by trying to remember every stop, hotel, and meal and giving unofficial awards like “Best Breakfast” or “Best Hike.”
If you usually travel with the same person, your road trips will probably develop running themes that keep you entertained. For example, my family takes photographs of road “crossing” signs that depict interesting animals. So far, a few of our favorites include bighorn sheep, elk, and prairie dogs.
Don’t forget the little things
As your road trip progresses, be mindful of the small details that can make a difference over the course of your trip. Purchase and pack your driver’s favorite drinks and snacks. Create a playlist for your trip, and make sure that it includes music that your driver likes. When you make stop at destinations along the way, volunteer to stand in lines and handle payments. Make sure that your driver gets to relax whenever you get out of the car.
Finally, remember to say “thank you” to the person who has willingly agreed to take care of the driving while you sit back and enjoy your road trip. Whether it’s your spouse, relative, or friend, your driver has sacrificed their time for your comfort and convenience. Make sure your driver knows how much you appreciate that fact, and let them know that your road trip wouldn’t be the same without them.