Forget trekking the deserts of Africa, sailing across the emerald oceans of some far away place and waking up in a luxury hotel with cosmopolitan view to blow your socks off. The greatest adventure anyone can go on is a successful road trip. Just you and your friends, the open road, the radio, big skies and backroads with the windows down and the warm wind howling through your hair. It’s escaping in the rawest way possible as the sound of a vehicle engine quietly hums beneath the hood. It’s freedom. You and your friends talking about everything that matters and nothing of any importance. It’s singing your heart out for the world to hear, even though you know the world can not hear you.
It’s making the kind of memories that you will never, ever forget.
That’s what a successful road trip is and there is no better time to drive cross-country than in the summer months, grabbing a friend and charging off on some semi-planned adventure. Of course, jumping in some beat-up car you picked up for $500 bucks and driving the 5,000-mile scenic route from A to B isn’t going to guarantee you make the kind of memories you want to store upstairs. There’s more to a successful road trip than just that. So, if you’ve got that niggling need to chase the terra firma this summer, we’ve pulled together a list of road-tripping secrets that will make your vacation a successful road trip and the kind you’ve always dreamed of.
LOOSE PLANS MAKE THE BEST PLANS
If you’re blessed with an eternity to explore then, man, we’re jealous. However, if you have a bit of a time limit to keep to (like most road trippers) then it makes sense to know which town or city you might be spending the night in each night. That means pulling out a map (yes, an actual, physical, paper map), marking out how far you can drive in eight hours or less per day and using a fuel calculator to ensure it all suits your budget, but don’t go any further than that. Don’t book a place to stay, don’t look at the city on Instagram, don’t give the game away in any way possible. Just enjoy the hilarity that is a driving saga, wandering about places in order to find places to kip and eat, and soak up the privilege of spontaneity as you follow your wildest whims at each step of the journey.
NO RESEARCH ALLOWED
We briefly mentioned the “No Instagramming Ahead” rule above, but it really deserves its own section because this nothing is going to ruin your happiness more than a predetermined expectation of what lies ahead. It’s the big crippler. We know that it can be a bit daunting, but there is a reason why we said your driving day should be no more than eight hours: it gives you that gorgeous dollop of wiggle room that allows you to explore a new place without any prior research needing to be done. It’s that amazing feeling of being both gobsmacked and clueless. The reason this is so darn important is it stops you from ever feeling let down by an overnight stop and it stops you from just doing all the touristy things as you wander around chatting to locals and stumbling across each city’s idiosyncrasies and each town’s little secrets.
DISCUSS THE NON-NEGOTIABLE EARLY ON
If you thought having a roommate was an invasion of your personal space, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Trust us, you won’t have been in such close proximity to someone for this length of time before, and it can be pretty eye-opening. You’re going to be spending the best part of ten days in a car with this person. That’s why you need to pick your road tripping buddy very, very carefully and then lay down some ground rules early doors so that you are both on the same page. If you’re the kind of chick that just wants to listen to Wolf Alice with the windows down, then maybe don’t go with someone who is all about Taylor Swift. If you want to do it on a budget and stay in motels and sofa-surf at friend’s places along the way, don’t go with someone that only stays at five-star hotels. The same goes for knowing exactly what things you have to do and can’t stand. For example, if you need coffee to operate in the morning but can’t stand the stuff you get from gas stations, while your buddy absolutely wants to stop at the Grand Canyon, you can easily accommodate both.
STOP AT RECORD BREAKING PLACES
Nothing is going to help you get off the beaten track more than making a pact to stop everywhere that claims to have the world’s biggest this or that. It’s the only exception to the “don’t plan anything” rule and that’s because these sights make for amazing moments, even better stories and some truly wacky photographs, and that’s what it’s all about. T could be the world’s largest metal cucumber, the world’s largest stuffed bovine, the world’s largest man-made star, artichoke, tractor, sex shop, torture museum or anything – make sure you stop and share some giggles.
DON’T PACK ANYTHING EXTRA
We’re talking about hand luggage only; three t-shirts, one pair of jean shorts, a couple of different shoes, a sweater for the colder evenings, a blanket and your toothbrush. The reason for this is simple: collecting mementos is a rite of passage. It’s something everyone ends up doing when deep into a road trip. It could be that you find an authentic Apache rug from your fuel stop in New Mexico, or a didgeridoo some guy was selling in the Northern Territory, or a mounted deer’s head that will always remind you of the hunting lodge you ended up crashing at or tons of maple syrup because you got lost and accidentally crossed the border. These are all spur of the moment purchases you’ll want to make, so don’t let a trunk full of suitcases (full of clothes you won’t wear) prevent you from stowing these crazy memory-makers.