Ten (and a Half) Tips for Road Trips

6/25/2015, 11:55 a.m.
So many people fly everywhere these days that you might think the classic American road trip is a thing of ...

Los Angeles, CA-- (Part one of two) So many people fly everywhere these days that you might think the classic American road trip is a thing of the past. This is not actually the case. While it does seem that the "On the Road" experience of getting a car and just going for the sake of going is in decline, the statistics (and the number of cars all around you on the roads) prove that more Americans than ever are taking to the roads for vacations and family visits, albeit apparently for more frequent but shorter trips. And frankly, with airline customer care unquestionably in decline, many Americans would rather drive than fly.

Stats aside, there is no denying that the lure of the road is undeniable and probably eternal; it almost seems embedded in our very makeup. This is more true for some folks than others, but there is a richness to traversing the land an inch at a time that is absent from the experience of climbing into a metal canister and climbing out at your destination. If this is what you're looking for this summer, here are some tips to maintain the romance while minimizing the rigors of the road.

  1. Clean your car before and during your trip. Go ahead, leave the napkins and gum wrappers under your seat. Leave the receipts from your last business-related drive in the glove box. Don't sweat the dog hair in the back bed ... but you'll be sorry. A few days into your trip, when the old gum wrappers are joined by new fast food wrappers, when the glove box starts overflowing with hotel receipts and local maps, when dog hair starts sticking to your luggage and your gear, you'll rue the day you failed to pull out the Shop-Vac.

As your trip proceeds, take time every couple of days to purge your car of undesirable flotsam and jetsam. Even if you can tolerate some chaos (as I can), the accumulated junk and minor filth will start to drive you mad in the close quarters that define a road trip.

  1. Have a loose plan. Delays are the one thing that you can count on when driving significant distances. Admittedly, the archetypal "BRIDGE OUT" sign is a rare sighting these days, but the flashing "Road Work Ahead, Merge to One Lane" message is not. You don't have to have seen a lot of Chevy Chase movies to know that things aren't always going to go your way. If you overschedule your road trip, it is almost a lock that you will find yourself slogging the last few miles long after you had intended to be asleep, trying to cancel one hotel reservation so you can pay for another well short of your originally planned destination.

On the other hand, having no plan at all is only recommended for the most, hardy souls. On a trip through New England a few years ago, our plan was simply to pull over when we got tired to crash in a hotel; after taking three exits without success, we finally stopped at a hotel at which the front desk person asked, "Are you staying the whole night?" Ugh.