Making the Most of a Road Trip

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While I was growing up, my family took countless road trips, and no place was too far. Our car trips took us to places as close as Chicago and as far as San Francisco. We drove everywhere. In fact, though I took multiple international flights as a child, I did not take a domestic flight, other than a connection to our international flight, until I was in high school.

Over the course of our many arduous but fun trips, I learned how to enjoy them no matter how far we were going. Of course, I’m young and have yet to travel enough to be a travel expert. Still, I’m sure that all of my hours spent on the open road have certainly taught me something about enjoying road trips.

Sleep: If you’re not driving, you can be sleeping. Sleeping makes the time fly by. There is nothing more encouraging than closing your eyes in Nebraska and opening them to find yourself in Wyoming. You crossed a whole state in a matter of seconds! This is especially helpful for states that never seem to end, such as Illinois. I have nothing against Illinois, but I have driven across it dozens of times, and each time it gets longer.

Sleeping also helps you gain some strength to help the current driver. Make sure you’re well rested enough to take your turn at the wheel. This way, everyone arrives at your destination calm, well rested, and ready to enjoy your vacation!

Talk: I love to listen to music and watch movies on road trips. But sometimes, it’s nice to take the headphones off and talk to my family. This works especially well for shorter road trips. One specific instance I have a fond memory of is our trip to Wisconsin Dells. I was planning on listening to music for the whole trip, but soon my family and I were having a fun, in-depth discussion about something. By the time we were done talking, we were in Wisconsin!

Listening to music, watching a movie, or reading a book can be acceptable forms of road trip entertainment, especially if you’re on a particularly long trip, like a trip to California or New York. But don’t forget to take some time to talk to the people around you and make some memories.

Leave as early as possible: This is a tip I learned from my dad, who did most of the driving on these trips. Leaving in the early morning ensures that you’ll drive during the sunlit hours of the day. Not only will you reach your destination at an earlier time, but you’ll also avoid driving at night. Driving at night while you’re tired is always a bad idea, since the night tends to intensify your feelings of fatigue, especially when everyone else in the car is sleeping.

If you have a choice between leaving in the middle of the day and leaving at dawn, you should leave at dawn. Soon, the sun will be up and you’ll feel a lot more alert.

Take breaks: Long car trips are fun for a certain number of hours. But, be sure to visit rest stops whenever you feel your companions are getting restless. Stretching, eating, and taking bathroom breaks can be just the refreshment your travel buddies need.

Taking a few minutes to step away from everyone else and remember that there’s more to life than the never-ending highway is essential in making a car trip successful. It can help stave off any crabbiness or boredom that can set in during a long trip.

Be prepared: Be prepared for every situation under the sun. Having medicines, food, water, and other provisions can make your trip go more smoothly. I strongly recommend having a cooler full of food and water to avoid stopping every single hour for snacks and to help your family in case of an unexpected event. For example, my family has a mini car fridge that we take on very long road trips.

One time, there was an accident on the highway that stopped traffic for hours. Instead of panicking about what we would do, my family was completely calm because we had food, water, and other vital pieces of traveling gear to last us the whole day. No one went hungry, no one was thirsty, and we were all ready to sit in the car for as long as it took. Thankfully, traffic was up and running in a few hours.

Embrace the big groups: There is something so fun and adventurous about traveling with a big group of friends and family. Being surrounded by lots of people you know makes you feel extra safe, extra loved, and extra happy. Imagine all of the fun, chaos, and hilarity that can ensue when a group of folks who like each other get together and drive somewhere. The trip itself is enough of a vacation!

Road trips are proof that half of the fun is getting there. Your destination will surely bring plenty of excitement and wonderful memories. But the trip there does not have to be a burden. Often, the trip is the most time you’ll spend together, when you’ll be able to talk and joke and learn about each other the most. Don’t take for granted the hours available to be with your family and friends. It’ll make the trip even more delightful!

Author: Sarah Francisco

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