Road tripping is a time-honored tradition, especially during the summer months. Each year, countless individuals, couples, families and friends set out in their personal vehicles along the open road, buoyed by the promise of a rewarding destination and good times along the way. Although road trips often have their fair share of expenses, they need not be costly. This article provides everyone from first-time road trippers to seasoned road warriors with helpful hints, tips and strategies for planning the ultimate road trip.
© Daniel D’Auria
One of the most important aspects in road-trip planning is making sure that the vehicle is in proper working order. Correct tire pressure and tread depth are crucial, as they both help increase fuel mileage. A helpful tip for those traveling more than 1,000 miles each way is to rent a car, as rental agencies typically pay for repairs that travelers would pay for out-of-pocket if driving their own automobile. Furthermore, renting a fuel-efficient car such as the Toyota Prius can help reduce gasoline expenditures during the trip. In short, a poorly maintained vehicle is a hindrance for any road tripper.
Additionally, it’s important to determine what to pack and what not to. Ideally, each traveler should pack one bag apiece, since overpacking adds weight to the vehicle and reduces fuel economy. Soft-sided duffel bags and backpacks are more easily compressible, oftentimes into limited trunk space, than traditional suitcases, and are thus better suited for road-trip packing. Moreover, travelers must consider bringing appropriate clothing for the trip to further condense luggage in the vehicle.
© Alex Berger
Even though it may be tempting to drive from Point A to Point B in the shortest possible time frame, road trips should be structured in such a way that accommodates ample detours and stopovers. Road tripping provides travelers the freedom to follow alternate routes through scenic countryside, ranging from woodlands to deserts to rocky coastlines. Consider stopping at quirky roadside attractions such as the Garden of a Thousand Buddhas in Montana or the iconic Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas. Visits to local museums are also encouraged, as they allow visitors to learn more about an area’s history. This shows that even the smallest diversions can be the most enjoyable.
Themed road trips focusing on specific travel interests, such as art, music, food, wine or history, have grown in popularity recently. A notable example is the Journey through Hallowed Ground Scenic Byway, which traverses 180 miles from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania to Charlottesville, Virginia. The byway passes the homes of nine U.S. presidents, along with other historic sites spanning the colonial to post-Civil War eras, and stunning Appalachian Mountain scenery throughout. Meanwhile, travelers on the Mississippi Blues Trail can explore the places that shaped a distinctly American musical genre. Of course, road trips are not just a feast for the eyes. Examples of food-themed road trips include the Eastern North Carolina Barbecue Trail and Louisiana’s Bayou Bounty Trail, which explores the state’s rich Cajun and Creole culinary heritage.
© Thomas Hawk
Road trips are ideal for those who enjoy the extra flexibility and opportunities for diversion that cannot be accomplished on a flight from one place to another. Traveling along the open road is thus rewarding, not only because of the destination, but because of the journey itself.
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Cover photo © Ian D. Keating