Road Trip….Ready, Set, Go!

My sister called me a few weeks ago and wanted help planning a road trip in England. Well, that is a little different from a week-long road trip to a national park in the US. Essentially, though, there are many characteristics of a road trip which make them the same no matter where your journeys may take you! Over the next month, let’s consider these points broken into four areas: planning, execution, the unexpected, and evaluation.

Woodstock, Vermont Road Trip, May 2012

Woodstock, Vermont
Road Trip, May 2012

The anticipation of a road trip can make the trip itself even more enjoyable. While you are enduring the fourth messy snowfall of winter (you know when that snow ceases to even think about being beautiful!), you can plan ahead for the sunny tropics of a summer excursion or next fall’s trip to New England.

  • Where do I want to go and how long can I be away?
  • Is my car road-worthy, or is this the time to make it so?
  • Who is going? Is this a multi-generational trip, a couple’s trip, or maybe a wonderful solitary adventure?
  • What is my basic budget? Don’t get hung up on this one as it is still winter and you can save until the big day….nothing else to do after you’ve made that fourth snowman and drank that last hot chocolate! There are also many ways to stay inexpensively and have some splurges as well.

As the trip nears, planning still needs to happen.

  • Get your documents in order. Be sure your driver’s license, insurance, registration, and passport (if needed), are all up to date.
  • Once you have the basics planned, it is time to get out the map. I prefer an old fashioned road map to start, but you can also use Google Maps or MapQuest.
  • Start by listing all the places that you want to go. Then decide how long each day you want to drive each day and how much time you want to spend in each destination. When my husband and I traveled around Oregon and Washington a few years back, we over-estimated the time to drive and under-estimated how much fun we would have at some of the destinations. Mid-term corrections were the result. Of course that is fine except that we will definitely have to drive further down the California coast next time. Amazing scenery!
  • I have found that on some trips, the journey is much of the adventure (think the great Southwest!). On other trips, it is the stops that are more important. A two week road trip from Georgia to Pennsylvania last summer was all about the places we stopped along the way (the Shenandoah Valley, Williamsburg, Washington, D.C., and Hershey).
  • I have found that on some days, a few hours of driving are great, but on some other days I want to be there quickly. Be flexible and allow yourself to have some of these days. Note: You really will want to wash some clothes after ten days or so, I promise. Every few days, plan at least two days at the same place just to savor the fun of not driving and soaking in a little of the culture of an area. My brother-in-law is shocked that I actually talk to strangers. Try it, you might learn something.
  • As you map out your journey, plan some highways and some byways. Be wary of those that look like byways but are really one stoplight after another of urban sprawl. On many maps, the true scenic byways are indicated with a dotted line. As long as these are paved, try to work them in.
  • Some people are averse to making motel reservations. Don’t be! Unless you are carrying a trailer on your car, you are going to be sorry to have to settle for the only “vacancy sign” hotel left on a stretch of north Georgia highway (believe me, I speak from experience!). Once you have your basic route, contact your local travel agent and ask her to use her magic to book your hotels for you. You tell her whether you are a chain hotel type, a local bed and breakfast type, or a more upscale sort of traveler. She can locate these hotels and book them at the same great price that you can and will often get upgrades in terms of preferred rooms or perhaps a breakfast included.
  • Begin to think about the reasons for the trip….are you a birdwatcher, checking off National Parks, an avid photographer, an antique or flea market hound, a beach or mountain lover? Find one or two purposes for the trip and plan your activities around that!

Next time, this blog will take us to the next stage…what to do right before the trip and the actual execution!

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