Friday, March 30, 2012

Road Trip Rules

Most people today would say we have poor timing to plan a road trip this Spring.  I might agree, given the obnoxious price of gas in the U.S. However, I have found that even at $5.00 a gallon, the price of gas will be the least of our excitement.  You have to plan for a road trip, or any travel adventure for that matter.  We have been to Europe twice, to the islands a couple of times, but we have "done" more road trips. I don't pretend to be a world traveler, but I have learned a thing or two about traveling in general.

I will say that my hubby and I do pretty well traveling together. As we drove through France one year, we only had a couple of minor skirmishes over directions and routes, and most of those took place while circling the roundabouts, trying to decide if the GPS device was correct or the paper map. Once we escaped the tyranny of the roundabout, the screaming stopped.

So how do you plan a road trip? It's not the same as it was when our kids were young...the seat belt laws were relatively non-existent or at least not as punitive. Our van had a bed in the back: one kid playing on the bed, two in the middle seat fighting and one on an ice chest between us surfing the channels on the radio. I wouldn't dream of doing that now, but hey, I used to stand up in the bed of my Dad's pickup riding down the road.  Country girl, remember?

So here they are - Laurel's road trip rules.  I've thrown in a few other travel tips that we learned the hard way.

1) Have lots of maps and learn how to fold them.  The main source of revenue for a map company is maps. The more maps they print, the more profits they make.  Hence, companies that make maps print them on really flimsy paper, so that they rip and tear with use. Maps only last 400 or 500 miles, so you need at least two copies of each map, especially for states like Texas, where you can drive for days on the same highway, folding and refolding the map everytime you drag it out. Use colored pens to mark your route, even though you will change it several times during the trip. Throw them away when you get back home, or you'll get confused next time.

2) Learn the native language. I like to study up on the language before I go. You will be regarded as a more friendly tourist if you master a few phrases - "Where's the nearest toilet" or " Can I have some ketchup on these green thingies" or "I'm not paying that much for that purse!" Since we are heading for Texas, I have even learned a few important phrases: "Where's the Alamo?" and "Bless her heart!"

3) Portable devices are very useful tools. You can never have too many portable devices on a trip, especially if you want to stand out as a tourist.  You will need several cameras, so each of you can take the same exact scene in case one of you isn't good at focusing.  If you each have an iphone, so much the better - that way, when you don't have any signal on either phone, you can each be frustrated.  And it's good to have a portable GPS, in case you can't figure out how to operate the one in your rental car or in case your paper map is totally thrashed.  And of course, don't forget all the chargers, chips and cables to go with your devices. You need them when you're traveling 70 MPH down the don't want to miss the turnoff. And by all means, wear them all around your neck.

4) Keep a journal of your daily adventures. You think you will remember everything about your trip, but you are wrong, especially if you are advancing in age.  So you best write it down. Who would have thought that I would forget where I lost my purse with my passports and all my credit cards? Or that little cafe where we both got food poisoning...not good on a drive trip! Besides, journals are fun to read several years later.

5) Have reasonable expectations and set reasonable goals. You cannot get from Denver to Houston in one day, even though it "looks like freeway all the way, honey".  You can't expect to find one of those really nice hotels in a town with a Quonset hut for a post office.  And you can't get a glass of Rombauer in a diner the specializes in fried catfish. You need to go with the flow and flavor of the region, take it easy, and keep your snotty attitude in check. Your mantra is "When in Rome, do as..."

6) Do some research about your destinations. We don't usually make a lot of reservations on our road's more fun flying by the seat of our know, "ex temper".  And forget those AAA Travel guides - by the time you find out where you are and are madly flipping through the pages for a hotel suggestion, you have passed three places to get a good meal and four places to stay.  Surfing the internet for the "significant" historical stuff and other noteworthy places where you will be going is fun and informative, and worth the effort. You don't want to get back home and have your friends say "What? You didn't see the Leaning Tower of Pisa??? You went to Italy and you didn't see it????". "Duh!!!"

7) Memorialize your trip. Besides the journal you so diligently kept during your trip, you will want to put all your pictures in a scrapbook of some kind when you get home.  But rather than spending a gazillion dollars on all that pretty paper, the ink and photo paper for your printer, the stickers and embellishments, the punches and glues, might I suggest downloading them onto the Costco website or My Publisher. You will end up with a beautiful coffee table book with a lot less hassle.

Road trips are all about compromise and adjusting to the daily flow. They are about listening to great music, laughing over yesterday's trauma, finding interesting sites, experiencing new cuisines and capturing a little history.  They are not for discussing why your son quit college, the rapid downfall of your IRA or your mother-in-law's drinking problem.  They are for your amusement and adventure.  So just sit back, relax and enjoy the ride!

Laurel.  Happy traveling!


  1. I had to laugh while reading your road trip rules. Growing up our family was always in a car driving everywhere. As an adult I have been fortunate to travel many places far and wide. I do think I have experienced at least everything you have mentioned. Happy traveling...

    1. I love road trips, and I too grew up that Dad's mantra was how many states can we do in a day...."but Dad!!! I have to go potty! Canh't we please stop???"

  2. Thanks for following me, I am back at you girlie. Since my husband is a fraidy cat we will not be leaving the country anytime soon. Maybe I'll have to learn to speak redneck for finding the bathroom. "Where are the porta potties?"

    1. LOL! you got it! Or "where can we do some noodling 'round here??"


Thanks for visiting my blog. I appreciate all those who share and leave their comments very much. Laurel

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