While travel advertising is often filled with images of airports, airlines, cruise ships, etc. – it is easy to forget that the vast majority of trips are taken via cars, RVs, and motorcoaches. Road trips are a great way to see both the usual tourism destinations, plus the areas that you would fly over if you were to take a flight. In the U.S., the interstate highway system was designed in part to provide access to the wealth of tourism opportunities this country has to offer, most importantly the National Parks system. The great American road trip is still alive and well, and certain destinations are built specifically to cater to this type of traveler (think Route 66).
Around the world, driving cross country provides the opportunity to have unplanned, organic interactions with areas that may not be designed as tourist spaces. These types of experience will often get you closer to the ‘authentic’ experience of any given place. When road tripping, there are a few important things to remember:
- Be sure to agree on what type of road trip you are taking with your travel party before you leave. Some people are only satisfied if they get in a certain number of solid driving hours per day, while others prefer to stop at interesting attractions along the way. This distinction often comes when considering whether the road trip itself is the purpose of the trip, or whether it is more important to get to the destination.
- Have fun. Road tripping can get boring fast if you don’t have fun things to do along the way. My wife and I have a rule on every road trip that if we see a sign for the ‘worlds largest/greatest/tallest/smallest/etc.’ anything we HAVE TO STOP – no matter what. This rule throws an interesting twist into all of our road trips and we’ve had some of our most memorable experiences because of it.
- Decide whether you’ll have your route totally mapped out beforehand or whether you’ll decide where to go as your trip progresses. Having everything planned out might be more appealing to the dependable traveler, while the venturer might much prefer to let the road guide them. In the next paragraph, I’ll provide some resources to help you plan as much or as little of your road trip as you like.
This may seem silly to some of you, but there are wide variety of map tools out there, so I feel as though I should recommend my favorite – Google Maps is my go to mapping tool, and I’ve used it on almost every road trip I’ve ever taken. It has handy features – for instance – one that lets you search for things along your route which is great if you’re looking for a place to eat but don’t want to stray too far from the highway. Beyond Google Maps, one of the best road tripping websites I’ve found is Roadtrippers. Roadtrippers lets you put in your departure city and your destination and gives you an incredible wealth of information for both along the way and about your trip. It will tell you how long your trip will take, how much fuel should cost you along the way, and provides information about accommodations, attractions, food and drink, parks and recreation, points of interest, and camping along the way. Out of all the road trip websites I’ve found, this one is by far the most useful.