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The Art of Planning a Road Trip

Pack Your Toothbrush – And a Sense of Adventure:
Road TripI have a tendency to think that “Planning” and “Road Trips” are something of an oxymoron. Road trips, by nature, are an adventure — just a group of family members or friends, maybe a dog or two, and the open road. But there are a few things that I would suggest to anyone embarking on a road trip.

Invest in a good road atlas. There’s no harm in getting lost — that’s part of the adventure — but a good atlas does more than show you the way. National Geographic and Rand McNally both put out wonderful vacation-oriented atlases that list popular (and not-so-popular) attractions along the way.

Pack yourself lots of goodies. Road trips are conducive to munchies — candy, cookies, or maybe celery and carrot sticks if you’re health conscious. Buy yourself a nice sized cooler bag. The Styrofoam variety are inexpensive and easily found in your local supermarket during summer months. And if you don’t want to spend the money on chemical ice packs, freeze water in self-sealing sandwich-sized plastic bags. These work great — they stay frozen for hours. Buy bottles of soda, water, or juice instead of cans. This way you can close them up when you’re done.

Don’t forget the music. Make sure there’s a variety. Even if you adore Metallica or The Beatles, if you’re on the road for a long time, you’re sure to get bored. Bring something to sing along to. And make sure you bring something for everyone’s musical tastes. No fighting, now…

When you’re loading up the car, be sure to arrange things wisely. Put the things you might need (sunglasses, snacks, CDs, maps) where a passenger can easily access them. You won’t want to have to pull over constantly to find things.

IMG_0003Invest in a few travel guides for the places you’re planning to stop at en route. They might cost you a few extra dollars, but they’re sure to be worth it. There are so many sights that you’d easily overlook without a good travel book. “Eyewitness” books are great for the major cities, and both “Rough Guides” and “Moon” travel books are great for someone on a limited budget.

Browse your local bookstore’s general travel section. There are some great, quirky sightseeing books on the shelves. Interested in factories, try “See it Made in the USA”, which lists numerous manufacturing plants that offer tours, including Crayola. There are many books geared towards specific interests such as zoos, amusement parks, tombstones, the Civil War, etc. There are books on small museums, small art towns, festivals, and trains. You’ll be amazed, so feel free to browse. Along those lines, Discovery Channel has out a series of books which are wonderfully original for someone planning a vacation — including books on dinosaur digs, American safaris, whale watching, and haunted locations.

And one serious note — if you’re going on a long road trip, make sure to have your car checked out thoroughly before you go. You certainly wouldn’t want to be stranded out in the middle of nowhere. If you have a cell phone, charge it and bring it with you (charger as well). But don’t talk while you’re driving. It’s just bad manners in addition to being a great hazard, and in many areas it’s also illegal without a hands-free headpiece.

Most importantly, bring your sense of adventure. Inevitably you’ll forget to pack something, but that’s what stores are for. Stopping to buy toothpaste isn’t the end of the world Just enjoy, and be open to what the road brings. You can’t fully plan a road trip — but you can take the driver’s seat when it comes to enjoying it.

Lisa A. Koosis is an author on Writing.Com which is accessible by anyone.

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