We all love a road trip, right? An open road, stretching as far as the eye can see, into a distant vanishing point somewhere on a horizon of jagged peaks captures the imagination of every keen traveller. A winding ocean road or mountain track can tempt even the most die-hard couch potato to climb off the sofa and get behind the wheel.
Discussions on social media, magazine articles, television series, all usually portray a road trip as an exciting adventure, something to look forward to, often planned for weeks or even months.
Our view of road trips is also influenced by Hollywood, our favourite road trip movie, whether it is “Little Miss Sunshine”, “National Lampoon’s Family Vacation“, “Thelma and Louise”, “The Motorcycle Diaries” or “Road Trip”. The style of road trip movie we enjoy, probably helps us decide which road journey we take and how we take it.
Most of us have fond childhood memories of family outings to visit fairy-tale castles, wildlife reserves, beaches or theme parks. As a young child, the journey was still an adventure, getting there often as exciting as eventually arriving. We played car spotting games with siblings and even when Dad’s old beat-up banger broke down, being recovered just added to the adventure.
A road trip in Scotland: Roadtripping the Highlands and Islands of Scotland
There are undoubtedly some with memories of road trips gone bad, or at least not turning out memorable for the wrong reason. Expectations may have some responsibility here; the anticipation and excitement of the pending road trip, not living up to an enthused build up. Hopefully, nobody has experienced an encounter with in-bred, cannibalistic mutants?
What aspects make the difference between an epic road trip filled with unforgettable moments and a mundane drive to nowhere better forgotten?
For many planning and researching a road trip is almost as exciting as the journey itself, for others just hitting the road and heading towards the sun is the only way to go.
However, some basic planning can reduce the stress along the way, being prepared for a challenge can prevent it becoming a nightmare. Considering the weather, time and distance between stops, equipment, spares, possible routes and diversions, food to be carried will probably save some angst down the road.
Road tripping in Iceland: Road trip highlights in East Iceland
The amount of detail required is a matter of choice, though I prefer a degree of independence and feel too much planning can take away from the spontaneous adventure of a road trip.
Most of us associate road trips with jumping into a car with a few mates and heading off into the distance. However, a few friends riding motorcycles can just as easily make a road trip and of course many choose the comfort of a camper van or RV.
These may be the most common forms of road trip transport, but buses use roads, and travel between major cities and towns, often taking in some beautiful scenery, so why not by bus? Touring by bicycle is another option, travelling under your own steam will appeal to the more energetic, a bike is also a great way to take in the scenery. It’s certainly eco-friendlier and possibly a better way of meeting people along the road.
I’ve witnessed a woman riding a non-motorised, adult scooter in Iceland and a guy riding a monocycle in the Yukon, there doesn’t seem to be any limitations.
A wilderness road trip: Tales from the Road – The Yukon
Most importantly, the whatever the transport means chosen, it needs to be reliable. The occasional minor roadside repair is acceptable, but spending more time in vehicle repair shops than driving isn’t.
Whether choosing a classic car or a touring bicycle, it needs to be comfortable, nothing will turn your adventure into the road trip from hell than a literal pain in the butt. Driving a rickety, old bone-shaker may initially look appealing, but two or three days of aching backs and necks will soon take the shine off your classic vehicle.
Probably not so essential if a bicycle is your choice of transport, but a good sound system to sing along to is a must if driving.
The choice of route is as individual as the favoured vehicle, driving cross-country between cities, taking in a classic route or a more haphazard bee-line between A and B, all have their appeal. Beautiful scenery is probably the one common denominator we are all seeking, stunning snowy peaked mountains, winding coastal roads or remote wildernesses punctuated with crystal-clear lakes.
It’s just a matter of deciding where you want to finish and choosing a route which includes the kind of scenery you prefer. It’s also of course essential to ensure there are suitable options for accommodation, dining and refuelling along your chosen route.
For those driving their own bed around in the form of a camper van or RV accommodation isn’t an issue, but for the rest of us mere mortals, we’ll need to find a place to sleep each night.
Camping is an obvious option, carrying a tent, sleeping bags and cooking equipment. It offers great flexibility, with options to stay in commercial camp sites, with all the facilities or camping wild beside a lake or on the beach. If at least one of your companions can cook, it’s all good.
A Greek road adventure: Greek Travels, Roadtripping In The Peloponnese
Motels, hotels and guesthouses can provide convenient comfort along the way, even breaking up nights in the camper or tent. A night in a good bed can make the following day seem especially pleasant. Almost all will offer the option of breakfast and many will have restaurant facilities for evening meal, so another welcome break if none of the camping road trippers are exactly Gordon Ramsay.
The people we share our road tripping adventure with can either make or break the adventure, even the most spacious RV can seem claustrophobic if two people declare war along the road.
Easy going, flexible companions without many annoying habits but with similar interests to your own will make the best road trippers. Compatibility is especially important; if the group is too diverse in interests or tastes, time will be wasted in debate or even argument. Everything will be a cause of conflict, from where to go, what to do, accommodation stops, dining and the adventure will quickly disintegrate into misery.
Everybody should have some responsibilities on the trip, sharing the load. Sharing the driving is obvious, but for those that can’t drive navigation, cooking or pitching tents can be their area of expertise. It’s not only about sharing the effort, but prevents anybody just feeling like a passenger, everybody has a part to play, to contribute.
It is of course possible to take a solo road trip, in fact, I’ve done several of these for this site. There is a trade-off; nobody else to please, so the freedom to go anywhere, to do your own thing without need for discussion, however, there isn’t anybody to share the adventure with. Companionship is often an important part of a road trip.
Obviously the most important factor for any successful road trip, a thumping good soundtrack that everybody in the vehicle can sing along to is essential. It’s equally essential that the music is right, two weeks of the Vengaboys “Greatest Hit” could make the trip seem like an eternity. So be considerate when compiling the playlists, ensure they include the favourites of all road trippers.
So, what have I missed? Share in the comments, what you believe makes a perfect road trip.