In a few weeks, I’m heading up to Montreal for a wedding. I’m looking forward to my first visit to La métropole, which I’ve heard is plenty cool. But to be totally honest, I’m even more excited for the drive.
Here are my go-to tips for an epic road trip.
Actual CDs with new music
That’s right; I know you’ve got digital this and that and M-P-whatever, but long car rides leave you with plenty of time to listen to something you normally might not choose to. Rather than play the same tunes, this could be a great chance to finally pick a side in the debate over Led Zeppelin I through IV, or try stopping into a record store and ask for the clerk’s favorite album for the ride. For even more fun, dig out a few old CDs from your youth to add to the mix. There’s a good chance you won’t be saying Bye, Bye, Bye to these tunes.
Listening to a story can be isolating, but a good investigative tale — whether a good piece of journalism (e.g. the “Serial” craze) or an old-timey murder mystery piece of radio theater — keeps you on the edge of your seat and will give you something to discuss for miles.
I know; it sounds like I’m becoming my mother. Now that we have digital cameras, there’s no real value bringing a Polaroid, right?
When taking photos on my phone, I end up with a dozen of each shot to be extra sure I get a great (i.e. Instagram-able) photo. With a Polaroid, you still get an instant product, but you only have one chance to get the shot; it’s a great metaphor for life!
More importantly, you end up with something you can give away. Write a tiny note in the white space and mail it off like a postcard to family or a friend.
One way to make an epic road trip fail is to come home with a mouth full of cavities from the car snacks. Take care of your teeth — dental work isn’t cheap!
Along the way, you might stumble onto a hidden lake, or get an invite to a pool party with new friends you make. Bottom line: You never know when there might be a chance to swim, and you don’t want to be the only one left high and dry.
Back home, you’re already on your smart phone way too much. As college students in Italy, my friends and I didn’t have smartphones, so we navigated new cities using good, old-fashioned paper maps. There was something fun about testing our ability to navigate by working together — it’s another great opportunity to bond (even if it is through arguing). And as long as you’re not in a rush, getting lost is could lead to the best adventure yet.
Mostly to look cool. Let’s be real.
When I travel, I prefer making loose plans rather than rigid ones. When it comes to planning a road trip, set your route and a few desired stops before leaving, but be flexible once you’re on the road. When you reach a town you think you want to stop at, grab a local newspaper to see what cool or quirky things are happening that day. Do one. Or do all of them.
Sunscreen and lip balm
Just because you are driving doesn’t mean you are protected from sunburn. Apply sunblock not just for the out-of-car excursions, but also for while you’re in the car. The sun on your arm by the window can cause plenty of damage.
Pillows and blankets
Whether you end up sleeping under the stars, in a hotel, or in your car, you want to be comfortable.
Paper towels and toilet paper
The same mentality as the above but for messes. Rest stops are risky enough as it is; don’t trust that they’ll have the paper products.
First aid kit
Because it’s the responsible thing to do, and I’m a total spazz that is likely to get hurt at least once.
Just because a trip is memorable doesn’t guarantee you’ll remember everything that happened. Maybe you’ll have an amazing insight that you’ll want everyone else to read – or maybe you’ll have a wild experience you’ll want no one else to read about. The point is that you’ll be surprised at how much you’ll have totally forgotten about. A fun bonus is that if you take the time to record where you stay and what you did, it can be a helpful resource for friends who take the same trip.
This is still probably the easiest way to make new friends.
A friend who can keep a secret
That’s all I’m going to say about that. 😉