Road Trip 101
June 18, 2014

Road Trip 101

Recently, I wrote about why my favorite way to travel is the road trip, so I thought I would write about some bits of advice in order to have a successful road trip. Taking a road trip is a combination of impromptu fun and organized planning. The way that a route can change in an instant really appeals to me, but I also like to have a very general plan, nothing too firm, but at least ideas. The end destination is not the only fun of a road trip; the path we take to get to that end destination can provide the best parts of a road trip vacation.

Okay, so the first step is to decide whether you will take a road trip to get to an end place or if the vacation is the randomness of the road trip. For the former, part of the fun of the road trip is that once you get some where, you still have a vacation fun in front of you, but on the way to your end destination of fun you stop and experience different places and activities thus starting the vacation earlier. This is the type of road trip I take more often than not. I like to have a place to end up but randomly stop and do things on the way as well.

For the latter, the idea is simply to pick a direction, start driving, and stop as things catch your interest. So, for example, if you were to take off from Oklahoma City going west on Interstate 40, perhaps you drive until Weatherford, Oklahoma, where you see a sign for the Stafford Space Museum. You go to the Museum and then continue on your path until you see something else that calls out to you and so on. Another way to do this is to pull out the atlas, pick a path, and see what is available around that path. So sticking with our example of heading west on I-40, perhaps you notice Roswell, New Mexico, so you go south to it. From there, you head farther south to Carlsbad Caverns National Park, then northwest to White Sands National Monument, and then decide to keep going into Arizona to see Tombstone. From there, you weave your way north to the Grand Canyon and start making your way back east randomly choosing your path based on what you want to see. Sounds fun, right?

Regardless of the kind of road trip, make sure to bring at least an atlas, but I would also suggest getting gazetteers of the states in which you travel. These will help in mapping the course, changing the path, and just general navigation.

So once you decide what kind of road trip you are going to take, it is important to consider what to bring. If you plan to camp your way from place to place, which I definitely recommend, you will need to bring proper camping gear in addition to everything else, but if you plan to stay in hotels and motels, then you will just need your clothes, toiletries, and other needs of that sort. Regardless of how you sleep on your road trip, you should consider bringing an ice chest full of food including peanut butter, bread, sandwich meats, cheeses, condiments, salad, and other goods, water, and drinks. Plus, bring snacks like chips, fruit, jerky, sweets, savories, and other goodies. This will allow you to stop at different locations and have picnics of sorts. And if you decide you do not want to stop for a picnic, you still have snacks to enjoy as you drive. Everyone likes snacks. I suggest trail mix, gummy worms or bears, jerky, nuts, and fruits like apples, oranges, bananas, and other easy-to-eat fruits.

As you travel, you will likely want to enjoy some of the local fare. I suggest avoiding chain restaurants and checking out local ones. I have never had a bad experience when doing this.

It is also important to bring fun stuff to do whether that consists of books to read or listen to on audio, games, hobbies, or electronic devices. I always have a camera to take pictures of what we see. Sometimes, on our road trips, my boyfriend and I read to each other or play word games. I will also write or read or crochet. In fact, as I write this blog, we are deep into our road trip.

Finally, it is important to be flexible because no matter how much you plan or organize down to the minute, something will affect your road trip. That might be a traffic accident, car troubles, a sudden distraction or change of plans, or just some other experience. Instead of letting that ruin a trip, just prepare yourself that stuff will happen and that stuff is part of the experience of a road trip. That stuff is really what makes a road trip so fun and interesting. The sudden changes in the trip and experiences often bring the most wonderful memories. The more open you are, the better the trip will be. I promise.

A bit of planning, proper packing, food and drinks, an atlas, and an open mind can lead to the best road trip vacation.

Image Credit: Thinkstock

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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