Road Trips: The Art of Going Everywhere Without Needing to BE Anywhere

With the invention and mass production of global positioning devices, itís very likely that you havenít been truly lost in a very long time. And that, my friends, is a shame.

14/02/2013 by Erin Owensby

With the invention and mass production of global positioning devices, itís very likely that you havenít been truly lost in a very long time. From the middle of the 20th century to now, America has lost some of the wonder once associated with road trips, and has instead replaced it with flight schedules, itineraries and activity minutiae. And that, my friends, is a shame.

Flying to a destination was once so prohibitively expensive that ordinary people (and by ordinary, I mean your name wasnít Rockefeller) simply couldnít afford it. Some of you may argue thatís still the case, but I digress. People drove everywhere in the family sedan or station wagon. Thatís just how vacations were. Stops at small roadside diners and attractions on the way to a resort town or city were commonplace, and everyone in the family had a good time, whether they wanted to admit it or not.

Budgets, especially vacation budgets, are as crunched as everything else in todayís economy. Getting back to a good, old-fashioned road trip will save you money and headaches, and you might be surprised at what you find along the way.

Compared to Flying, Driving is Cheap

Yes, gas is expensive. So is food. But itís not nearly as expensive as plane tickets for a family of four and a week of eating at restaurants. If you donít want to put miles on your own family vehicle, and you can afford to rent a larger one, do it Ė especially if you have children. They may not mind sitting next to each other on the 45 minute drive to grandmaís house, but theyíre sure going to get tired of it after 8 hours.

On a road trip, when, where and what you eat are in your hands Ė no more subsisting on Big Macs and Applebeeís. Spending money on restaurants can add up really quickly when you consider that youíll be eating 3 meals per day for each day youíre on vacation. By packing a cooler with drinks and sandwiches, and packing some assorted snacks and groceries, you can eat for a week at around 25% of the cost. Not only will you save money, youíll save time and your sanity. No more anxiously looking for a McDonaldís in the middle of nowhere because someone wants a cheeseburger.

Take What You Want Ė There Are No Rules

Raise your hand if you like standing in front of a baggage carousel for 30 minutes after an already-stressful flight with 200 of your closest friends. Anyone? No?

Road trip bonus: if it fits in your trunk (or backseat, or luggage rack, or whatever), it goes. Itís free to pack, it wonít get lost, nothing will possibly disappear out of it, and you can unload it as soon as you arrive with a minimal amount of discomfort.

Another road trip bonus: if you buy something really amazing, you donít have to worry about buying another piece of luggage and adding the cost of another checked bag or carry-on bag when itís time to take it home. You can always ship the item if it wonít fit in your vehicle.

Are We There Yet?

Yes. Thatís the simple convenience of a road trip. See a place youíd like to stop, but donít have time? Yes, you do, so go ahead and stop. The beauty of not having to be anywhere at a certain date and time is that you are free to explore great opportunities that you would otherwise have flown over or driven past. Your time is completely yours. If your child saw one of those old roadside attractions, like the ďWorldís Largest Ball of Twine,Ē and wants to stop, do it. Itís a golden opportunity to laugh, snap a couple pictures and stretch your legs for a bit.

If packing your family into a vehicle of any size and hitting the road for multiple hours scares you, fear not. Technology is your friend, and it has come a long way since you were a child stuck on Q in the alphabet game for 4 hours. Portable DVD players, tablets, smartphones and other gadgets have the ability to keep your children (or your spouse) occupied for hours. Download a few episodes of Phineas and Ferb, or a couple movies, and off you go. If youíre renting a vehicle, you will likely be able to choose one with a built-in DVD player or even a gaming system.

The purpose of a vacation is to spend time doing things you like, with the people you like. So much time is spent at the beginning and end of trips just getting to and from a particular destination, when itís time you could be spending watching sunsets, pointing out bald eagles, and stopping for ice cream. Take a trusty atlas or GPS (trust me on the atlas, GPS devices are notoriously fickle about working properly) and start driving. Have a destination in mind, but not set in stone. If you arrive on time, great. If you get there three days late because you stopped at a series of little towns and discovered a whole new part of America that you didnít know existed, even better.

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