Road tripping is not a mission to take lightly. No matter the destination of your summer trip (because you are taking one, right?), most of us tend to plan out and get hyped over the destination. Concerts, beaches, extended family, theme parks, camping, thrill-seeking of all sorts… These are amazing ways to make memories and live life to the fullest, not to mention recharge after a long Winter and chilly Spring – but, like everything else, sometimes the journey is more important.
Road tripping can be stressful; spending hours upon hours in one place with the people that you love? Sorry, but even love isn’t strong enough to last a 12-hour car ride through the flat plains of the Midwest without at least one argument. But you’ll eventually get past that. Here are the four stages of planning a road trip.
Pick a Date
This might sound easy, but the truth is that coordinating schedules between you and your buddies/family can be especially difficult this time of year. Many people try and vacation during the summer, and that can create some office conflicts (obviously, half the office can’t have August off). Add to that the fact that some workplaces require you to request days off several weeks in advance, and this can be trickier than you first anticipated.
On the other hand, you probably want to know the weather you can expect on your trip, and you can only reliably predict that a few weeks ahead of time. Finding a balance between the two can be difficult, especially if you live in an unpredictable climate, but pick a date that is in the middle of summer if possible, to avoid spring showers or fall winds creeping in on your vacation.
Also, try to combine your road trip with other summer outings! This will save you time and money. Obviously, the wishes of your road tripping companions need to be taken into account as well, but they likely share some interests or connections with you. If you all work together, perhaps it could be combined with a business trip (if that’s the case, check to see if you need to track your miles) or to visit a shared family member. It might not always be in your best interest to combine road trips, but at least consider it.
Plan Your Route
DON’T SKIP THIS ONE. I know it’s tempting to just say, “f*ck it, I’m spontaneous, I’ll just plug the address into my phone once we get out of town.” Look, if it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t, and that rule definitely applies here. No trip can be that easy unless you happen to be driving a route that you’ve done several times over.
Look into the status of all the highways you plan on taking and calculate a rough road time. Of course, you’re not going to be able to predict all the emergency pit stops, but having an estimate will help you know if you’re veering wildly off course. Everyone swears by separate map apps, so I won’t recommend a specific one to you. Just know that you bear the responsibility for its accuracy, so you might want to double check.
Before you head out on the road, discuss with your friends who will be in charge of what. This includes primary tasks, like who will buy your initial snacks, who will make the road trip playlist, and who will be in charge of gathering any other necessities. Before officially assigning roles, consider the following:
- The driver is responsible for driving. That’s it. This is a grueling enough task without any added responsibilities. Although at some point the driver might relinquish the reins out of exhaustion, generally the primary driver owns the car and is therefore assuming a lot of the risk from the get-go, especially if any secondary drivers aren’t insured. Let the driver call the shots; they’ve earned it.
- Shotgun is always an enviable position, but not one for the faint of heart. Shotgunners are in charge of navigation, music, and keeping the driver awake. The latter is the most important job, but don’t put anyone in this position if you hate their music taste or if they have trouble telling their right from their left.
- The backseat is for the slackers. They sleep and distribute snacks. This is for the people you don’t trust up front.
You might think that this should be the first step, but it’s actually important that it takes place after you assign roles. The reason is, the driver is probably going to have extra expenses. While everyone will chip in for gas, drivers need to make sure their entire car is safe for the trip. This includes a lot more than just filling up before you head out, and that should be taken into account when splitting up financial responsibilities.
Second, while planning in advance is essential for a stellar road trip, life doesn’t follow a plan. You might’ve had an emergency or unexpected expense the week before the trip. This obviously isn’t ideal, but moving ahead with the trip without informing your fellow road trippers can only end badly. Consider the 50/30/20 finance plan (50% for necessities, 30% for wants, and 20% for debt or savings) and whether your road trip can still fit into it. If not, appeal to your friends for help or reconsider if this road trip is worth neglecting your savings account for another month.
Look, I know that that is the sort of advice that comes from your dad, not your favorite lifestyle website, but someone’s gotta say it. Saving is important, but so is living life! No one except your dad expects you to have a perfect retirement account, but you need to give it a little love consistently. Road tripping may be one of the best times you can ever have, but it needs to be planned carefully in order to avoid disaster.
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