How to Rock a Road Trip
In 2015, we drove more than 5,000 miles across the British Isles to put together our print journal A Year in the UK & Ireland. Needless to say, we learnt a few things about how to master the art of the road trip.
From going old school with paper maps to following your nose and learning to throw the plan out the window, these road trip tips will lead you well on the way to an epic adventure that even Kerouac would be envious of.
Use paper maps
In this day and age, we’re hard-wired to type things into a device and let a computer do all the work for us. It’s undeniable that using a GPS to navigate your road trip is quicker and easier, but where’s the fun in that?
Use a paper map (remember them?) where possible on your road trip to make the experience more exciting and sharpen up your body’s inner GPS. Being able to read and understand maps is a handy string to add to your bow, and in areas where GPS signal is weak or non-existent you’re aptly prepared to steer your way out of a sticky situation.
Plan, but don’t plan
One of our top road trip tips is to know your destination, but not be too fussed about how you get there. You have to organise a road trip to a certain extent otherwise you’ll just be driving around forever using up all your petrol, but having too much of a rigid plan will crush all the thrill out of your journey.
Before you set off, familiarise yourself with your route’s layout by looking at a map. Scan across the things you might see along the way and make mental notes of a few potential stopping places. Leave plenty of time for diversions, and when you’re on the road don’t be too preoccupied with getting straight to your destination.
Further to limiting your road trip planning, don’t be afraid to follow your nose once you’re out and about. Take full advantage of the beauty of driving and go in whatever direction takes your fancy. If you spot something that looks interesting, ditch the plan you loosely made earlier and go seek that out instead.
Embracing the freedom driving provides is key to a successful and exciting road trip. Without that outlook it will just feel like you’re going on a long, tedious, chore-like drive.
Bring all the snacks. Make sure your car is stocked up with goodies that you can pick at while you’re sat at the wheel. You never know when a traffic jam might strike, so it’s actually essential to have some food and drink in the car at all times in case you get stuck in gridlock. It’s rare that you’ll be stranded for hours on end, of course, but we see the mere threat of traffic as a good excuse to make sure our car looks like a mini market on wheels.
Build some playlists
Music is essential to a good road trip. There are plenty of classic road trip playlists out there, but essentially you just want anything that you can comfortably crank up and belt out at the top of your lungs.
Compile your playlists beforehand so you can just whack it one once you start up the engine. Make sure you take into account the music taste of your passengers, otherwise you might end up with some very grumpy companions after a few hours…
Find adventure along the way
One of the best ways to break up the longer sections of your drives is to find something fun to see along the way. There are endless methods for this: scan across Google maps to see if there are any national parks or areas of natural beauty along your route; pick something like National Trust or UNESCO sites to stop off at; or simply weave through places you’ve never heard of before and take a break in a village pub.
Long drives provide excellent opportunity to discover something new. We always made sure we made a pit-stop somewhere along the way if we were doing anything more than three hours, and we were always surprised with what we stumbled on.
Take the back roads
While the speed and mindlessness of motorway driving are somewhat alluring, it makes for a really dull road trip. There are (nearly) always other routes you can take where you’ll find a lot more excitement along the way. It might take you a little longer to reach your ultimate destination, but that’s a small price to pay for a far more adventurous ride.
This will sharpen up your map skills even more, as you’ll have to use Google maps (or that aforementioned paper map) to navigate your way along the back roads. These fun routes will make you feel like an explorer as you hop from place to place instead of stare blankly out the windscreen.
Don’t be afraid to get lost
We live in a time when it’s almost impossible to get lost. A combination of road signs, GPS, maps, and locals can get you out of pretty much any situation, so there shouldn’t be a fear of going off the beaten path.
When it comes to road trip tips, we actually advise that you get lost once in a while. Without any idea of where you are and no direction in-mind, you’re free to focus on whatever might come your way. Aimless driving is one of the most exciting and liberating parts of road tripping, and extra time should always be set aside for it.
What would you add to this list of road trip tips?