I suppose being such an advocate for road tripping has caused it, but I’m constantly baffled by people’s reactions when I suggest that rather than head to a busy airport, fly with limited bags and miss out the journey, they should consider the road as an option. If you’re in the same boat, or you’re thinking about it but find yourself thoroughly stuck on the fence, read on and find out why road tripping is the way forward!
Lets start with the obvious; we all want to save a dollar or ten. When you break down a trip, you’ll note your biggest expenses are often flights and accommodation. Well don’t worry, you essentially need neither if you’re planning on hitting up the road. Flights are only going to prevent you enjoying the spoils of the journey (see points 3 & 4) and your accommodation cost can come down to practically, and sometimes literally nothing (see point 6).
If your road trip is in the Americas, double bonus, gas costs less than water here.If you have a half decent credit card, your insurance is covered and you can earn cash back. If you’re really savvy, you can even get hold of cars that companies need moving, and pay just $1 a day. No really.
2. Unlimited Gear
One of my biggest annoyances when traveling to a location via the air is the inability to get more than your standard checked luggage to your destination. There you are considering the adventure of a lifetime but you can’t get your tent, grill, pack and bear canister in your suitcase. Well don’t worry, the trunk of your car (or the boot as we say in England) will carry it all.
Actually it gets even better than this. Not only can you store all of your clothes and camping gear, you can take a cooler full of food and wine, thermoses which supply you with endless hot coffee all day and all the books you want. If you buy a ton of new things on your trip, no worries, throw them in the back!
3. Seeing the ‘in between’ locations.
It sounds obvious to say, but I think people underestimate how great this aspect of road tripping is. You might well be stopping at Lake Tahoe and then Yosemite National Park, but if you drive it, you’ll come across Jackson, the quaintest little town in the West. Or maybe you thought of seeing Santa Barbara for a few days then wanted to drive to the Grand Canyon? You’re about to be surprised then when you hit the beautiful town of Ojai with its lush outdoor bookstore and main street to spend hours on. The in between places can become the highlights without any warning all.
4. Full control of where you can get to.
No road trip, no freedom. Last year I decided Alaska was on the menu. I also liked BC a lot. So which should I explore? Ha! Both obviously, I had a car.
The biggest plus to road tripping is you can get out a map and essentially put pins in every corner of it. You can effectively go anywhere. You want to drive from New York to LA? Easy. Want to hike Joshua Tree National Park then see the Northern Lights in Anchorage Alaska? Not a problem. The car can take you to mountains, beaches, forests and cities. It’s all on the table. Best of all, if you fancy something in the middle of your trip that you hadn’t thought of before, you just change plan and roll with it.
5. The Possibilities on Day One
This one is a slightly corny side note I suppose, but it’s true non the less. I’ve done so many long term road trips now I have lost count, but the feeling I get when the morning of departure comes is epic still to this day. I finish loading up, close the trunk, and get into the driver’s seat. Plugging in the iPod, music begins to play, and the excitement builds. I have my coffee next to me, the tent and gear in the back and off I roll. The next month is unknown. I have a plan, but it can change, an adventure will unfold and could lead literally anywhere. There’s nothing like it.
6. You can take a tent
Well if you read point one then you may have seen this coming. On a road trip you are (just as in many other areas) free and
unrestricted. You aren’t booking a two week stay at a hotel on this trip. No no no. You can roll up to a camp site late in the day and throw your tent up, a process that you’ll get down to five minutes or so after a few nights practice. Camp fires will be lit, and sat around all evening, not before a good hot dog or burger on the grill. How much will it cost? Well a typical camp site in the US ranges from $10 to $30 a night, though if you plan it (and see another of our articles) you can camp for free almost everywhere!
Gone without a shower for a few nights? Okay, jump on Expedia and find a $40 motel for an evening, you can just go with the flow. Motel, Hotel, Air BnB, Campsite. Like every other aspect of the trip, you are totally uninhibited with regards to how much you spend and where you lay your head.
7. Sharing the burden
I’ve done plenty of solo road trips, but it doesn’t have to be a soul searching voyage of solitary travel. Get your friends onboard and you have co-pilots. I often take shifts on long drives, sleeping in back before taking over. Not only can you cover immense distances this way, but it will be some of the best quality time you’ll ever spend with your mates.
8. The right vehicle for the right job
Got 4 of you? Take a grand caravan and sleep fully outstretched in the back. Hitting the trails and hills, a 4×4 might be fun. Highway 1? Of course a convertible mustang. Of course the trip dictates the vehicle, but you can drive some epic wheels whilst you go! If you’re considering a long drive as I often do, a thought should go towards reliability. Intermediate cars are often more reliable and sturdy than compact or economy models and only a fraction more expensive, plus the extra room is extremely welcome on long trips.
9. Meeting locals
In South Illinois I once met a guy called Jackie, a twenty something worker at a rest stop. I guess he was an aspiring musician, because upon hearing my accent he pulled out his acoustic guitar and made up a song for me on the spot. I filmed him singing it for five minutes.
On the great Alaskan Highway, hundred of miles from anywhere I met a woman who sold coffee and machetes. She was lovely. The people on these trips are unexpected, amazing and crazy. You’ll only meet them if you can stop and chat.
With a road trip you really are your own boss. If you have a free week, drive down to the Smokey Mountains and hike a few days. If you have a month, circle the entire West Coast and have your mind blown. Have two? Drive down the coast of South America. It can all be on your schedule. Time is a big factor in deciding to road trip. I suppose it links to money, but a day on the road can be less than $50 if done right, so multiply it up, and you might find you can roll on for a while!