Above, I share the story of my recent three-week road trip spent rock climbing in Wyoming. But what about the nitty-gritty, those deep-down details of how to coordinate and execute a successful road trip? Honestly, it doesn’t take as much planning as you might think, but there are some basics you should know before you hit the road. Below you’ll find a bunch road-trip essentials for a good time, along with a few no-no’s. Follow these guidelines, and how can you have anything but loads of fun?
First of all, it’s essential that you and your traveling companion are on the same wavelength. If you have any doubts about the people you’re traveling with, try a mini-trip with them. Go for a weekend and note if they have any habits that would drive you nutty if you had to spend more than two days with them. Nothing is worse than being locked into a lengthy time on the road with someone whom you like less and less with every minute spent together.
Along with this essential goes the need for flexibility from all road trippers. Don’t set your travel plans in stone, especially if you’re focused around outdoor adventuring. That way, if you get weathered out or just plain bored in one area, you can all agree to move on and check out another area. Spontaneity is part of the fun of calling the back of a truck or a van your home for a while, so take advantage of your mobility!
No matter where you’re going, always pack some warm clothes – you just never know where you’ll end up, and nothing is more miserable than shivering all day and night in a cold, damp vehicle or tent. A warm sleeping bag is a definite must as well, as are a swimsuit and towel – who knows when you’re going to find a shower? Maybe your only bathing opportunity for a few days or weeks will be jumping in a river – trust me, after a few days of not showering and playing hard in the dirt, you’ll want to get wet, no matter how cold the water is.
As for food, that’s up to you, but I suggest using large plastic boxes with see-through sides for easy organization and storage. These are available cheap at places like K-Mart and Target, and they sure beat rummaging through grocery bags to find dinner. A large water jug is a necessity as well. And definitely spoil yourself when you’re picking up the plastic boxes by purchasing a nice, off-of-the-ground camp chair. I got one for $13 at K-Mart, and it made hanging out in the evening that much more comfortable.
Finally, don’t forget to carry some cash. You never know where or when your wheels will break down and what you’ll have to do to get out of the mess. I had a pretty scary experience down in Arizona one night long ago when a tire flattened with nary an ATM in sight. Luckily, my partner and I scraped together almost $25 between us and managed to convince a suspicious small-town mechanic to give us a used tire that would get us to a place with cash machines.
What should you leave behind? Well, you can figure out most of that, but I will say that large coolers tend to become more of a pain than anything else, especially if you’re going to be camping anywhere near a river (you can store perishables there). Constantly draining coolers and replacing the ice are no way to spend your rest days.
And please, please don’t bring anything work-related with you on the road. This should be avoided at all costs, unless you’re joining the ranks of those who are permanently on the road. Nothing is more irritating than traveling companions who are chained to their cell phones or computers. Turn that stuff off, sit back and stare and the clouds, and just enjoy your time away from it all. Ahhh, life is good, no?