The Essentials for Any Road Trip

I am, dearest friends, at long last in NYC with my beautiful and hospitable cousins. Yesterday was mostly comprised of the nine-hour drive, getting a little lost in Westchester, clementines, the Jersey Turnpike, and a lot of Ke$ha. It was in the midst of this revelry that it occurred to me how well-suited i have become, of late, to road tripping.

My whole life my parents have conditioned me to be a good traveler.  My father taught me how to pack, navigate, and explore a new place to uncover its best hidden restaurant or secretly amazing museum, whereas my mother deemed i take necessary relaxation time so as to fully enjoy the adventures to be had. Both lessons of equal merit in my mind. When i embarked on my first only-friends road trip to Vermont and Montréal last year (and by this, i mean no parents to guide or purchase snacks) i knew i was ripe and ready to head out on the open road because of their endless advice and our innumerable trips. While the trip to Montréal had a few snafus (mainly getting out of the city when it’s predominantly one-way roads and Google Maps has failed you (again)) i was pretty pleased that we, my friends and i, accomplished such a task.

And, as i’ve now taken three such road trips with only friends (said trip to Montréal; to Cape Cod and back; to Washington D.C. and onwards to North Carolina) and something like seven or eight road trips total since this time last year, i do feel as though i’ve learned a thing or two about what can make or break a good driving excursion.

Therefore, i share with you (and invite your own addendums!) an updated Traveler’s Tips from Lizzie List: The Road Trip Edition.

(please note: all of these tips are in addition to the aforementioned overarching Traveling Tips Page, so read those first if you haven’t already!)

Tip #1: Bring Snacks

I tend to prefer of the healthy-ish variety (like clementines or trail mix) only because i never seem to have any luck finding all-natural-organic-granola-hewn-by-fair-trade-self-employed-women-in-developing-nations in your average gas station. Okay, maybe that was a little stab at my Carrboro roots, but still. Snacking on the road is key, and you never want to run dry of such supply – particularly when you’re driving through Southern Vermont. Nothing for miles, to the untrained eye…bringing me to:

Tip #2: Try for the Best Exits

As i learned when driving to upstate VT, often the signs for food at exits can be several miles away from the highway itself. For this reason, i advise the snacks – but also encourage you to employ the food-rife and gas station-plenty exits when you have the chance. Also, ensure you have the necessary cash or credit to use with at pay at the pump equipment. Granted, anywhere around major metropolises is going to have plenty of rest-friendly places, but when in the more rural areas: take it while you can!

Tip #3: Read Maps and Directions AHEAD OF TIME.

This, more than anything else, would be my biggest chunk of advice. So often in the GPS Generation we rely on KittyKat and TomSlom or whatever to guide us, somewhat blindly, to our destinations. This frightens me for two reasons: 1. Clearly, Cthulu has simply manipulated all of our minds (probably with the help of The Silence) to go only where he sees the ends being fit, and 2. When the battery runs out, your GPS spontaneously combusts, or you deviate from the path – what then? I’m not saying to chuck out the GPS from your car (i borrow my mother’s on occasion and, when lost in Westchester, it proves to be incredibly useful) but i recommend making it a secondary guide. Read the map yourself to get a broader idea of where you’re headed and possible intersections that lead to less-insane highways. In fact, such knowledge of the map might benefit you if there’s insane traffic you wish to avoid.

Most of all, though, read the directions beforehand. I always print out GoogleMaps or MapQuest directions even with the GPS and Road Atlas (kept in my car) and read them long before hitting the road – especially when the trip encompasses two days on I-95. It helps to have the complete map in my mind, but also to see when you’re going to be making thirteen turns in the span of two miles.

With this, though, comes tip #4…

Tip #4: When Possible, Have an Excellent Navigator

Which also includes sub-tip: be a good navigator. My friends have endured nothing less than navigator boot camp from me (sorry, ladies and lads) as i learned from my father. Read the directions clearly, citing the distance both in mileage and in estimated time. If it’s one of those famous OH-MY-ROWLING-WE-HAVE-TO-MAKE-TWELVE-TURNS-ON-ONE-WAY-STREETS-IN-THE-NEXT-FIVE-MINUTES endeavors known to me in D.C. and Montréal, prep the driver wayyy ahead of time with “In about half an hour, we’ll take a right onto Hermione Knows Best Dr. Immediately to our left, then, we’ll make a U-Turn on top of another car at a red light to swivel as fast as possible onto Fred Weasley Remembrance Way.” (Et cetera). A good driver, in my personal opinion, will repeat back to the navigator what they just heard to ensure clarity.

Ultimately, though, the navigator is watching the road almost as much as the driver when enduring such hairy routes. They’re the driver’s wing-men and chicken wings through ice and purple elephant blockages.*

And, finally…

Tip #5: Music. Have it.

As a DJ, i like to think i make a pretty decent playlist mix. But don’t take it from me (she said, patting herself on the back and enjoying a shaken-not-stirred martini on the sands of Baja). For this reason, i like to make extensive, tailored-to-trip-time road trip mixes for the journey, each unique to the people i’m with. While i’m a stickler for the my-car-my-music rule, i try to accommodate other people’s tastes into the hours of music. For example: drives with my dad will always include some classic rock (ish) stuff (Billy Joel, Elton John, the Beatles) as well as our mutual favorites: Mumford & Sons, the Avett Brothers, and such soothing tunes that Rihanna makes. For my friends, mixes tend to include Ke$ha, Lady GaGa, Pitbull, Darren Criss, Ke$ha, and Lady GaGa (maybe that’s more for me, in the end, but…). Whatever your taste, be it audiobooks or music, i endorse a hearty playlist to pass the time.

And now, when it’s T-Minus 8 HOURS TO MEETING JOHN AND HANK GREEN, i need a shower.

current jam: ‘DFTBA’ hank green

best thing in my life right now: I AM MEETING JOHN AND HANK GREEN TODAY.

*these can happen. literally, i have been stuck behind a purple elephant in the middleofnowhere, virginia.

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