Top Ten Ingredients for Awesome Road Trips

by - Thursday, August 25, 2016

a woman standing on a rock looking at the rocky mountains for the first time

Now that we have another epic car trip under our belts, I have noticed some things really work to make countless hours in a small (but dignified) car way more fun than it should be.

10. A Sense of Wonder (this was the Boy's)

 I am not sure what he meant by this, but if I had to guess, I would think it has something to do with car games. Nothing fills him with more joy and wonder than car games. Our suggestions? 6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon (connect actors through the movies they are in), Marry Boff Kill, Top 3 (Name your top 3 favorite songs to listen to when you are walking somewhere, your top 3 favorite books about space travel, your top 3 dance moves for awkward situations, you top 3 favorite supreme court judges, etc), Are we there yet? (this is a real game), and Would you rather (the actual card game, which based on the number of fart jokes, is targeted for 2nd graders).

9. 2 Hour Switch-offs

 My Nana gave us this advice 6 years ago before we drove to Seattle the first time. It sounds like no big thing, but trust me, it is genius. Simply switch drivers every 2 hours. We would stop, get gas, and switch. Now with a hybrid car, it would take a lot longer to empty our tank, but 2 hours is still the perfect time.

You are never too far from it being your turn or from your turn being over. You can get a lot further in the day, and you won't feel as tired. Trust me, we do this now for any trip over 4 hours, and it keeps everything from getting stale.

8. A Camera

 You know the most important part of pictures? Taking them. I love my pictures, but I think if I lost them all, it would have still been valuable to take that moment to identify the experience as worth remembering. If you treat your experiences like they matter, than they do. Treat your life like something to be excited about. Getting out a camera is a simple reminder to do this.

fried clams on the oregon coast

7. FOOD 

All rules are off on road trips, until we remember how gross that makes us feel and then we turn it down a bit. Treats should be in the car. Also, water- dehydration doesn't help anyone and you can usually fill a reusable bottle at rest stops or at restaurants (just pour that glass of ice in after you pay the check). Depending on where you are, you can check local bakeries, candy stores, or coffee shops for treats that aren't just plastic-wrapped. But it is important to misbehave for goodness sake.

With those magical smartypants cell phones, you can look up restaurants at your next 2 hour switch off and get something more legitimate to the place you are going. You may just run into some gems, as well as some memorable stinkers. Balance the quick and easy with something more adventurous, and you will actually get a way better taste of where you are at.

Penn State Gnome kissing the jolly green giantcouple with their penn state gnome in front of the mississippi river

6. An Iconic Icon of Iconicity

 In our case, a gnome. In our specific current state, a gnome with no feet (no one ask the Boy about this, as the whole thing was rather traumatic). Going to the Mississippi= cool. Stinking a small plastic toy into the river=somehow a lot more memorable. Just the right amount of embarrassing.

Truck lost in the fog in south dakota

5. At least one moment where you are genuinely, seriously lost

Damn you, Mt. Rushmore. I will never forgive you for marring the otherwise amazing experience that is South Dakota (the best road trip state? I think yes). If your GPS isn't basically saying "I give up, I hate you, ACK ACK ACK!", then you haven't gotten lost enough yet. It is nice to have a plan, but it is also alright to be genuinely stressed, and then work it out. As my badass mother would say, if no one is on fire, then it is fine. These seeming failures make for great stories later.

4. Music Playlists

 Bonus points if said lists are on theme. We listened to "San Francisco" on our way out of California. Do you know there is so much music about California that we could basically listen to it the whole way out of the State? Also, we decided that "California Love" by Tupac was ahead of its time, and stands as a classic for all time. The Boy gets music tips and then we actually did them all on the second day (my dad won for best suggestions).

the badlandslake cour dalene

open road in big sky country

3. Scenic Splendor

 America has a diversely beautiful landscape, and this may sound like a platitude, but nothing feels truer after a day or two out driving. You never have to go that far out of your way to see somewhere ridiculously gorgeous, but it is even more shocking how many kinds of scenic splendor you can get out of one trip. The coast from San Francisco to Seattle even showed all sorts of dramatic changes. If there is a National Park on your route, always stop. Our only road trip regrets are National Parks we talked ourselves out of.

2. Surprise Bags

 My Dad made us these every year when we would take road trips to Maine, and they make every road trip awesome. I have no idea where he came up with it from (it could have been my Mom too... maybe one of them can elaborate, but Greenes are exceptionally committed gifters, so I suspect it is from that branch), but essentially you open a new small bag of road trip goodies every couple of hours (or once a day if you are a little older).

This can include coloring books, tamagotchis (yes, we still play with these when we can find them... we get ridiculously attached to them on the road, then they die of neglect as soon as we arrive at our destination), books, magazines, car games, mix cds, things related to where you are going (did I put a plunger and welcome mat in one of the surprise bags? Yes, yes I did), and about any other thing you can come up with. The best part is the excitement of knowing it's coming and the refreshing burst of new stuff to do. If I could recommend anything to someone taking a road trip, especially with children (or with childlike whimsy), this would be it.

giant paul bunyan in the redwood forest

man riding a jackalope at wall drug

man posing with trekfest float

1. The World's Largest_____

 Is it cheesy, tacky, or just shameful? Then for all things joyful, STOP and see it!! Tackiness is the flavor of life. The fact that these things exist all over the US (check the Roadside America website) says a lot about us as a country. And they are all good things. You should have at least one large cement something or food factory or museum of thing you never knew someone could care about a day. It will feed your soul. We are an amazing and strange country. This is how you experience it (almost all of this stuff is also free).

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  1. Surprise bags were your grandmother's invention, her answer to "How does one get three small children all the way to New Hampshire from Pennsylvania?"



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