RoadTrip America

Routes, Planning, & Inspiration for Your North American Road Trip

Travel Planning

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The days are getting longer, and the weather is turning warmer. Spring break's just around the corner, and those two little words keep creeping into conversation: RoadTrip! Is there any better way to answer the siren call of the two-lane blacktop than to invite a couple of your best friends to join you on a Kerouac-style adventure? You already hang with these people, so you know you can get along during the long days in the saddle -- or do you?


Hit the road & stay friends!

Traveling with buddies on daylong excursions to the beach, a park or the mall will tell you something about their sense of humor and other basic personality traits, but there is nothing like an extended roadtrip to bring out previously unnoticed character flaws. We all have some less than attractive habits and tendencies, but they don't have to spell disaster if you pack two essential items: awareness and tolerance. The following quiz should get you thinking about your own travel style, preferences and idiosyncrasies. With the same input from your travel mates before you hit the road, you'll be able to derail little problems before they can spoil the fun.

For each of the following statements, rate your response with 1 ("That's me"), 2 ("That's not me, but I can live with it") or 3 ("That's not me, and it would drive me crazy enough to scrap the trip and go home"). The resulting scores will give you an idea of your preferences and tolerance levels, and the questions will help frame a pre-trip discussion with your travel mates. It's better, for example, to hit the road armed with a pair of earplugs or ready to rent separate rooms than to find out at midnight in a roadside motel that your buddy snores like a chainsaw.

___ I want to party, look for action, go clubbing or hang out in bars every night.

___ I want to shop for refrigerator magnets, logo T-shirts and other kitschy souvenirs everywhere we go.

___ Stopping to meet my friend's aunt is cool.

___ I just throw my bags and gear in the car wherever they will fit.

___ I don't care about bedbugs -- I will never spend more than $25 on a motel room.

___ I want a full, sit-down breakfast every day.

___ I want to be on the road by sunrise every day.

___ I want total darkness when I go to sleep -- no TV or nightlight.

___ I need only one small backpack for my gear.

___ I must log on to the Internet at least once a day.

___ I snore.

Once you know your characteristics and you've got a useful conversation going with your prospective companions, consider the following five issues and the ways they may affect your trip.


Is getting off the beaten path and taking in natural wonders more important to you than exploring urban areas? Do you prefer interstate highways or two-lane back roads?


Do you have money to eat out in restaurants every day, or would you prefer to eat from a cooler? Would camping be a good alternative to motels? Are you comfortable pooling funds, or would you rather pay for your own expenses?


Do you care how the car gets packed in the morning or who decides where to go that day? Are you comfortable with the driving practices of your traveling companions, especially with regard to speeding, tailgating and talking on a cell phone while driving?


Would snoring keep you awake at night? Are you bothered by certain types of music or other in-car entertainment? Does foot odor offend you? Do you have any food preferences or health issues that would affect this trip?


Does being on time matter to you? Would you prefer to have a set itinerary or would you rather just see what develops? How many hours can you stand to be in the car? Would a mechanical breakdown ruin your trip?

Roadtripping with buddies is usually a 24-hour-a-day commitment, and even best friends can get on each other's nerves after a while. Consider taking frequent out-of-vehicle breaks, and make an effort to include everyone in the decision-making about what will happen each day. The pressures of road travel can turn small, unintended slights into major conflicts, even when you are traveling with people whose habits you know well -- like roommates or a lover. Keep talking and remember the value of "agreeing to disagree." If you can find ways to lighten up and laugh when the going gets tough, you will diffuse some of the tension - and that's way better than driving 300 miles in a car full of bad feelings.

While choosing your roadtrip destination is certainly important, never forget that getting there should be at least half the fun. Compatible companions can make the difference between a roadtrip dream and a nightmare on wheels.

Mark Sedenquist



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