How to avoid the worst road trip ever

Halie Noble

     If you are planning to go on a senior road trip this summer, then I have a few pieces of advice that, I warn, should be followed. Special attention should be paid if you think all it takes to make your trip a success is the ‘the perfect driving playlist’. Last summer I had the joy of driving from Austin, TX to Maine with my best friend, my brother, my dog, and my hamster. In the 72 hours it took us to drive there and back my crack squad of road trip experts discovered everything that could ever go wrong on such a trip.

     Tip number 1: Park in the front of the lot. It was the last night in a hotel before my faithful team and I returned to Austin. We walked down to our car, parked in the back of the lot, and the door was open. We had been robbed. One MacBook, three iPods, two cameras ( with all of our photos from the trip), GPS directional system, radar detector, $250 in cash and gift cards, and more. It took three hours and two police officers to file a report that will never go anywhere. The police officers told us from then on to park in the front, where the lobby can see you. That night taught me that I can never be too careful and next time I will bring in all of my valuables at night.

     Tip number 2: Bring your own toilet paper. For the most part the rest stops you come by will be bearable and there will not be have much to worry about. However, there will be a time on your trip that you will be in Podunk, Middle of Nowhere, and the rest stop you end up at will leave something, if not everything to be desired. This is where your own collection of Charmin Ultra Soft will come in handy. Other wise the options may be maple leaf, or nothing.

     Tip number 3: If you bring a pet, don’t let them off the leash. I have an adorable, lovable, but slightly unintelligent dog. Felling bad that he had been cooped up for twelve hours in a car, I let him run freely in a field at a rest stop. I watched in dumbstruck awe as my dog ran clear into the forest after some furred animal. I spent twenty minutes trying to get him to surrender his hunt and when he finally came back, he was wet and had the sweet aroma of stagnant swamp water.

     Tip number 4: Even if Britney Spears is your absolute favorite, bring more than just that one CD. There is no way that the entire car is going to want to listen to Womanizer over, and over again, throughout the entire trip. I can still remember the six CD’s we had in the car, what order they were in, which tracks were good, which were horrible, and the chorus of each and every song. I can promise you, that is not a feat you want to accomplish. You may love country music, but the rest of the people in the car may want to throw Kenney Chesney off of a cliff. Keep in mind that you are not the only person in the car.

     Tip number 5: The other person in the car is always right. Avoiding getting to unnecessary altercations with the other people in the car is a good idea. Being stuck in a car the size of a walk-in closet, with people who want nothing more than to throw you out of the moving vehicle, is not an agreeable situation. Chances are, when confined in a small space for multiple hours you will find something to disagree about. Let it go. Don’t rise to the argument; escalating the situation is only going to make it worse. For instance, when my brother thought that Wendy’s was a better idea than Sonic, he learned quickly that there was really no point in arguing about it. My brother could have caused a much larger argument then what was going on already, but he had the wise sense to let it go. When you find yourself in this situation like this, just take a big breath and be the bigger person, trust me, this will be best in the long run. There is nothing to top off a sixteen hour day than territorial wars over whose turn for shotgun it is, and why didn’t one person drive their fair share. Remember the end goal: reaching the destination alive.

     Tip number 6: Don’t plug in and tune out. Road trips should be about the people you are traveling with. There will be times when no one wants to talk and the chance to whip out your iPhone will occur, but I suggest this as a last resort. There are endless, interesting conversations to be had, when all there is to do is talk. This is an opportunity to learn things about your friends that you never imagined and at some point probably laugh so hard you cry (but hopefully not while driving). If your only road trip experience is blasting music and not sharing your interesting stories, chances are, when you pause that blasting music your friends are telling your stories for you. If you are like me, you probably want to put your own spin on the story about how two four-wheeler’s ended up in the ditch. The friend’s version comes off as you being an idiot, where as if you tell it yourself, you suddenly become a crazy, fearless, action figure. Tell the stories that you never told anyone and I am sure your friends will do the same.

     Tip number 7: Drive the morning shift. Chances are you and your friends will be switching off drivers. Earlier is always easier. There is minimal traffic, everyone is geared up for the road ahead. When the GPS says you have 300+ miles before the next turn doesn’t seem as daunting as later in the day. I always drove the middle shift, from around 1:00 to 7:00. This is the worst time to be driving. Traffic builds up and soon you are in grid-lock. I spent three hours one day going only 30 miles in New Jersey stop-and-go rain. Besides, driving in the morning means you are done for the rest of the day.

     My road trip may have been full of epic failures, but to date it is one of my fondest memories. I hope that all of you have the good fortune to go on an adventure like I did. My last piece of advice is: If something goes wrong, laugh, because that is what you will be doing when you remember years later.