I’ve written a lot about my past road trips out west. I’ve said before how much those National Park adventures have shaped me and helped turn me into the person I am today. Much of that revolved around my time in the parks, but the time on the road and driving from park to park also played a large role in my excellent experiences out west. I would like to add that some of my best times on the road were with the people that I traveled with, but I’d argue that I learned more about myself and grew more as a person on the three road trips that I took by myself.
Here are a few reasons why I think everyone should go on a road trip (SPOILER ALERT: I realize most of them are different ways of saying it’s cool to make stops on a journey):
- You can see so much on your journey instead of just the destination. Sure most vacations are rightfully focused on the endpoint or destination, but there can be much more to it than that. I guess it boils down to your goal for your trip. If you have the time to stop at multiple places on the way to your destination you can make your time be more interesting and fun.
- Go on an adventure instead of a trip. Flying somewhere nice on a plane is no adventure (unless something goes terribly wrong). However, going on a great American road trip can easily become a memorable adventure. You can see unexpected sights and explore places you didn’t even know existed until you come upon them. You might also get lost or have car trouble, but if you don’t let that get you down, it can add to adventure and make your time more interesting.
- Why have one destination when you can have many? If you only want to go to one place like Disney World or Yosemite National Park, then I get it. It might be better to just fly there and back and be done with it. However, all of the long trips I have made out west have focused on multiple locations. If you have the time, I highly recommend packaging multiple destinations together. Want to visit Yellowstone? Add Grand Teton and Glacier National Parks to your trip. Want to see the Grand Canyon? There are five National Parks in southern Utah you could add to the trip in addition to stops in California or Arizona. If you can go on a trip that includes multiple places like these suggestions, driving a car isn’t just a luxury it’s a necessity.
- That sense of freedom you feel when you’re on the open road. If you’ve never gone on a big road trip before you probably don’t know this feeling. But for me, and most others I’d assume, there is this profound sense of freedom and adventure when you first hit the road. It might not be for everyone, but I definitely think it’s worth giving it a try and seeing if you’re a road trip person, too.
- You can be spontaneous. Stop when you want, where you want. In fact, if you’re life allows it, going on a road trip can be the kind of thing that you can do on a moment’s notice. You don’t have to book a flight, rental car, and hotel reservations. Just throw some gear in your car, fill your gas tank, and hit the road. Obviously, this isn’t an option for everyone. I’m now married, have two children, and a full-time job. I am also quite a planner. When I used to go on cross-country adventures I planned them quite thoroughly. I still made some random stops here and there and mixed things up on the fly, but for the most part I had things figured out far ahead of time. That’s mostly just because I love the planning stage. Even if you don’t spontaneously start your trip, you can still make sudden changes, whether out of necessity or for fun. Try to have a bit of a loose itinerary. If you are too rigid in your planning it will be more difficult to make adjustments as you go.
- Tailor your road trip to your personality. Nobody knows what you are interested in more than you, so think about what kind of places you would most like to see and visit and base your trip on that. Maybe you’d prefer to visit big cities. I’m not much of a city guy, but I have enjoyed stops in Denver, San Francisco, and Portland. You might be more interested in historic sites or monuments. I have always planned my trips around different National Parks and other scenic wonderlands like Antelope Canyon and Havasu Canyon in Arizona.
- Visit friends and family along the way. This should probably be obvious. Still, I think it’s worth bringing up. I’ve stayed with friends in San Francisco, Boulder, Seattle, Charlotte and Maine (to name a few). It can be a great way to break up your trip. If you stay with your friends and family it is also a nice way to save a little money. Hotels are nice, but staying in someone’s house with a home-cooked meal can be a great change of pace for a weary traveler.
- You can bring plenty of gear. You can fill your car or truck or go all-out and bring a camper or RV. Driving is especially superior to flying if you are camping at all on your road trip. You should have enough room to bring a tent, cooler, small grill, folding chairs, and whatever else you may want to help you feel at home in the woods.