Four years ago, my family and I traded in the tropical paradise vacations for some plan-it-ourselves road trips. Each road trip is half business, half vacation, so we get to spend time together while planning future group tours as part of the family business.
I love sightseeing and experiencing different cultures, states, and people. I keep my camera close by my side – OK, GLUED around my neck – to capture all the experiences.
We just came back from a four-city road trip, hitting Florence, KY, Pigeon Forge, TN, Cherokee, NC, and Asheville, NC (I’ll write more on this later!). All photos in this post are from this trip.
I’ve learned a lot on these road trips – driving in the mountains, seeing snow for the first time (!), walking through a life-size Noah’s ark, but also learning patience. I’m sharing five of these tidbits with you here!
1) Road trips require patience.
Traveling with family is rewarding because we get to press pause in our busy lives and spend time together. I take time off from work, we pack up the car, and we plan out the next few days.
We spend more time together than usual – we just drove a good 12 hours from Orlando, FL to Florence, KY – so this might be challenging for some people being crammed together in a car.
We might get tired of family or sleeping in hotel rooms, sharing the bathroom, and missing home-cooked meals. As adults, we learn patience. We adjust to these situations instead of throwing a travel tantrum to communicate with each other. That makes it even more of an enjoyable trip for everyone.
2) Pack smartly; bring what you NEED.
This aligns with minimizing and focusing on what you need rather than what you want, or what you think you need. The less you pack, the easier it will be to drive, check in to a hotel, and find your belongings!
Of course, I’m not telling you to leave the fun stuff behind. Bring your camera, your favorite body wash, things you would use at home. But don’t bring EVERYTHING. An extra outfit and a spare pair of shoes will be enough in case you extend the road trip.
Pack 1-2 outfits and a pair of pajamas for each day. Bring your chargers – phone, camera, iPod, Fitbit, you name it. Bring body wash and shampoo, or try out the hotel’s goodies. Many hotels on our trip provided Bath and Body Works products for men and women, which was a nice touch.
I also encourage you to bring a journal. Even if you’re not a writer, jot down what you did each day in a bullet point list and write down your thoughts each day.
3) Value time. Plan everything.
The road trip start time kicks off the entire experience. We plan out the start time, usually leaving between 5 and 6 in the morning, and then we plan out rest stops, we find local places to eat, and we schedule attraction meetings.
Our road trips might be unique since we also plan these trips for other people as part of the family business. But it’s important for anyone going on a road trip to maximize their adventure time.
Write down an ideal start time, rest time, meal time, and end time. Also write down specific places you want to visit, such as famous restaurants, dinner shows, and monuments. Keeping a schedule helps you stay on track and see everything you want to see within the time you have.
4) Being flexible makes the trip run smoothly.
As much as we plan, sometimes the plan doesn’t always work out. Maybe we exit the highway and eat a little later than expected. We wake up a little earlier in the morning and leave to visit an attraction earlier than we planned.
Being flexible with the road trip schedule makes it easier for everyone involved. We drove through some pretty heavy rain on our ride to Kentucky. We didn’t expect these weather conditions on our ride there. So we drove slower, watched for flashing lights, and chugged along to get through the drive. The drive took a little longer, but we got to our destination safely.
Listen, adjust, and enjoy.
5) Take the photo. You don’t know if you’ll be back.
Sometimes standing in front of a museum sign is embarrassing. Other times, we keep our finger on the camera’s shutter button a little too long, hesitating before we take a photo and missing a moment. Well, guess what? Take the photo.
In case you never visit that state park again or see that bird again, just take the photo! You’ll love looking back on that moment later on.
I crouch, squat, and even kneel on chairs to get the best angle in my vacation photos. You don’t have to be a photographer to get a little creative (or uncomfortable) with your shots. Just take the photo.
What’s your road trip story?
If you’ve never taken a road trip, then I encourage you to at some point in your life! Go with family, friends, or ride it solo. Create your own adventure.
If you’ve already been on a road trip or two, I’d love to hear about it! Let me know where you went and what your favorite part was in the comments below.