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Shifting Road Trip Enjoyment Into High Gear

Family in RV Looking at Road Map

We’ve all heard the expression “Getting there is half the fun.” At the same time, many of us have experienced road trip tedium that has worked to disprove that maxim. Fortunately, there are ways to ensure that, when you load up the car for your next vacation, you’ll wind up logging family enjoyment along with the miles. And as a result, you’ll be in good spirits when you arrive at your destination, allowing you to take full advantage of the time you spend there.

First off, don’t be so rigid when it comes to your travel schedule. Sure, you want to make good time when you hit the open road, but insisting on arriving at a certain point by a certain hour – that’s just a recipe for unnecessary tension. If you’re too focused on the map and your odometer, you risk missing out on the sights and attractions that color America’s highways and byways. Allow yourself breaks from behind the wheel… and if you happen to run across a point of interest that you weren’t expecting, all the better.

Running parallel to that mode of thinking, you might want to consider a less-direct route to your destination – one that hits scenic back roads or takes you past unusual roadside exhibits. The country is dotted with many unique wonders, often labeled as the “World’s Largest…” whatever. Some of these can be found in larger cities, such as the World’s Largest Patio Chair (Dallas) or the World’s Largest Cowboy Hat and Boots (Seattle), but more often they are points of pride of smaller towns that look forward to having travelers pass through on their way to someplace else. In a similar vein, if you see a billboard advertising such a spot, don’t be afraid to take that detour; there may be an amazing discovery in store.

One way to create an instant memory of the trip is to pick up a map of the area – an actual paper map – and trace your route on it with a marker. If your trip is just a few hundred miles, look for a more localized map so you can see all the roads you traveled (a multi-state odyssey might require more than one map). Be sure to highlight or otherwise indicate favorite stopping points along the way – such as the sun-streaked mountain overlook, or the diner that served up unforgettable chicken-fried steak – so you can revisit them if you ever pass that way again. When you get home, set up a file for the maps; you’ll want to be able to pull them out as you tell others about your trip. Or, for a more artistic endeavor, frame the map and hang it in your den, allowing it to serve as inspiration for when you plan your next family journey.

You can create a soundtrack for your experience by putting together a playlist before you go. Don’t add too many songs to it, but instead choose a dozen or so tunes that will become associated with that particular trip. Run through the playlist each day that you’re on the road and, when the trip’s over, you’ll discover specific memories associated with each of the audio cues. So when you hear one of those songs again, you’ll get a wash of nostalgia for the terrific time you had.

While it’s a good idea for family members to unplug during a road trip – getting their faces un-buried from their phones and tablets – those electronic devices can play a fun role in the adventure. Use them to take goofy pictures at each of your stops, and then post those photos to social media. By doing so, you invite your friends along with you on your voyage. And – with a nod toward a worst-case scenario – if something disastrous were to happen, your loved ones would have a timeline to track your whereabouts.

When traveling with children, it’s important to keep them occupied to avoid repeated plaints of “Are we there yet?” Travel games can be a terrific time filler, especially if you make up your own – or tweak the rules of established games. On a recent road trip, my family played the Alphabet Game, where you have to find the letters of the alphabet – in order – on billboards, signs or on vehicle advertisements (in our rules, license plates don’t count). Then I added this twist: all letters had to be lowercase. That may not seem like a particular challenge until you realize that most highway signs are written with all capital letters. It took more than two hours after spying a P before we finally saw a lowercase Q!

Finally, when you get outside of urban areas, the opportunities for memorable rest stops, bathroom breaks and fill-ups increase. Some gas stations have attractions of their own, or abut scenic areas. At the same time, the attached stores give you an opportunity to sample some regional favorites, such as pralines in Georgia or Mae West and Joe Louis snack cakes throughout Canada.

To book your next getaway – a wonderful reason to hit the road together – call (800) 566-8281.

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