For most HomeExchangers, getting on the open road can be a freeing experience, but pulling together the perfect road trip is like planning a dinner party. It’s all about having the right mix of guests and knowing how to keep things moving. Here are a few thoughts to help make your next adventure a smoother ride.
Short on time? Here’s a quick summary.
Family trips can be magical but they can lead to some extra stress. Going with the one you love can be very romantic… or it will prove if you are truly meant to be. Adventures with friends are just as great as long as you know your companions well enough to lock yourself in a car with them for hours at a time.
Having three people in the car who can drive can help keep things interesting. One person can always be a navigator and keep the driver company while the other relaxes in the back. In the end, it all comes down to this: will you be able to disagree and still be friends the next day.
Remember, if you can’t find someone to go with, sometimes choosing to go solo can be the most exciting.
Once you have your travel companions arranged, it is time to start planning out the trip. First thing to decide is where to go and how much time you have to make your trip. From there you can start plotting a path and decide where you will stay.
Consider making a loop versus going directly to and from your destination so you don’t end up seeing the same things going both ways (a sure way to inspire boredom). If you use HomeExchange as a guide, you can find hospitality exchanges for short stops or pick a city and use it as your base to explore from.
When setting your itinerary, consider how long you want to be in the car. Plan to keep your driving segments under 8-hours. That way you aren’t too road-tired when you get to where you are staying along the journey. You might also decide to drive only during daylight hours, it makes the time go by quicker and you have a better chance to spot something fun and interesting that you might miss at night.
Having a plan is great, but know when to take the road less traveled. Make a point to visit something absolutely absurd (think world’s biggest ball of twine). It will not only make a great memory but it will also give you a chance to stretch your legs. Make a point to leverage off the Community to find lesser known attractions.
If you are doing a simultaneous exchange, coordinate with your Exchange Partner to meet along the way. You’ll be able to exchange stories and recommendations and, more often than not, make a new friend.
With hours on the road, there might be a few spots where conversation slows. Make sure you are prepared with some entertainment.
If traveling with children, create small “care packages” with new toys and coloring kit or go to the store together and let each child pick out their ideal “gear for the road”. Schedule more frequent stops, think of games to play along the way (like counting the different license plates they see,) or plan your departure for early in the morning so they spend hours of the trip sleeping.
Sometimes, the most entertaining thing you can do is to tune into local radio. If you’re in a country where you don’t speak the language, this can be a perfect way to practice your comprehension skills.
Before you hit the open road, make sure you’re prepared. Your Exchange Partner is a great resource for what you might need to pack and what you can leave at home. Here are just a few examples of what HomeExchangers never pack.
Make two copies of your id and credit cards. Leave one at home (in a safe place) and keep another in your luggage. Grab your passport; even if you’re driving in your home country, you never know when you might unexpectedly cross the border.
Don’t forget the snacks! Being on the road doesn’t mean you have to go from one roadside restaurant to another. Stop by a farmers’ market on the way and grab some fruit and nuts or bring along supplies to make sandwiches along the way. Items high in protein are best as they will help keep you alert and feeling full.
Think about renting a car. While having your own vehicle can be comforting, renting guarantees things will be in working order. Chose something with great gas economy and, if anything happens to the car, the rental company will make sure you aren’t stranded in an unfamiliar location.
When in doubt, trust the process. A road trip is meant to be an experience. Things might not go perfectly, but that just gives you something more to laugh about when you get home. So roll the window down, find the road less traveled and enjoy.
We’d love to hear your stories and suggestions in the comments below. Do you have some favorite road trips you’ve taken? What sort of tips would you give to fellow HomeExchangers?