I know. That may not sound like a ringing endorsement, but it’s true.
Anyway, one of my favorite things about summer is our annual family vacation; my favorites are when we go on extended cross-country road trips. I’ve made seven coast-to-coast trips during my lifetime, so suffice it to say that I have at least a little bit of experience in this arena.
When it comes to road trips, half the fun is in the planning. Unfortunately, if you aren’t careful, it only takes one or two bad decisions to turn a family vacation for the ages into a family vacation of the rages.
In fact, if you want to guarantee your next family road trip is a real loser, then simply follow these tips:
1. Put the brakes on planning. Remember, a road trip is all about experiencing the adventure, so why bother doing any research ahead of time? Don’t even think of tapping fantastic travel guides like Fodor’s that have already done much of the leg work for you.
2. Bypass Auto Associations. Be sure to save a few bucks by failing to become a member of the American Automobile Association (AAA). Never mind that their free road maps, TourBook guides to sights and hotel and restaurants, and on-line interactive TripTik Travel Planner are well worth the price of membership.
3. Forget maintenance. Cars today never break down, so don’t bother getting your oil changed, or checking the tire pressure and belts before you leave. After all, if an idiot light does come on, you can always add water, oil or other fluids while you’re on the road. (Er, unless you’re in the middle of nowhere.)
4. Be a traffic scofflaw. Nobody ever gets pulled over by cops while they’re on a road trip. Nope. So don’t bother checking to see if you have your updated license, registration and insurance papers with you. The odds are you aren’t going to be tempted to speed on those long lonely stretches of highway anyway. That being said, if you do get a ticket in another state, you can always avoid paying the fine. Well, assuming you never plan on coming back.
5. Over-pack. Don’t forget to stuff your luggage to the gills because nothing says “relaxing vacation” like lugging a bunch of heavy bags to and fro each time you stop for the evening. Packing intelligently is so overrated.
6. Drive a compact car. Why bother maximizing your family’s comfort — or ruin your street cred — by traveling in a spacious minivan or large touring sedan?
7. Adhere to a strict schedule. While you’re on the road, stick to your schedule at all costs. Do not — I repeat, DO NOT — deviate from it. Remember, it’s all about the destination and getting there on time — so stick to those sterile interstate highways and stay away from those two-lane back-country roads. Make unplanned sites and other points of interest strictly verboten. Yes, those half-buried Cadillacs sticking out of the ground off the side of the road do look interesting, but it’s more important to make sure you get to the next hotel on time. Hey, maybe you’ll get a prize from the front desk staff for getting there before 5 p.m.
8. Stay in sardine cans. Speaking of hotels… Forget putting your family up each night in a multi-room extended-stay suite — because, at the end of a long hard day on the road, there’s nothing better than being cooped up in a tiny 300 square foot room with a couple of cranky rugrats and a single television set.
9. Fast food or bust. Whenever it’s time to eat, make sure you always dine at the same old tired chain restaurants you have back home. Even though the best meals you’ll ever have will never be found at those national establishments, trying the local cuisine while dining at a local mom and pop restaurant is just way too risky — even when you see a parking lot full of patrons.
So there you have it, folks. Hopefully I didn’t miss anything.
Good luck with your next road trip!
Oh, and don’t forget to send me a postcard.
Photo Credit: garbyal