Ten Tips & a Bonus for Road Tripping with Friends

I’m just back in from a wonderful week away with my guy road tripping with the incredibly talented Tina who does my South Pole Santa book covers, her fabulous guy, Jeff, and her two charming sons, Will, 15 and James, almost 11. Six of us in a minivan! Watch out California!

I was one of those lucky sorts growing up who had parents who took us on annual road trips. The redwoods and the Monterey Peninsula in California were destination spots so nostalgia drove a lot of my planning for this trip. I especially wanted to be sure the boys had a fun-filled time and had the same kind of memories to think back on.

Some people have been surprised when they hear there were six of us, not directly related, travelling together but we did great every day. There are some things we did that really helped make it all work and added to the fun. I thought with summer around the corner, and road trips coming up for many, I’d share what helped make the miles pleasantly fly by for us.

Plan ahead – In our case, we started talking about visiting the redwoods more than a year before so the idea had been out their brewing in our minds. When we finally decided we were going to make it happen we started researching our options and even had to change our plans. Part of where we wanted to go didn’t actually open until a month after we would be visiting.

Plan together – Getting together with an atlas spread out on the table was one of my favorite parts of the planning! It helped set expectations of where we were going, what was in the area and how far we would be driving.

Bring along a map – Yes, we used our phones every day, several times a day, for directions, but we all loved looking at the road map from time-to-time to see where we were in relation to where we were going. Fun! Sometimes the “old-fashioned” ways still serve to bring new wonder.

Plan something every day and be ready to flex – We had plans for every day on where we would spend our time. Two of those days, though, we blew off our plans for impulsive adventuring that turned out even better. We found a wonderful hidden beach simply because we opted for a drive one morning. Bliss.

Make reservations ahead of time – However, we also found a great place for breakfast followed later by a couple of yummy wineries because in our planning I missed that our planned activity needed prior reservations and there was no room the day we were there. Dang! If you have things you really want to do, making reservations ahead of time is an excellent idea – especially during busy seasons like spring break and summer vacation. We were glad to have all of our hotel reservations set so we didn’t need to be figuring out where to stay as we arrived in each new town. Thanks to great suggestions from friends, we even made some dinner reservations ahead of time and enjoyed some spectacular meals as a result.

Pack light! – I know (boy do I know) it’s hard to choose what shoes to take J but shoes take up room in your bag and with six people, in one small van on the move most days, you have to each pack only a small bag. We all did great at this – and yes, most of our photos feature us in the same one or two outfits. Oh well!

Plan for down time – Honestly we didn’t have a lot.  We did however have one big item that added to this trip big time – we didn’t hurry! What a pleasure that was. It felt absolutely decadent not to live by the clock. We pretty much agreed every morning to meet at nine and let our day unwind from there and we were pretty much always done and back to our individual rooms by nine each evening. Perfect.

Laugh it Off – Our good friend Jeff is a touch claustrophobic. So when we got to one of our hotels and our rooms had no window (they had no windows!) well, exit stage right. It all worked out with us requesting, and getting, new rooms (I’m still astonished the desk clerk seemed surprised with the request.) And now it’s something to laugh about. I mean who thinks to make prior hotel reservations and think they have to ask for a window in the room? We’ll be having fun with that for a long time! When things get tense, work it through and then work to make it funny. Those can be some of the best memories in the end.  

Flow a Little - I have trouble with big crowds. Things can feel intense for me after a while when there are just so many people around. I was ready for that possibility because, when you travel to family spots over spring break, well, crowds happen. So I had psyched myself up to just go with it. Truthfully, most places were less crowded than expected. In the end, the crowds only really got to me the day we spent in San Francisco and there were sooooooo many people everywhere! Oh my goodness. By the time we got to Ghiradelli Square and the line was ridiculous I was ready to call it a day. But you’re with four others really looking forward to a hot fudge sundae. Flowing and compromising served us much better than any other alternative. The line moved fast, we still caught BART on time and the sundaes were yummy.

Ask others – I love social media for this! Once we knew where we were going, I posted a request for ideas on where to eat and what not to miss in the area to my Facebook page and got such great suggestions that we never would have known about without their help. Don’t be shy – ask! Good things come from that simple act.

Plan to Get Along and Have Fun! - This one might seem obvious but if you're really planning to have fun ahead of time then you know you'll be bringing your best and starting everyday with a smile and smiles make every trip - every day in fact - better!

So, now, go on with your fun selves and get on out there! Adventures are waiting to be had!