Road trip tips
September 11, 2018 6:27 PM   Subscribe

BF and I will be taking a 10 hour (~12-13 with food and bathroom breaks) road trip from Kalamazoo to Memphis next month. Give me your tips for a fun, relaxing, enjoyable road trip experience!

My last road trippin’ experience was as a youg kid riding in a lawn chair in the back of my dad’s truck, so.....
posted by misanthropicsarah to Travel & Transportation (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
We live in Kalamazoo too! We've driven to Florida before. 10 hours is kind of a lot to do in one go. Indiana feels just so, so long and so boring.

My biggest recommendation is to find stops you care about on the way. Something to spark conversation. Maybe a park, maybe a restaurant. Yelp along the path and get excited to see something... Every few hours!
posted by bbqturtle at 6:30 PM on September 11, 2018

Audiobooks. Oh my, audiobooks.
posted by Making You Bored For Science at 6:46 PM on September 11, 2018

I am Queen of Road Trips. I love them.

Things you need for a bomb trip:
-Awesome music playlist.
-Several downloaded podcasts (for areas with spotty service) and audiobooks.
-A willingness to immediately stop the car if you see something wacky/interesting - these stops have always provided the most unique experiences (and pictures!).
-Small, comfy pillows (great for back support and napping).
-Shoes that are easy to slip on and off.
-Comfortable clothes and a relaxed attitude toward hair/make-up.
-A list of conversation starters - road trips are an awesome time to learn things about each other you've never had time to discuss (my husband and I have been slowly working our way through the NY Times list: The 36 Questions that Lead to Love . . . each question seems to lead into hours of conversation - they're fantastic).
-A small, light blanket for the passenger (especially if the driver prefers the vehicle slightly cooler while driving).
-Lots of water, a variety of snacks (don't overload here - half the fun of road trips is getting to act like a ten-year-old when you stop for gas . . . as an adult, there are just not enough occasions for me to purchase Jolly Ranchers and chocolate milk).
-Most importantly, bring a spirit of adventure! Remember that everything is interesting if you give it chance.

Have a wonderful journey!
posted by WaspEnterprises at 6:48 PM on September 11, 2018 [5 favorites]

If you have time, set your GPS at strategic points to "Avoid highways [Interstates]", and see the scenery and towns that most people miss and that can make your trip memorable.
posted by davcoo at 6:51 PM on September 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

We are a road tripping family; we've covered 26 states and the kids are still in middle school.

There are lots of good suggestions above already (music is key, and I like davcoo's suggestion of avoiding highways if you have the luxury of time), but one big one for us is trying local restaurants - gimmicky or famous ones work just fine - when it's time to eat. There's only so many McDonald's burgers or Wendy's spicy chicken sandwiches you can eat, they are belly bombers when you are sitting around in a car all day, you get to support a local business owner, it forces you to take a little break instead of hitting the drive-thru, and you see real parts of a town instead of a quarter mile off the highway.

If you take I-57, about 3.5 hours into your drive you'll find Paxton, IL. It's a charming little town and I had the best barbecue sandwich ever (the Dagwood) at the Humble Hog there. And closer to Memphis where 57 meets 55 is Lambert's Cafe in Sikeston Missouri: "Home of the Throwed Rolls." It's ridiculous and crowded and touristy but the line moves fast and I'll be damned if it isn't fun to eat fried okra off of a paper towel and have hot rolls fired at you from across the room.

Oh, and one more: we take a stack of Trivial Pursuit cards with us and play quiz-the-driver, with a goal of getting a perfect card at some point along the way.

Okay, two more: Wikipedia is your friend. If you see a site that you don't know about, look it up! We've learned a ton of cool stuff that way (Our TENTH president John Tyler was born in 1790 but he has two living grandkids!) (The principal rocket engineers for NASA in Huntsville, Alabama were former Nazi scientists that the US smuggled out of Germany to beat the Soviets!)

Have a great time.
posted by AgentRocket at 7:39 PM on September 11, 2018

I have done this trip roughly (Memphis to St. Joe and back) and holy moses whoever above said Indiana is boring. Wow. If you come through Chicago it's actually Illinois that's boring. They are both equally boring. So much nothing. The wind farms are vaguely interesting, for a few miles, and then it's SO BORING. Be prepared to switch drivers partway through if neither of you are experienced road trip pilots. We like to play 20 Questions, and listen to podcasts.

Stop more often than you really need to. And get gas before you hit 1/4 of a tank or you will of course get stuck on the long stretch with no gas stations.

I THINK that route should take you through/near St. Louis. If so, consider stopping for a few hours to do something fun. It's beyond halfway but that's good because you'll be sick of the car by then.

Need any Memphis tips?
posted by raspberrE at 7:41 PM on September 11, 2018

Yes to audiobooks! I’m partial to page turning mysteries. When you get a good one the time flies by.
posted by JenMarie at 8:00 PM on September 11, 2018

Start before dawn. Being ‘on the road’ during sunrise is fabulous. You also reduce the chance of getting to your destination too late for a relaxing dinner.
posted by MountainDaisy at 8:21 PM on September 11, 2018

I do a ten hour ride a few times a year. I'm more of a "make good time" kind of road tripper, so I tend not to stop unless I really have to.

A couple of tips:

Clean the inside of your car before you go. You don't have to detail it, just pick up any trash and make it look clean enough. Toss any new trash out when you stop for gas.

Clean your windshield. Inside and out. Keep a half roll of paper towels and some glass cleaner in the car so you can clean it again if you need to. A bug will at some point smash into your windshield, right in your line of sight. Towels and cleaner do much better than the filthy water and the squeegie at the gas stations.

Podcasts and a way to play them over your car stereo are awesome. I can't do audiobooks and I don't listen to music much but if that's your thing, make sure you have enough to occupy you for the ride.

That said, sometimes I like to turn everything off and just enjoy some quiet now and then.

Think about how you pack things. Phone, wallet, sunglasses, water bottle, coffee/thermos should all be accessible while you're driving. Snacks should be reachable by the passenger. A small cooler is nice to have for sandwiches so you don't have to find a place and/or eat fast food.

Have a paper road map or atlas of the area you'll be traveling, just in case.

If it looks like rain, have an umbrella or rain jacket within easy reach.

If there are tolls, make sure your EZ-Pass is active or you have money handy.

If I'm doing a drive somewhere I've never been, I like to check out a few Google street views beforehand along the way, just so I have an idea of the sort of terrain I'll be driving in, the size of the roads, etc.

Check your tire pressure and/or fill your tires before you start.
posted by bondcliff at 8:58 PM on September 11, 2018

I used to do a handstand against the car while waiting for the fill at every gas stop. Got the blood going and boosted my energy! Plus there was the fun component of people thinking I was weird. Also: play around with cooking on your engine, or at least reheating some leftovers.
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 12:50 AM on September 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

Get the Roadside America App. (Edit: link goes to the website, but they have an app. I just can’t link to it.) It shows you all the weird, fun, quirky roadside attractions (World’s biggest olive? Check. Random dude with giant car sculptures in his front yard? Check. Musical highway? Check, check, and check.) and will give you a map and directions to get to them. Stop often. Take ridiculous pictures with the weird stuff.
posted by Weeping_angel at 4:49 PM on September 12, 2018

Whatever you do, don't stop in Gary, Indiana. Dangerous area. Just keep going.
posted by dubious_dude at 4:50 PM on September 12, 2018

Whoever is not driving should make a conscious effort not to get sucked into activities on their phone -- playing games/reading/whatever. It can kill conversation and make things lonely for the driver. The phone can be a fun tool for DJing, looking up trivia and things like that, but it can also shut out the other person for long periods of time.
posted by slogger at 2:03 PM on September 13, 2018

Wikipedia Beta has a map interface that shows every Wikipedia page that is associated with a map coordinate. A lot of these are high schools, radio stations and demolished malls, but you'll also find neat landmarks worth detouring to see.
posted by Scram at 3:19 PM on September 14, 2018

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