Road Trip Tips for Guys

by Eric Mack

One of the brutal ironies of 21st century living is launching yourself through the air in our fancy flying machines after the oddly dehumanizing processes we submit to at the airport. Fortunately, you can fight back by driving instead. 

Opting for a road trip over other means of travel does have its own set of drawbacks, of course, but you can minimize them while maximizing the experience of the more visceral journey,  exploring every inch of the landscape connecting your home to your destination. Here are a few tips to ensure your odyssey is a success with minimal disappointment.

  1. Have a plan, but be flexible – On a trip just a few weeks ago, Google Maps suggested the quickest route to the California redwoods was via the inland U.S Highway 101, but as the early-evening sun began to set, the shoreline route appealed more to us. We spent a little less time at the tall trees than originally planned, but we still left awe-inspired not only by the glorious nature, but also by an epic Pacific sunset and the picturesque ocean-side camping that followed in the morning.
  1. Check the weather forecast and pack appropriately – This should be obvious, but assumptions can do the damage here, like when my buddy from Alaska came to visit me in New Mexico in a t-shirt just as a blizzard was setting in. I learned the same lesson under opposite circumstances, when I sweated it out camping along the Colorado River on a July night with the lowest temperature being 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
  1. Have the right vehicle – This year’s spring break found us circling Iceland in a rental car. The island is not known for being cheap and it was tempting to reserve the less expensive compact car. Nevertheless the high chance of an April snow shower (and the unusual urge to listen to my wife) led me to book a pricier all-wheel-drive wagon. The decision felt to be correct, recalling how the last winter came to be known as one of the country’s longest and most brutal, forcing us to trek through not one, but two white-out blizzards.
  1. Make sure your car is ready – If you’re taking your own ride, just bite the bullet, pony up the cash and take it in for an inspection, fluids check and tune-up if required, for nothing more than peace of mind. And yes, it’s a good idea to follow through even for relatively new cars. When I’ve done this before, especially for long trips, I’ve encountered no problems on the road; the times I’ve skipped it account for my familiarity with the budget accommodations nearest to the mechanics in Trapper Creek, Alaska, Del Rio, Texas, Rock Springs, Wyoming, La Paz, Mexico, Oakland and Nashville. Apparently, it took me a little while to learn this particular road trip lesson.
  1. Basic man-stuff to know – If you don’t know how, find someone to show you how to change a flat tire, check your fluids, deal with an overheated engine and jump a battery. For related personal anecdotes, see tip #3. You earn bonus manliness points for knowing how to change the headlights, tail lights and fuses on your road trip car.
  1. Finally, don’t leave any lady traveling companions squirming in need of a rest stop. These aren’t, of course, as easy or comfortable as pulling over to the side on a country road but be considerate and try to coordinate breaks at spots that are likely to have clean facilities along the way.