Over Spring Break, I had the opportunity to embark on a road trip with my mother and my aunt. It was an amazing week of female bonding, slight bickering, and great explorations. We began in the upstate of South Carolina and made our way to Charleston, down to Orlando, Miami, and then back up once more. It was a very rewarding and tiring week, and along the way, I learned a lot of valuable lessons. Here are just a few of the very important family road trip lessons I learned along the way:
1. Someone always has to stop and use the bathroom.
It is inevitable that on your family road trip there will be many bathroom breaks. If the thought has popped into your mind to ask if anyone needs to go, the answer is yes. If you are passing a rest stop, just go ahead and stop because someone in the car is looking at the sign longingly. Take a deep breath and accommodate whoever needs to go, because in 100 miles it will be you.
2. You will get on each other's nerves.
After being trapped in a car with anyone for eight hours straight, you will begin to bicker. Accept that this will happen, but that it does not have to destroy your family. I recommend choosing a code word that will alert the rest of the people on your trip that you are beginning to feel annoyed and you might need a minute to cool down. Once we established our word on this trip ("apple"), we had a lot fewer squabbles and took more care to respect each other's preferences.
3. The cheapest hotel is not always the best choice.
When going on a road trip, it can be very tempting to always select the cheapest lodging option for the night. However, this can be something that could greatly impede your enjoyment of your trip. I know that you are paying for gas, meals, and activities, but you should also be willing to spend a little extra on your hotel. Saving $20 a night by staying in the sketchiest neighborhood in town in the hotel with 24-hour police surveillance because of crime, is not worth it.
4. Sometimes your GPS complicates more than it helps.
With all of the new technology available to us, sometimes we can take being told where to go by a piece of technology for granted. However, as anyone who has had their GPS lead them astray can tell you, a fully functioning and truth-telling GPS is a blessing that most people do not have on road trips. My advice is to have a back up plan for directions, because eventually your GPS will get you lost.
5. When you're on vacation (and you have family members prompting you on), all forms of dieting go out the window.
During our week of road tripping, I made sure to eat a full meal of the fattiest, best tasting food I could find for three meals a day. I never had to question whether we would be getting dessert or whether I should get the largest size available. When you are on vacation, the answer is always yes.
6. Don't cram your day full. Some days you'll be lucky if everyone is up by ten.
When you are on a road trip, it can be tempting to cram your day full in order to fit in all of the fun that you'd like to have that day. There's so much to see and so many new experiences you want to have with your companions. However, it is your vacation. You guys are going to want to sleep in a little, and you will want some time to relax on your vacation.
7. Be open to taking new opportunities to explore as they present themselves.
This is another reason to not have a permanent schedule that cannot be adjusted for any reason. Sometimes you will be on a walking tour of a new city, and you guys will decide that you would like to go back and explore an area more fully. One day you guys may wake up and decide that you'd like to visit an interesting place you've read about that is a little out of your way. However, it's the spontaneous adventures and the accidentally discovered places that are generally the most memorable.
8. Accept that you are not all going to agree on the music.
You will be trapped in a car together for hours. For the love of all that is good, if you hate your mother's classic rock or your father's bluegrass, bring your earbuds and listen to your iPod or your phone. Don't try to change the radio when they aren't looking; they will notice. Accept that this is another area not everyone will agree upon, and don't let it be a point of contention for the entire trip.
9. There is always someone in the group who takes ten years to get ready in the mornings.
During my trip, my aunt spent what felt like an eternity every morning taking her shower, doing her makeup and perfecting her hair. While it can be frustrating, cut that person some slack. They are with people that they love visiting new places for the first time; they want to look their best, and you should encourage them. In the mean time, grab a book or throw some batter in the waffle maker because they are going to be a while.
10. You are going to miss your family and all the places you went as soon as your road trip is over.
Enjoy where you are while you are there, because you will never be in that exact same place, at that same time, with those same people ever again. Eventually, you guys will return to your normal lives, and you will only have the memories you made on your trip. So make the most of it. Talk to new people, try new foods and visit places you find interesting. Explore new cities until your feet ache, talk with your family until you fall asleep, sing at the top of your lungs until your voice is gone, and enjoy every moment until you're back home again.