#RoadTripMore Part 2: The 15 Unwritten Road Trip Rules

Traveling abroad often means flying to Europe, Asia or maybe an island. But what about all this land right in our backyard? Taking a road trip and seeing our country firsthand is an American rite of passage. This is the land we call home after all and road trips are the best way to experience it.

Whether you’re traveling from one side of your home state to the other or all the way across the country, there are unwritten road trip rules that we should all be following when hitting the open road.

Road trip sign

Let’s get into Glass Duffle’s 15 unwritten road trip rules, covering The Road, The Car and The Companion.

5 road trip rules of The Road
Road trip rules

  1. Avoid the interstate. The creation of the US interstate highway system was originally authorized after World War II with national defense in mind. So the routes are quick, the highways are wide and adventure is absent. To get the most out of a road trip, ya gotta get off the interstate and onto the state roads. It’s the only way to do cross country travel as it was originally intended. Of course, sometimes speed is of the essence. In that case, hit the state roads on the drive back.

    Colorado National Monument road trip

    Colorado National Monument

  2. Always stop for national parks. What’s a road trip without scenery? Whether you’re approaching the road on the fly, relying on GPS or you’ve been planning this road trip for months, keep an eye out for our national parks. There are 58 in the US and the ones I’ve gone out of my way for have all been worth the extra drive time. Anyway, chances are Point A and Point B on your map are cities, so this is where the real wonder is.
  3. Respect state lines. The US is governed under one incapable federal government but don’t fool yourself, our 50 states can be very different. More than once I’ve been pulled over because of California plates and had my car searched… Arizona, Ohio and, *shudder*, Idaho. Be mindful of where you’re coming from and where you’re going. Having an understanding of how laws change from one state to the next will only help the road trip proceed without incident.
    Leave no trace
  4. Leave no trace.
  5. Don’t be a dick. In #RoadTripMore Part 1 I talked about hallucinating at the end of my first 40 hour cross country road trip. In Part 2, I’ll admit that I was being a dick then. Driving that tired is putting every other driver at risk. I’m thankful I’ve never greezed another car on any of my road trips, but I cringe at the thought of how things could’ve ended up if I wasn’t so lucky. Be mindful that you’re not the only one on the road and drive with respect for fellow travelers. We’ve all got somewhere better we want to be.

5 road trip rules of The Car

US 83 road trip rules

Going into Colorado from Wyoming.

  1. Playlists are essential. Approaching a road trip without at least a couple playlists is going to make the trip get old real quick. Even if the road trip is hella spontaneous, I always make sure to have a handful of solid playlists ready to go beforehand. From Big K.R.I.T. and Ab-Soul to the Black Keys, Jungle and Gary Clark Jr., I try to cover all the genres I could potentially want to listen to throughout the drive. Lucky for you, NB put together the perfect road trip playlist right here on GD.
  2. Windows down, music up. If your hand isn’t out the window and you’re not singing loudly and/or generally rocking out, then I’m sorry but you’re doing it all wrong.

    Stay out no hunt

    Kansas (or Colorado…?)

  3. Check oil before leaving. Car trouble is something to be avoided at all costs while road tripping. For example, oil is one of those things that’s super easy to take care of but can quickly dampen a road trip if you fuck it up. Before leaving check the oil and make sure it’s high enough to last there and back again. If not, keep an eye on it and take care of it on the road as necessary. Don’t underestimate the relief of knowing for sure that your car will make it!
  4. Stock up on snacks. Making frequent stops for scenic vistas and whatever weird stuff you come across is one thing. No one wants to make frequent stops for food. This one’s a no-brainer, I think, but still worth mentioning. My experienced road trip snack recommendation: Sour Patch Kids, Munchies and lots of water.

    Road trip lost

    Very (very) lost with no service and no map. Uh oh…

  5. Pack a physical map, just in case. GPS makes road trips way easier and smartphone apps like Roadtrippers have cool things to do while cruising. But when you veer off the beaten path and service goes out and the state roads start getting bumpier, you’ll wish you had a physical map for help. Trust me.

5 road trip rules for The Companion

Road trip rules

  1. Compatibility is key. Taking a road trip with another person is kind of like marrying them for a week. You’re in such close proximity over so many hours that it should be expected you’ll likely see your fellow travelers lesser traits. Be prepared for the inevitable head-butting beforehand and know for sure that you can deal with that person day after day. The best way to milk a tandem road trip is to do it with someone you vibe with on another level. Otherwise, prepare to hate road trips.
  2. Forget about diets. Taking to the road exposes you to new environments and similarly new dishes. Trying to stick to a diet while on a road trip is limiting and unfair. Some of us have diet restrictions for health or moral reasons, I get it. The point is to stay open to local dishes and not be too picky about where you dine.
    Road trip giraffe
  3. Keep an open mind. “Windows down, music up” is the motto but it’s a long drive. Talk! Even if there’s nothing in common between you and your road trip partner, you have the adventure in common. On road trips I love talking about the Americans who first came west and what made them so willing to leave their lives back east. Or wondering what a day-in-the-life would be like for residents along the trips more obscure intersections. Taking a road trip with someone else opens up an entirely new avenue for connection. Take advantage.
  4. Share the AUX. Maybe it’s your car, maybe you’re in love with our road trip playlist, but eventually you should cede control of the music. Or at least offer it up. Everyone has that handful of songs they need to hear. In the past, I’ve found that road trips are a great opportunity for sharing and discovering new music as opposed to just running through your own collection for the.

    Road trip rules

    Colorado (or Kansas…?)

  5. Communicate expectations. Agreeing to take a road trip together is one thing. Being on the same page about how the road trip should go is a whole other issue. Be open about what’s going on in your mind throughout the drive. Are you in need of the bathroom? Do you feel like driving? Is there something coming up you want to see? Did your butt fall asleep? Like anything in life, being open and honest about your experience and expectations for a road trip will help everyone get the most out of it.

But mostly, get where you’re going safely!

Colorado National Monument

Road tripping has been a major part in my growth as a person and I hope if you decide to take one on for the first or for the hundredth time, that it will impact you profoundly as well. Stick to the rules and don’t forget to smile. And when you get to your destination, share your experience!

Up next in #RoadTripMore: Cherishing Home.

More #RoadTripMore:

Author: Eric White

Eric graduated Ohio University in 2012 with a degree in Advertising and immediately went out to San Diego, California to start not using his degree. At the start of 2013, Eric quit his job, let his lease run out and started backpacking North America. Eric has worked with Amtrak, Crowdtap, HootSuite and others, and currently lives in Los Angeles, CA... when not on the road.

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