Travel experts are saying that the old fashioned road trip we made as kids is coming back. Though the price of gas is now close to $4.00 a gallon, compared to about 19 cents a gallon back when we were kid, this is the trend. So, if you want some nostalgia, and pop culture, here is your chance.
But, I am not the “Vacation” Chevy Chase type of road trip guy. No more Disneyland (or Wally World for the Griswold), but more relaxing places like Scottsdale, Tahoe, San Diego, and the Pacific Coast. There will be no Aunt Edna’s on my roof!!
We recently took Lexi on a long, by our standards, road trip to Arizona, via Las Vegas, Sedona, and to our ultimate destination, Spring Training in Scottsdale, AZ. We stopped in Palm Springs on the way home to break up the drive, as we did in Vegas on the way to Arizona.
There were long, boring stretches, and times when we really had to search for gas or food. But we did enjoy being together, and having Lexi see the great American southwest.
Why did the trend die out in the first place? Time, of course, a valuable commodity when the average American worker got only two weeks vacation per year. It is a real time saver to fly to your destination, rather than drive, unless there is an ocean in between.
But flying, particularly as a family, has become very expensive. So, a two hour flight versus 12-16 hours in a car is the easy comparison. Many of us forget the flight requires arriving two hours in advance, not including the time to get there. Parking the car at the airport incurs expenses as well. What if you encounter a delay? Travel by auto rarely has delays, and offers the options of frequent or interesting stops. And you can carry more “stuff”, like food, drinks, and gifts.
Statistically, can you believe road trips made up 39% of vacations taken by Americans in 2016, up 22% from the previous year? Two other factors might be the ease of taking pets, like us with Lexi, and the ability to take last minute trips.
Surprisingly, this surge is led not by retirees, aka boomers, but by millennials. Even in their youth, they seem driven by nostalgia. Maybe they heard some of the stories we told from our childhood, where the family road trip was the ONLY vacation we ever got. Or simply, they might remember us dragging them along on road trips against their will, most of the time?
Respondents said they like the spontaneity of road trips, versus air, train and cruise travel. The media, as always plays a big part, touting the “Great American Road Trip” in newspapers and magazines. Then again, outfits like Triple A always tout road trips, along with the petroleum industry, auto dealers, and nearby convention and visitor bureaus.
I can certainly see why the spontaneity plays a big part, with millennials, and the rest of us booking last minute trips as we head out the door. Smart phones and tablets allow us the plan the trip as we go. It does not hurt that here in California, we have a long and beautiful coastline, mountains less than an hour away from most places, and a wide variety of weather conditions for seasonal recreation.
For me, google maps really helps on road trips of any distance. I can recall many times, losing my way temporarily, only to get back on track with the google maps app on my phone. But, in my experience, do not underestimate the value of printed maps. Why? You might not have phone service during a drive form the top of Chile, all the way to Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world. Or crossing Russia on the Trans Siberian Railway.
Some guy, with nothing better to do, mapped out an efficient road trip for the contiguous 48 states. It totals a mere 13,000 miles, and would take around NINE days. The bonus: one family friendly stop per state. I for one, am certainly pleased that my trip to visit all fifty states took all of 67 years. Very few were by car, Oregon, and Nevada, the remainder by a combination of planes, trains and cars.
Considerably more fun would be visiting all 59 National Parks, but maybe not on one trip. Most people would take about a year to make this epic trip. I may not make it to all 59, but I made it a point to get to the ones that I consider most important to me. These would be Arches, Bryce, Zion, Yosemite (in my backyard), Yellowstone, Glacier, Teton, Grand Canyon, Canyonlands, Badlands, Olympic, Crater, Sequoia, and Kings.
Another take on this theme are the books that tout “Eight American Must Drive Road Trips” or something of that nature. I really cannot comment on it, since I have never followed the advice of one of these “expert” must do drives. But if you lack the time to plan your own trip, this might be a decent option.
Whatever you do, wherever you go, I do encourage you to take at least one good road trip per year. It has proven to be both fun and interesting, especially bringing Lexi along with us.
Some basic things I always bring on a road trip:
Cooler with ice
Lots of water
GPS or google maps
Camera (or cell camera)
Good walking shoes
Laptop or tablet