The car is loaded up, the seatbelts are fastened and the open road lies ahead. With warm weather on the horizon and students eager to get out of Ann Arbor one more time before the semester ends, it can only mean one thing: road trip.
Many factors go into making a weekend getaway great. Whether it’s a two-hour excursion up north or a 20-hour drive to Florida, here are some tips to help ensure a successful road trip.
Pack your bags. It’s going to be a wild ride.
Having a good seat can make all the difference. Due to the length of some trips, being crammed into an uncomfortable position can put an immediate damper on the journey. Every traveler is a little different in where they prefer to ride.
“I rock the backseat where I can lie down,” said Engineering freshman Gabe Pak, who recently made a five-hour drive to Chicago with his friends.
LSA freshman Jennifer Cocariu, fresh off her 10-hour trip to Newark, N.J. with three of her friends, shares a similar belief. “(I) definitely (choose) the backseat so I can sleep,” she said.
Still, some prefer the different benefits that the front seat offers.
“The backseat is no fun. You feel left out of the conversation,” said Nursing freshman Lindsey Glover.
School of Education junior Carrie Veldman, who recently spent a weekend in Chicago with three of her friends, agrees that the front seats are ideal. “You can control the music and you get more leg room,” she said.
As the trip goes on, it’s important to keep plenty of good music coming from the car speakers. Music can set the tone, keep the trip lively and boost the spirits of everyone in the car.
“Because we had different interests with six different people, we used the iPod and played it through the radio,” said LSA junior Matt Cochill, who spent his spring break in Key Largo, Fla. with nine of his friends.
Some prefer to have the music as the main source of entertainment for the ride, selecting tunes familiar to everyone.
“My request was always the songs we could sing to, like ’80s music,” said LSA junior Kelsey Berndt.
“We liked poppy fun music like the Backstreet Boys,” added Cocariu.
On his trip to Daytona, Fla. last summer, Music freshman Tony Heaphy had a different idea for three of his best friends.
”I made them listen to showtunes the whole way there. We sang ‘Mr. Mistoffelees’ from ‘Cats’ for like 20 minutes,” he said.
Others even try to have the music fit the trip itself, as was the case for Veldman.
“We were listening to a lot of classic jazz because we thought it would be cool to look at the Chicago skyline while classical jazz was playing in the background. Frank Sinatra is sing-a-long stuff. We sang the whole way there,” she said.
As with any trip, there are bound to be a few roadblocks along the way. Veldman recalled her trip, where her friends decided on a Wednesday to get away the following Friday.
“It was the dead point where Spring Break was over and we just wanted to go. The spontaneity of it was fun,” she said.
However, when her group arrived in Chicago, they found lodging to be more expensive then they had anticipated.
“We just decided to go. If we had just planned before … we would have saved a ton,” she said.
Berndt shared a different problem that occurred on her trip as her hotel was destroyed by a hurricane, forcing her group to scramble to find another hotel further down Florida’s panhandle.
If finding a cheap place to stay is easy, there’s always the problems that arise with navigation. A wrong turn can add considerable time to the trip.
Glover recalled her navigation horror story, as a wrong turn led to an embarrassing situation.
“We went two hours out of the way, and I realized we were going the wrong way, but I didn’t let on,” she said.
“Know where you’re going and don’t get lost. That’s key,” she added.
For those without an internal compass, maps can be purchased at any local gas station. Better yet, AAA Michigan provides free maps to members, and their Ann Arbor branch office is located at 1200 S. Main St., across from Michigan Stadium.
As the miles pile up, travelers can become antsy, and the music can grow stale. Finding a distraction can help the hours pass by quickly.
“We played this ridiculous game with celebrities whose names started with each letter of the alphabet,” Heaphy said, who also mentioned playing the game “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” as a time-filler.
“I prefer driving, but we had a TV, DVD and video game player (in the backseat),” Cochill added.
Sometimes, the road itself can provide entertaining opportunities to pass the time.
“We made fun of people in another car, so the guy made a ‘You Stink’ sign for us,” Berndt said.
Glover recalled the Bruiser-Cruiser game, where one person spots a PT Cruiser and immediately punches the person sitting next to them. Other favorites are the “Would you rather …” game, the license plate-spotting game and a game where passengers look for cars with burned out headlights. If none of those appeal to the passengers, there is still one age-old solution.
“Making fun of each other helps a lot,” Pak said.
The argument between arriving at the destination quickly and taking time to see the country is never ending. For every Matt Cochill, who “just stopped for gas and food,” there is a Tony Heaphy, who said his group “definitely pulled off the road if we saw something cool.” Still, no matter what kind of trip it is, the most important things to remember are to be safe, keep a positive attitude and above all, have fun. Some final tips:
“You just have to be with people you like. If I’m in a car with people I like, I could sit forever,” Berndt said.
“Small bladders and Nalgene bottles aren’t a good combination,” she added.
“Have good music, good directions and people you enjoy going with. Make sure you have something to do. Pack light and take some magazines,” Cochill suggested.
“Don’t go with someone you don’t like, and it’s really impossible to drive to France. Just trust me on that one,” Heaphy said.