In my family when someone raised the routine question of “What should we do this weekend?” the response was frequently shouted as, “Road Trip!” While some people dread the idea, we looked forward to them. I think that’s because we casually applied the following five-step strategy.
- Be clear on the objective
Knowing, or gaining consensus on the main purpose of the trip helps manage expectations and minimize disappointment. For example, if the objective of your two week road trip is to visit relatives hundreds of miles away, by necessity the trip will need to be carefully scheduled and likely mean long days of travel without much potential for spontaneous side trips. If on the other hand, the objective is to travel to a specific site within a few hours of your home, then there may be room for exploration along the way.
- Involve all the travelers in the planning process
Involving each of your companions in the planning process will give them a stake in the success of the trip rather than the feeling of going along on “your” trip. Granted, a day trip requires little planning compared to a cross-country journey, but both will benefit by a generic amount of consideration.
As a group, discuss trip generalities such as destination, duration and sight-seeing potential, as well as specifics such as will you pack your meals or dine out.
For a longer trip, especially when travelling with older children that are less than enthused about the idea, you might consider asking the question “What do you like about road trips?” and “What don’t you like about road trips?” followed by “What would a successful, i.e., “fun” trip look like to you?” Record all of the answers and use them to put the details of the trip together. For example, if someone says they hate road trips because they need frequent restroom breaks, the solution is to plan frequent breaks into the driving schedule.
- Assign specific tasks to each person
Depending on age and capability, assign each traveler one or more tasks. This helps each individual accept responsibility for the outcome of the trip. When only a couple of people are traveling together role assumption might happen naturally, still a little discussion can prevent potential misunderstandings and hurt feelings. When more people are involved, ask for volunteers.
- Be prepared and stay flexible
Remember that Murphy’s Law is always in effect, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” More than one road trip has ended in a mechanic’s garage rather than the intended destination. Sometimes despite the planner’s best efforts, the attraction is suddenly closed for repairs. Picnic lunches have been left behind in the rush to get going.
Where possible, have back-up plans and remind everyone that obstacles are part of the travel experience. Involve them in finding and carrying out solutions.
Create some little ceremony that celebrates each leg of the trip and the return home. This could be as simple as a toast or a round robin listing of each person’s favorite experience.
After the trip, talk about what worked well and what things need to be improved. Then talk about how those improvements could be made for next time.
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