8 Elements of Every Great Road Trip

N and I just returned from a quick weekend in Boston for a wedding. It’s a decent drive but between my fear of flying and the fact that it was $400 cheaper to drive, we packed it in for a road trip.

The thing is, I love road trips. Maybe it’s because I’ve driven all the way across the country (twice!) but anything less than 10 hours doesn’t seem that long to me anymore. There’s nothing like settling in to the passenger seat, feet up, shades on, reading a book or chatting with my partner in crime.

Road Trip 2

Every road trip for us seems to have the same elements.

1. Wawa

Every proper road trip starts at Wawa. Snacks on snacks on snacks. Coffee. Hoagies. Happiness.

2. Trashy magazines

I never buy trashy magazines so this is my road trip indulgence. That and Sweedish Fish. So let him drive the first shift and get my trashy magazine on.

3. Nostalgic music

This inevitably happen several hours 37 minutes into the road trip when I decide we’ve run out of all the good popular music and move on to James Taylor. And N inevitably pitches a fit and I. Am. Stunned. Who doesn’t like James Taylor? Get the hell out of here. We argue about it jokingly and I get two or three songs in before he starts to get seriously irked. Being on Mass Pike means Sweet Baby James has to be played. It has to.

When this comes to a close, I turn on some Mariah Carey circa 1992 and sing along. It’s glorious for me and murder for everyone in the car (Archie included).

Road Trip 1

4. The New Jersey Turnpike Rest Stops

Say what you want about New Jersey but they blow every other state out of the water with their rest stops – conveniently located right off the turnpike, chock full of fast food options, clean bathrooms, and usually a Starbucks. Plus, you don’t have to pump your own gas! Can we get a round of applause for New Jersey?

5. Mushy brainstorming

If road trips are good for one thing, it’s that they inevitably lead you to talk about topics that you may not talk about your day-to-day life. After you’ve thoroughly hashed out everything you did that week, short-term goals, random observations, and what not, it’s easy to start talking long-term.

This is the part of the car ride where you plan your wedding, name your future children, and even talk about whether you’d consider retiring in Florida. Just go with it. It’s one of those blessed hours where the guys so bored that he’ll be really in to talking about it too.

Road Trip 3

6. That inevitable fight

Somewhere on a nine-hour car ride you’re going to bicker about something. If you’d like to make a bit of money, you can put $20 down on the fact that around hour three N and I will get into a tiff about the way he’s driving.

If there’s one thing I’m the best at, it’s being a backseat driver. Usually right after this time I try to focus on something else like scrolling through Instagram, tweeting, or pinning things on Pinterest.

7. Let’s learn something

Once I’ve finally shut my mouth about N driving in the fast lane going 68 MPH (yes, he’s one of those people), I throw on a Podcasts. Some This American Life, The Nerdist, Freakonomics Radio, and Radiolab are bound to teach you something and you’ll wind up feeling like the hours you spent on the road weren’t wasted. Then we usually have heated discussions about our opinions about whatever we learned.

Road Trip 4

8. Techno wake up time

The second one of us gets tired, it’s windows down and crazy techno dance parties. Then we just repeat steps 5, 6, and 7 until we get to our destination.

Like I said, road trips are my favorite. And just in case you need it, here’s a road trip playlist that will slowly crush your boyfriend’s soul.

  • Yes, you CAN get a round of applause for NJ! We do have the best rest stops, and I love that we don’t pump our own gas. In fact, when I go anywhere else, I end up sitting at the pump for at least a few minutes waiting for someone to come take care of it for me. I am always sad when I realize I have to get out of the car, haha.

    Ken and I love road trips too, and they also involve rest stops, snacks, trashy magazines (usually Cosmo, which I read outloud in the most dramatic way possible), sing-alongs, future planning/brainstorming, and our personal favorite, reading to each other from a book we’ve picked out. Our first book that we read this way was The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and it was hysterical and amazing. We’ve read a few others in that series, as well as Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, and we always get a kick out of reading stories to one another. It also helps pass the time for sure!

    Sounds like you guys had a great time! 🙂

  • I’m really upset about the fact that he doesn’t like James Taylor. I mean. WHO DOESN’T LIKE JAMES TAYLOR?!

    And yes. If I’m in the car with ANYONE for more than an hour – my bad side comes to life and shit is going DOWN.

  • I’m still LOL’ing about this. (Did that just make me sound old?)

    Yes, I hate how long it takes to drive the NJ Turnpike from end to end, but they have the best rest stops. My favorite? Finding DIPPIN’ DOTS!

    And the music playlist. Dead.

    N, speed up in the left lane. For reals.

  • i agree with all of this! i also love listening to comedy or a book on tape and then talking about it..i’m weird.

  • Love these tips/elements! For me, good food, music, company, and weather are what make one perfect for me. I haven’t been on a roadtrip in awhile, but I’ve really been itching to go on one lately… my most recent one of 3.5 hours hardly seems like one. I’m really hoping to go out to California and drive Highway 1 with some friends after the winter holidays this year though, so crossing my fingers on that!

  • Ahhhh Wawa! I literally can never move too far from one- their coffee is my weakness!

  • I just went to New Jersey this past weekend, and I have to say the whole not pumping your own gas freaks me out. I just want to do it myself..is that too much to ask for. LOL, I think I’m alone on this one.

  • I love road trips! They’re awesome! And so much fun. And I totally agree with your whole list.

  • I LOVE road trips too! I think it’s because I’m from Michigan so it is cheaper to drive EVERYWHERE. Road trips with girlfriends are so much fun too!

  • The gas thing is one of my favorites about living in Jersey. The winter is cold and now I can just stay in my car. It’s brilliant. I always forget about podcasts, but our next road trip will be a winner now.

  • Cat

    I love road trips! The hour three arguments are legendary — for us, it means that we need to stop for a quick stretch and a cup of coffee. I haven’t gone on a road trip in what feels like forever!

  • I’m from NJ and I have to say Wawas are the best! I truly miss them now that I live in NY! So freaking delish.

  • Music really does make a road trip 🙂

    I’m from Australia and my Canadian husband and I are currently on a 3-4 month road trip through the States and Canada.

    One of my favourite parts is that I get to hear Kansas’ Carry On My Wayward Son every day on the radio! This would never happen in Australia or Canada. It’s a little thing, but always makes me happy when I’m driving. 🙂

  • I love NJ. One thing I don’t love about the North…the slow driving! If you aren’t going 80 on the highway, you’re going way too slow!

  • Yes yes yes these are the things that make a road trip so cool

  • I love the day-dreaming part of roadtrip conversations. My husband and I planned out our whole future (including winning the lottery) on the first trip we took a month and a half into dating.

  • Mmmmm. sweedish fish.

  • That’s so funny – I can’t stand the fact that NJ doesn’t let you pump your own gas – it makes me not trust them. (though I’ve heard there is a pretty formal certification process to be a gas pumper)

    Anyway, let’s have a moment of silence for all the other sad states who don’t have wawa and are wondering what you’re talking about (and what they are missing out on!)

  • I had to google what “wawa” was… I thought it was slang for walmart or something, lol.

  • I love this list! I’m from New Jersey so I totally am on board with the turn pike rest stops and Wawa – they’re both wonderful! I also love trashy magazines and swedish fish for road trips.

  • I love you for this list. Reading through number 5 I was thinking, “Michael and I would probably be arguing at this point…” And then what do you know, number 6. And then I was thinking, “Since we’ve started listening to NPR podcasts we argue a lot less…” And 7. It’s like you read my roadtrip mind! Michael and I roadtrip quite often since moving from NC to GA and the Pennsylvania girl in me always laments the lack of Wawa down south. Also, “Wait wait, don’t tell me” is our favorite NPR podcast. Definitely worth a listen.

  • I’ll be road trippin’ later this month so your post helped put me in the mood. One thing we’ll do before we leave town is make playlists together… then put it on shuffle once we’re in the car…so everyone gets a chance to hear their song. Also…gotta love having those moments to just daydream out the window…how often do we get to do that?

  • I love this list of road trip necessities! I’d add Starbucks for mine & Lays Stacks! We always end up talking about future purchases. I’m looking to buy a home in a few months and we talk about what I absolutely NEED in my house and what I could live without to cut costs. Location & Pricing. It’s always fun to discuss! Not sure what we’ll talk about once I actually buy it! haha I’ll probably start chatting away about a list of “to-do’s” for the house and mapping out a time frame for Nick (my boyfriend) to do it! I’m sure he’ll look forward to that conversation! Also, I just came across your blog but noticed your a vegetarian and so am I! Love finding fellow vegetarians in the blogging mix! 🙂

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