11 Tips For The 'Perfect' Summer Road Trip

There are few things that scream “SUMMER!” more than the American Road Trip. A couple good friends, some tunes and the open road lead to unexpected adventures, hours of conversation and friends in new places.

The theme of a road trip is pretty straightforward, but as with all things worth doing, mastery comes with practice. Chelsey and Jason Magness of the YogaSlackers have spent thousands of hours on the open road touring vast sections of the United States. In their travels, they’ve come up with these 11 tips for a great trip. Now fuel up the car and hit the road!

Route 66, a road trip classic; photo by Dietmar Rabich

1 — Stock the car doors with extra sunscreen, lighters and sunglasses. These items seem to vanish all too regularly. So we’ve taken to stashing these three things in every little nook and cranny of the car. Open any door, console or compartment and you are bound to find something to shade your eyes, light the camp stove, or keep you from burning in the summer sun.

2 — Don’t be afraid to go off your planned route. Amazing things happen while on the road, so don’t be surprised when a stranger-turned-buddy points out an incredible “secret spot” on the map just a couple hours out of the way. Go there. Life’s biggest regrets are usually the things we didn’t do.

3 — Tack on a few “buffer” days, just in case … Stumbling upon that beautiful “secret spot” only to have to leave in order to stay on schedule defeats the purpose of a fun road trip. We spent a whole day stuck in the sand trying to get to a secluded climbing area. When we finally got unstuck, we regrouped and spent an unplanned night nearby. The next morning we rented a canoe and paddled to the crag via a nearby river. The ensuing “extra” day of climbing and highlining was one of the best of our trip!

4 — Bring along as many toys as you can! Climbing gear, bikes, slackline, inflatable boats, surf boards, mountaineering equipment, running shoes, yoga rug — we’ve never had a trip that went according to plan and lots of gear means lots of flexibility. Too hot to climb? Head out on the bike. Too rainy and muddy for that steep trail? Packraft the river — you can’t get any wetter!

5 — Bring along a friend or two. Traveling solo can be great, but having companions gives you a belayer, a hiking buddy, and someone to snuggle up to on cold mountain nights. It also gives you someone to share the driving and help push the car when it runs out of gas, breaks down or gets stuck in the sand.

6 — Stop at a roadside diner in a tiny town. Order a milkshake, burger and fries. Some of the best road trip food we’ve ever eaten came from a joint named “Pickle’s Place” in Arco, Idaho.

7 — Download your favorite podcasts and road trip playlists. Nothing makes road miles pass faster than great music, comedy, or intellectually stimulating shows. A few of our current favorites are listed below.

Podcasts: Wait Wait, Freakonomics, This American Life, any TED talks.

Spotify playlist:

Channeling John

Walk to the Beat

Roadtrippin Country Style

8 — Find a lake, and jump in! Summer is hot. As you drive by any of the many lakes or reservoirs that dot the countryside, don’t pass up an opportunity to pull over, jump out, and jump in! This is especially necessary if you find yourself driving across Utah with no air conditioning!

9 — Furry friends make it more fun Dogs love road trips. Our yellow lab, Baylor, was a constant source of entertainment and inspiration. Just don’t forget to pack extra water and food. Bonus: having Baylor in the car (with the window down) made us feel more comfortable leaving bikes on the car while we ran into the store or diner.

10 — Bring along a few books and a hammock. It is a little known fact that indulgent pulp becomes great literature when read swinging from a hammock. When you finish a book, swap it with your friends. We think paperbacks are best, as they are lighter, stuff into your pack, and usually contain a few more empty pages that can be used to start your campfire.

Our current faves: The Happiness Project, Name of the Wind, Lets Pretend This Never Happened.

11 Beer tastes best when it is chilled in an alpine lake or stream. It also tastes better when you are muddy, bruised, and exhausted after a full day in the wilds.

Our recommendations: Whatever’s local! Traveling brings you to new areas of the country certain to have delicious regional craft breweries you’ve never tried. Some of our favorites are Deschutes Black Butte Porter, Stone Pale Ale and Hop Notion IPA, but we live in a country of literally thousands of brews. Get out there and find a new one, it’s what road trips are for!

—Jason Magness is a contributing editor and a founder of the YogaSlackers. Jason and wife Chelsey also run J&C Training, based in Bend, Ore.