Rediscovering the Road Trip: A Guide
Part 1: Why Go Road Tripping?
During these days of interruptions and false starts, drawn-out vacations and remote reassignments, many folks are finding themselves with an unusual amount of time on their hands, unanticipated spans filled with little-to-no plans. As the summer turns to fall and fall to winter, and the pall of stir-craziness begins to set in (again), perhaps there is an opportunity for you and your family to rediscover a somewhat bygone American pastime: the humble road trip.
Without delving too much into the often-controversial mire that is travel in the COVID-19 world, let’s quickly consider the clear benefits of hitting the open road. First, your vehicle is a controllable space. If you have concerns about coming into contact with crowds, or sitting in spaces of questionable hygiene, your ability to carefully maintain the cleanliness of your car can be a source of comfort and an excellent safety measure. Though you’ll certainly have to leave the car, on a road trip you will inevitably spend a great deal of time in it. Travelling in your and your group’s own vehicle basically gives you a rolling safe zone where you can breathe easy.
And second, when you decide to venture out from our car (as you definitely should, because why else drive somewhere if not to see it up close) you get to choose where and how you experience the attraction or activity center you’ve stopped at. Road trips are sort of like a choose-your-own-adventure game: you may have a set start point and a destination you eventually need to reach, but the sights and scenes, the layovers and diversions of the journey are entirely up to you. If you feel most comfortable camping, a road trip allows you to pack as many provisions as you might need to do so; if you prefer hotel living, look online and select the cleanest option, or the option with the most robust precautionary measures.
The web these days is quickly filling with meticulous reviews of, along with guidance for navigating, the COVID procedures at locales ranging from restaurants to parks to museums to public lakes. With a little pre-research, you can make sure that every stop on your trip is as safe as you need it to be, so that you can have a great time without being waylaid by worry.
To this end, we will be posting a series of “regional road trip guides” to provide some loose direction from which you can draw inspiration and information for your own future outings. Taken together, the regional guides can make for a truly cross-country American road trip: geographically, the articles span from the Northeast to the West to the far North, while we highlight hidden cross country ski gems and point out occasions for other outdoor activities along the way.
It probably goes without saying that these guides are just that: guides. You can and should deviate from them, switch them up, travel them backwards, or use them in whatever way suits your needs—even if that means simply enjoying this list as an idle daydream about lands faraway. This goes especially for road choices: I have used the Interstate system here as a sort of template for road trippers to organize their stops around and have tried to point out more interesting diversions and detours as they crop up. Like food or relationships, the best road trips are those that develop organically; so don’t be afraid to let that wrong turn into an adventure in its own right.
So, first things first. Where to start a road trip? Well, that’s an easy one: wherever you may be! How to start a road trip though—now that’s a good question. Make sure you pack well and fuel up, and not just your engine or battery. Get a good breakfast from your local greasy spoon or trendy café, a cup of coffee (and maybe another large one to-go), and pull up one of our regional road trip guides alongside your map app. Next stops include unforgettable sights and exceptional outdoor activities with your favorite people, funky pit stops, out-of-the-way oases, and endless jamming to your carefully playlisted tunes and podcasts. Buckle up!