The open road has long been a symbol of freedom and adventure. But are road trips worth it? With so many travel options, you might think road trips are a little too old school. After all, station wagons are a thing of the past.
Still, there are some compelling reasons that road trips are still one of the best ways to travel. This is especially true if you are interested in exploration and bonding.
So buckle up and enjoy the adventure as we explore whether road trips are worth it.
Are Road Trips Worth It?
There are legitimate drawbacks to taking road trips, including extended travel times and potential discomfort. Still, in our view, the benefits of taking road trips far outweigh the cons. Those benefits include cost-effective travel, flexibility, adventure, bonding, and more.
There are pros and cons to any type of travel, but the beauty of road trips is they allow for the journey to be just as fulfilling as the destination.
Exploring Road Trip Benefits
In considering whether or not you want to take a road trip, it makes sense to consider your goals. After all, there are times when hopping on a plane makes sense. We live in the Carolinas, so traveling to the west coast would take more time than we have.
Even so, there are many places along the east coast that we can reach by car. And as a family of four that doesn’t live near any extended family, we’ve learned to embrace the road trip!
We road trip to see family, but we also take weekend road trips to the mountains or the beach. So are road trips worth it? In our opinion, they are still an awesome way to travel.
Road trips are also very cost-effective because there is very little incremental cost to add people to your road trip. As long as you can all fit in one car, the cost will be about the same as it would be for just one person traveling in a car.
That simply isn’t true for other forms of travel. It might be possible for one person to fly somewhere for about the same price that it would take to drive, but the moment you add a second plane ticket, road-tripping is almost always the cheaper alternative.
This is one reason that road-tripping is perfect for family vacations or staycations. It is very expensive for a family of four or five people to fly somewhere together. It is much more affordable to drive somewhere together.
To further contain costs, you might consider whether camping or hotels make more sense for your situation.
When you combine the cost-effective nature of driving with the bonding benefits road-tripping offers, the open road becomes a slam-dunk choice.
Road trips also offer unparallel travel flexibility. Compared to tightly scheduled flights and trains, or the rigidity of guided tours, road trips give you the freedom to decide your schedule on the fly.
That level of freedom enables you to truly relax in a way you might not be able to if you were worried about catching your connecting flight, for instance. So are road trips worth it? In my mind, freedom alone makes a good road trip worth the effort.
Wake up when you want to wake up and drive as far as you want to drive. Take unexpected stops, and cherish changes in plan. Take a detour because you see a sign for an interesting local attraction or power through to reach your end destination.
The world is an interesting place, and you deserve the flexibility to explore new things.
Adventure and Exploration
Do you consider yourself an adventurer? If so, road trips are the way to go. Road trips are all about exploration and learning about new places.
You are in control of your own destiny as your travel the open road. You are free to wander off the beaten path, stop in unexpected yet cool small towns, and make stops for scenic views along the way. This sense of exploration is fundamental to what makes road trips so great.
One way to practice this found adventure is to ask locals for suggestions along the way. Ask for restaurant recommendations, favorite hiking locations, and a list of the best things to do. This is a surefire way to fill your road trip with adventure.
Connect With Loved Ones
While road trips can be fun and exciting, they also tend to offer tons of unplanned time. It’s in these moments that you can choose to reflect quietly. It’s in these moments you will also find opportunities to connect with your loved ones.
On a recent road trip, my son and I spent hours drawing together, and it was a rare chance to interact directly with him on his level. My wife was driving, and he was tired of his electronics.
My mom and I took a long road trip after my dad passed away, and that is another one of my favorite memories. The trip offered chances to laugh, cry, heal, and reconnect in unique ways.
Your examples might not be this dramatic, but we are confident that you will make deeper connections on your next road trip.
Disconnect From Your Daily Routine
Lastly, road trips offer you the opportunity to disconnect from your daily routines. In a work-from-home world, we always have our laptops and emails nearby. And for others, it might be that your social media feeds are always looming over you.
Road trips offer you the opportunity to temporarily lay all of this aside. And who doesn’t want that?
Some people choose to put their devices away completely, and some even choose to go back to maps and atlases in place of GPS devices. You might not choose to go this far, but you will likely find that disconnecting at some level is exactly what you need.
So are road trips worth the time, money, and forethought? In our view, road trips help you disconnect from the most toxic parts of your life and reconnect with yourself.
Exploring Road Trip Drawbacks
Not surprisingly, there are a few legitimate reasons that you might choose to skip your next road trip and look for alternatives. And some of those reasons you can plan around, while some you can’t.
There is a time and place to fly across the world, take a cruise, or even choose a staycation. Let’s take a few moments to unpack reasons you might consider something other than a road trip.
Longer Travel Times
I’ve taken some long road trips in my time. On multiple occasions, I’ve driven 15 or 16 hours in one day. Those trips are tiring and dangerous; even then, there is a limit to how far you can drive.
The United States is a big place, and those 15 or 16-hour drives were all through regions of the southeastern United States. Those epic drives didn’t even take me beyond the sunbelt.
Now, we’ve road tripped across the western and northeastern United States, too, but we flew to get there and then flew home. We recognize this isn’t an ideal situation for everyone.
At some point, you will have to hop on a plane or train if you truly want to explore new places. And that’s ok! Most of us have daily obligations that prevent us from taking multi-week drives. Road trips aren’t the best option for distant destinations.
Discomfort and Exhaustion
Road trips can also get uncomfortable at times. If you are like me, you need a big cold drink to help fuel you down the road. The downside to a big cold drink is feeling like you need more frequent stops than you would like.
Combine that with limited legroom, limited ability to move out of a seated position, and seatbelt awkwardness, and you might start to feel a little trapped. So, some stretches get a little uncomfortable.
Plus, when you are the one driving, your eyes might start to grow a little weary after staring down the road. All this to say, we understand why some people don’t like road trips. In our minds, this confirms the need to make frequent stops to stay fresh and safe.
Avoiding overly long road trips will help in this regard.
Potential Car Troubles
Here is an interesting, fun fact for you: One analysis shows that vehicles are twice as likely to break down when they hit ten years old. This is something to keep in mind if you have an older car.
And you never know when you might have a flat tire. We recommend considering a roadside assistance service like AAA. Good Sam offers unique benefits, and Better World Club focuses on sustainability and service excellence.
Make The Most Of Your Road Trip
We think that road-tripping is a great way to spend your vacation. While you can’t plan for everything, there are steps you can take to maximize your next open-road adventure.
For one, be honest with yourself about your personality and needs, as well as that of those you are traveling with. Some people might feel inspired to take down the GPS, while others might feel stressed without directions.
We are all different, and that’s ok. Considering your fellow road trippers and doing a little planning will go a long way toward a fun and successful trip.
Plan Your Route
For those that are on a tight timeline or like a game plan, planning out your route can go a long way toward improving your overall experience. Planning your route doesn’t preclude spontaneity. It simply enhances the chance you will enjoy yourself.
For instance, your map app might offer a few routes. The fastest route likely sticks to interstates and may or may not go through interesting towns along the way. A separate route might take longer but snake its way through quaint downtowns along the way.
Which is better? That’s for you to decide, but give it some thought before you hop in your car and start driving. Understanding your own personality, as well as the personalities of your other road-trippers, is key here.
If you have the time and stomach to set out blindly on the open road, then we say go for it and have a great time! Even so, we also understand most people will have a smoother experience if they put a little thought into their plans.
While we recommend a little planning, don’t go overboard to the other end of the spectrum, either. You don’t need an hour-by-hour itinerary and may not even need a day-by-day itinerary.
Instead, set broad plans and embrace spontaneity as those plans unfold. Live in the moment, and focus on enjoying yourself rather than your planned timeline and list of activities that you want to accomplish.
Don’t overpack for your trip. Learn to pack just what you need, and do it in a smart way. For instance, pack versatile and durable clothes that you can wear in multiple settings. We also recommend packing versatile layers that will help you adapt to the climate. A light pullover fleece and a rainproof jacket will prepare you for nearly every situation.
In the same way, be smart about how you pack food. Take snacks that are filling, reasonably nutritious, and easy to travel with. You might prefer to grab snacks along the way; still, a snack like a trail mix can go a long way when you are in a pinch.
Don’t overpack or overprepare, but put enough effort into your planning to get the basics right. That’s a worthwhile investment in time and money.
Make Stops And Enjoy Breaks
The most likely reason for you to be miserable on a road trip is that you make yourself miserable by forbidding frequent stops. Instead, enjoy the ride, stretch your legs, and cherish the stops when needed.
Don’t make yourself miserable because you are racing against the GPS.
Summarizing Road Trip Pros and Cons
Road trips offer the opportunity to discover new places but also to rediscover yourself. In our view, road trips are worth the investment because they inspire personal growth, resilience, and new connections to the people and world around you.
And road trips do this in a unique way that other types of vacations simply can’t match. Are road trips worth it? From our perspective, road trip benefits greatly outweigh the cons.
The Verdict: Are Road Trips Worth It?
So are road trips worth it? We contend that the pros greatly outweigh the cons. Road Trips are cost-effective and adventurous, promote bonding, and allow for flexibility and spontaneity. We realize the downsides include the inability to travel quickly across the country and some expected discomfort.
With all factors considered, we still think road trips are an incredible opportunity to embrace the best version of yourself. You will find freedom, curiosity, beauty, and much more.
Follow your adventurous spirit toward the open road. You never know what experiences and deepened relationships are waiting just around the bend.
Grab your favorite road trip snacks and hit the road!