Travelogue: The Return of The Summer Road Trip – Yours! (Part 1)

Wait…when was National Road Trip Day?

Oh, I missed it. Darn. Probably too busy to notice…

Which brings me to why we need to have road trips. We get so wrapped up in our lives, our work, and family and friends that we forget to do something for ourselves. Being busy is great and does reap the rewards of hard work and dedication. Yet, you need a reset – a reboot, at times. 

This is why I love doing road trips

The summer of 2021 should be a good one to get out and explore the country. Because of the number of people getting vaccinated for the COVID-19 virus, there are some loosening of guidelines regarding mask-wearing. In turn, we are seeing places opening up again – from ballparks to National Parks; restaurants to gatherings for thousands of people. 

While we are closer to getting to a "next normal," we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. 

We just have to drive into one to experience it!

Even through this pandemic, I took plenty of road trips to see new places and partake into new experiences. I knew the fun wouldn’t last as roadways are jamming up during rush hour and airports are seeing a lot of passengers fly through them.

More people are looking to take the road again. I’m encouraged by that. Well…sort of. 

At this point, I need to throw a few curve balls at you. See, it is one thing to get on the road and just "go." It is another to make that you are prepared and ready for anything when you do take that road trip. 

How many times have we forgot something? Things, such as checking your vehicle over. What about certain things you will need to capture those precious moments on the road. Key essentials to make your trip more comfortable. 

Let me help you make your road trip one for the social media feeds. Here are some suggestions I will make for you to get ready for the best road trip you will take this summer. 

GET YOUR VEHICLE CHECKED OUT! Do you want to be that person on the side of the highway with your hood up? Or, attempting to fix your tire on a 90-plus degree (Fahrenheit) day with moderate-to-terrible humidity? That is why you should go to your mechanic to get your vehicle checked out. Have your repair shop or mechanic do a once-over, including making sure your fluids are topped off, your tires properly inflated and balanced – including your spare (if you have one), making sure your wipers are good, and the electrical system working in proper order. 

This is highly recommended if anyone who has not driven their vehicle as much as they once did before the first shutdowns. There is a chance that your vehicle might not run the way you once had it running back in February 2020. If you are in that situation, please get it checked out before you go anywhere!

HAVE A PLAN: Sometimes we’ll drive and get lost immediately. Or, find ourselves in an epic traffic jam because someone felt the need to text instead of watching the trailer ahead of them. When you map out your route, make sure you have alternative routes in case you either have no clue how to get to where you need be or for massive construction jobs that can slow your roll to your destination. 

Most mobile apps and vehicle navigation systems have a traffic alert component that will let you know when you coming up on a construction zone. They will even correct your course, if you stray from it. Do I have a preference on which app to use? Nope. Google has a great mapping app, although Apple has not failed me in well over a couple of years. Waze is also a good choice, too. 

GET WHAT YOU WANT TO PAY FOR: You can’t control the price of fuel. Or, food. Ah, but you can find great room prices between your hotel chain rewards membership and some online discounters. If you’re adventurous, Priceline’s Express Deals could be the best roulette wheel spin you could take.

We know that room rates are up over last summer, but we also know that the savviest traveler can get a good deal if they pay in advance and know the rules of engagement with said accommodation. Before you check in, see what amenities are at the place you will be staying. Find out about parking at the property – including whether it is free or what it will cost you. Shuttle services or excellent access to public transportation are cost savers at many destinations. 

ICYMI, MOST PLACES ARE NOW OPEN: Find out what’s open for dining in or patio seating before you go to that restaurant. Your hotel desk person should help. If not, the internet and some apps will help. In the past, V&R used the Open Table app to locate and reserve restaurants in several cities across the USA. 

Speaking of dining out, one thing I must pass on – be patient. There is a hiring issue at many restaurants, because some of their former staff are choosing not to return to work. Let me get into the reason why here, but please understand that great places are trying to do their best with a smaller staff than before the COVID-19 pandemic. If you understand that, you may have a better time with some peace of mind when you dine somewhere in your travels. 

THERE’S ALWAYS ROOM FOR ACTIVITIES: It seems that all of the things we missed are starting to welcome us again. Ballparks are one of them. Waterparks, amusement parks, museums, bars, and other places are opening their doors. Before you go, do some research on schedules, opening hours, and safety guidelines. 

OH, AND DON’T FORGET YOUR MASK! I know this might be a trigger warning for some. Just hear…er, read me out. While the Centers for Disease Control state that fully vaccinated folks can go into most places without a mask, some places have voluntarily required masks for non-vaccinated folks to go inside them. Look for signs or go to their websites on specifics regarding mask wearing and social distancing at stores, restaurants, outdoor venues, public spaces, and so forth.

By now, you’re probably itching to get on the road. Just consider all of this before you turn the ignition and head onward. Believe me, you do not want to be stressed out when you are en route to your destination. 

Speaking of which, I will be talking destinations in the next installment of this article…

All photos by Randy Stern

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