Road rules: How to survive long hours in confined spaces with your best of friends

By Kate MacDonald

(Courtesy MCT)

It’s that time of the year again, when college students everywhere are done with midterms and aching to get out of their sleepy hometowns and off to warm beaches rife with scantily clad beachgoers. On a poor college kid’s budget, how are they supposed to afford this trip? Here’s an idea – pile a bunch of friends together in a car and head out!

Seems perfect, but even the best-laid plans can hit obstacles. Here are just a few tips to achieve the best and most memorable road trip, without all of the hassles.

Talk to your fellow travelers about specifics before you even get in the car. How are you splitting up the costs of gas? And don’t forget about tolls, they add up very quickly. Keep change in the car for those lovely little stops. And, please, do not lose the toll tickets.

Don’t eat crazy, exotic and sketchy foods at stops along the way. Fish from a fast food place might sound like a good idea, but a bad stomach ache plus motion (and the inevitable stop and go of rush hour traffic) makes a horrible, horrible combination. It’s best to avoid food poisoning at all costs. You’ll hate your life, and your friends won’t be too thrilled either.

Try to be lenient with the music selection. Making CDs and iPod playlists beforehand is a good idea, but realize that everyone has different tastes. So go easy on your friends when they’re listening to music that makes your ears bleed, chances are they’ll experience the same thing once or twice with your selection.

Pay attention to the small stuff; it is the unexpected things that make the trip fun and memorable. An exit that leads to the world’s biggest ball of twine? Stop and take a look. It can make for a funny story and even funnier Facebook pictures.

Keep the car clean; don’t just stick the responsibility on the car owner. In fact, bring a few plastic bags along for the ride for trash, and throw them out when you stop for gas. The car owner will appreciate it, and you will appreciate not breathing in the noxious fumes of that days-old milkshake that’s buried under mounds of wrappers.

Be open to detours; they’re pretty much inevitable. Consider bringing a GPS along, rather than just a map or printed directions, they adapt to road changes and will direct you back to the correct road and onwards to your destination.

Go with people you’re comfortable with. This seems like a given, but things tend to change when you’re essentially in a 4-by-6 box with the same people for more than 10 hours.

Take turns driving, especially if you’re on a long trip. It’s better to be safe than sorry; just stop when you’re tired, your friends will understand. Getting up and changing seats, stretching your legs, is a good idea, and will even help the trip to move along a little faster.

Pack sunscreen, no matter where you’re going. Of course, this is especially important if you’re going to a warm-weather destination. It won’t be cute if, when talking to the hottest guy or gal on the beach, only half of your body is burnt to a crisp because you hung your arm out of the window.

The most important tip is simply to just have fun. Most college kids only get four spring breaks, four weeks total, to go out and just be young with your friends and others your own age. After this comes the real world, which for most doesn’t include a few yearly vacations. So just try to enjoy your time, have great times with friends and make some lasting memories!

Kate MacDonald can be reached at [email protected]