Thinking of taking a road-trip? Whether you’re inspired by some of the classic routes across the U.S. or have business to attend to, it’s easy to forget the journey in favor of the destination. You might save a few minutes or even hours by driving all the way through and stopping only when you absolutely need to, but at what cost?
There are plenty of reasons to slow down a little and take a break during your drive — here are seven of the most important.
1. You need time to stretch and relax.
Driving for long periods of time takes a toll on your body. Your muscles, locked in position for hours at a time, will start to stiffen and cramp, making the drive uncomfortable and unsafe due to decreased mobility.
Plan in extra time for a few stops during your trip, and make sure to take them before you start cramping so you stay limber. Once you stop, a few simple stretches will help loosen those joints so you can enjoy the trip without aches and pains to detract from it. If you are lucky, you can even find a cool place to make this pit-stop which will add onto the sight-seeing portion of your trip!
2. You can make sure your vehicle in good condition.
A pre-trip check of all the important technical aspects of your vehicle is essential, but don’t forget about checking during your trip as well. Making sure your tire pressure stays at recommended levels, for example, is essential to adequate grip — especially when driving on treacherous roads or during rainy seasons. You don’t want to get stranded in the middle of the wilderness with no gas either — make sure to keep your tank topped off. This advice counts for your energy levels as well — driving while drowsy or tired dramatically increases the likelihood of accidents. Make sure you’re rested so nothing gets in the way of a memorable drive!
3. You can find discounts and hidden gems.
While you’re taking a break and a stretch at those rest stops, keep an eye out for printed brochures and coupon books — these are often the best source for discounts on motel rooms and otherwise. Don’t forget to strike up conversation with locals when you can, since they might be able to point out a better scenic route to your destination, or highlight nearby points of interest too obscure to be on most maps.
4. You can take advantage of roadside attractions.
The U.S. is a country of roadside attractions, and with good reason. From oddity museums, historical sites, cute cafes and local arts and crafts — you’ll be sure to spot something worth delaying your trip for a moment. Add some flexibility to your schedule to allow for these often small and unassuming yet rich experiences, and stop whenever one catches your eye, as these quirky stops can provide truly unique gifts and sights to see.
5. You can try the local cuisine.
Every region and every state has iconic foods — their classic food and drink. If you stick to the highways and chain restaurants, you’re missing out on the entire culinary dimension of your trip. Take a moment for a detour into town or to stop at a roadside diner — it might mean the difference between yet another starchy hamburger and a meal that introduces you to a new favorite dish. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you’ll be able try it later somewhere else — an imitation rarely lives up to the real thing.
6. You can explore trails and vistas.
The geography and landscape of the U.S. is complex and diverse — but you’ll only see it from a distance when driving at high speeds on a highway. You’re on a road-trip, so make the most of it: Get up close to experience the natural beauty of the sites blanketing the country.
Look out for the tell-tale signs for trails, vistas and other landmarks. Even if the break is just for a moment, you’ll get to stretch your legs, breathe in clean air and get a far deeper experience of the land you’re traveling through.
7. You can experience the seasons.
Take into account when you’re traveling as well as where — the season matters. If it’s starting to get colder, consider where you could stop to really take in that beautiful foliage. You’ll get to experience seasonality that varies wildly across the country — these fleeting moments may not come by again, especially if you don’t travel in that area very often. This doesn’t apply only to the weather, either: you can only experience certain seasonal attractions, like food festivals, for a short while each year.
The next time you’re planning how much time you need for stops on a road trip, be generous. Consider your comfort, your safety and the whole experience.
A road trip dotted with interesting stops is a series of stories to tell and memories to relive. Without them, it’s just a long drive. Which would you prefer?