Long Weekend Road Trips

Here in Canada, we have a long weekend coming up. It’s believed to be the first long-weekend of summer (we’re very optimistic), and people who haven’t spent enough time in their cars all week, are gearing-up to spend some time in their cars to get to somewhere that they can be outside of their cars. It makes total sense. Some of us will even car-pool. Keep in mind that you don’t need to take all of your stuff with you for a long-weekend away, and that will leave room for you to bring another person with you (and leave some cars at home).

Before you get into a car with anyone, whether you know them or not (I suggest you know this person before you do get into a car with them), there are some points to consider first. The “road-trip” then, will be the subject of this week’s article.

While shouting “road-trip!” before everyone gets into the car is not necessary it might be worthwhile in order to make the extraverts feel included. Here are some other observations and tips I have about long-weekend road trips.

Packing for a road-trip

When packing for a road-trip or long-weekend away, think about where you’re going and what you’ll be doing. Do you need a cute cocktail dress and high heels to go to a cottage for the weekend? Likely not. That’s a pretty fancy cottage if you do. Considering the mud that is likely around, rubber boots are a better bet. Think about what you need. Do I need all  of my shampoos, conditioners, hair-masks, face-masks, lotions, nail-polishes, make-up, etc.? Nope. Let’s me honest – if you’re going with your friends, and especially if you’re going camping few will even shower. Sitting by a campfire in the evenings will have your clothes smelling like smoke anyway, so think instead of what you might do to keep warm instead. Pack a few layers – they don’t need to be coordinated, just wear them. Think carefully about packing the beer cooler too. It might be a good idea to see who is bringing what, and bring extra. Inevitably, somebody will want to try what you’ve got, so be prepared to share.

You’ll need to consider who is packing the car because you’ll need to optimize the use of space to get all of the stuff in, plus the people who are doing with you. Usually the person who ones the car knows their car best and packs things into it, but sometimes car-owners don’t have these skills. I suggest you choose an engineer, the dad of the family (for some reason lots of dads have this skill), or at least choose someone who is good at Tetris. I am not an engineer, but I am relatively good at Tetris, so I regularly amaze myself with how much I can fit into my compact car. It’s just too bad that my cat doesn’t count as a second passenger so that I can use the High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lane on the highway. The law states that the passenger has to be human.


One thing you’ll need to think about and probably agree on is what music to play in the car while you’re riding to your destination. It could be a long trip either distance or time-wise, so this step is important. For safety, I suggest that whoever is in the passenger seat is also designated as the DJ and navigator. No back-seat navigators; front-seat only. This person, in consultation with the driver, chooses and plays the music that the entire car-load of people will listen to. Because we don’t want the driver being driven crazy by the music, he or she has final say. A simple “no”, “next”, or “leave it” cues the DDJ (Designated DJ) to move on to the next song or leave the current selection playing, whether it’s a radio-station, CD, MP3, satellite radio, or streaming service. The ultra-dedicated and prepared DDJ will already have the playlist arranged. To all DDJs out there, I hope they like it.

And please, no fidgeting with the GPS while driving. This is also the job of the DDJ.

Car Conversations

Maybe you don’t care about what you’re listening to, and you’re stuck in the back seat in the middle. Lucky you, not only are you sitting in the seat meant for a person with narrower hips, but you’re also literally in the middle of every conversation that happens in the back seat. If your friends know you’re “funny”, they won’t be offended by you putting ear plus in your ears and staring straight ahead. If, however, you want to be in on the conversation, or really don’t mind, then sit back and enjoy. You don’t have to participate; all you have to do is listen. It could turn into a group therapy session for a period of time. You could gain intelligence (aka dirt) on your car-mates that can be used to make fun of them later. That’s what makes road-trips fun. Maybe it even gets so serious (or funny) that everyone forgets about the music, or it is turned off entirely. This is when things get interesting and when some people in the car think to themselves (and eventually say out loud): “I can’t wait ‘til we get there so I can have a nice, cold beer.”

Car Games

I admit that I’ve never been a big fan of car games. I’d rather tune into the thought-radio playing in my head or go to sleep, wake up, and be at the destination. If I’m the one driving, I need to have a good DDJ with me. Are there any car games you’ve played, maybe as a kid to pass the time on those endless road-trips? What’s fun about car games is if you’re playing one such as “I spy…” and you notice you’re driving next to someone you know well. They’re not going to the same place as you, but they’re heading in the same direction so while you’re stuck in traffic with them, you get to make faces at them through the window and there’s nothing they can do about it.

Sleeping, or, pretending to sleep in the car

Sometimes, the smooth motion of a moving car lulls us to sleep. Children and adults alike are affected by this. A good car-nap can be very refreshing (passengers only), so get yourself a window seat or a soft-shoulder to lean on for your long-weekend road trip. You’ll be the most rested when you get there, and thus the most prepared to have an epic weekend. If you want to listen to conversations in the car but not be part of them, you can pretend to sleep. For the most part, your fellow road-trippers will leave you alone, but if you’ve got your mom in the car, you might not be so lucky in that regard.

For example, passengers in the front may get bored and say loud enough for you to hear (and wake you up):

“Are they sleeping back there? Is Kathryn sleeping?”

“I think so. Let me check: Kath, are you sleeping? Yes she is.”

“Well, I was…”

Comfort Stops

This one is short. Never let the person who is known to have the largest bladder choose when you get to stop. That person just wants to “make good time” and is probably one of a very small number of people who can go that long without using the bathroom. Make it a health issue for the rest of the people in the car, stand up for yourself and make them stop! Also don’t choose the person with the smallest bladder, or the person who says they have to go but are really just bored of being in the car. It will take you a really long time get to where you’re going if you do.


Let’s quickly go through some road-trip in-car etiquette.

  1. Shoes must remain on at all times. For the love of everyone in the car, shoes on. You may think you don’t have stinky feet or shoes, but your car-mates will beg to differ.
  2. No stinky food in the car. Again for the love of everyone in the car, no warm things that make the entire car smell like whatever it is you’re eating. When you get to camp, the smell on your clothes may attract bears, or skunks. Keep that in mind
  3. Clean up your crumbs (or don’t make any), like a grown-up. We’re “adulting” this weekend.
  4. Share the candy and snacks you brought, it’s only polite. You may need to hand feed the messy eater to keep the car relatively clean.
  5. Windows up, or windows down. Ask first because not everybody is a dog-person and likes to have the wind in their face or messing up their hair. Remember, to save space, they didn’t bring their hair-repair products with them.

These are just a few of my thoughts about road trips. I hope you enjoy your next road trip and are able to use some of my tips. Most importantly: Have fun! I would like to say that “it’s about the journey, not the destination”, but truthfully the reason I get into a car is because I want to get somewhere. We can make it fun along the way, of course. And the sooner we can get there, the sooner we can into that big bag of Chicago mix that’s in the trunk.

Are any of you going on a road trip this weekend, or over the summer? I’d love to hear some of your tips and stories.

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E-mail kathryn@kathrynreichheld.ca Hours Contact me anytime and I'll get back to you as soon as possible.
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