Canada, How-Tos, North America, The Maritime Provinces, USA

How to Have an Awesome Road Trip

January 15, 2014

Our family lives in Surabaya, Indonesia, the second largest metropolis after the capital city, Jakarta. My father owns a chicken farm 1.5 hours away from the city, in the highlands, where the weather is much cooler than the oppressive tropical heat. On Saturdays, I would get out of school at 11 A.M., at which point I’d rush home to find my dad getting ready to go to his farm. I’d whine and beg him to let me come, he would subtly nod and say: “Pack your swimsuit and goggles!”, which ALWAYS excited me no matter how many times I hear it. You see, not only was coming with him to the farm meant I get to play with the chickens, but it also meant we were going to spend some time in the nearby water park that had a giant octopus statue with its arms doubling as the water slides.

Once things are packed, we would then embark on this journey, going on the highway, slowly leaving the city. We would enter little villages surrounded by rice terraces, have lunch at a small roadside warung, and pass by fruit vendors who waved hello to us. As soon as he’s done checking on his chickens, we would all go to the water park and spend hours splashing and playing in the water before we finally had to come home for dinner. Without fail, though, we’d always stop at our favourite stall to get a grilled-corn-on-the-cob, one for each of my brother and my dad, and a bowl of steaming beef-balls noodle soup for me. Sometimes, we’d also stop at the fruit market to buy a bag of avocados or a bunch of bananas. This was our routine for many, many Saturdays. It probably explains why I love road trips so much; they remind me of the days I had with my father.

Anecdote aside, my parents always knew how to make these trips bearable to us kids (Hey – when you’re a kid, 1 hour is a long, long time to spend in a car). Here are some things they always did and I do the same every time I go on a road trip, whether it is 1 hour or 10 hours long.

Driving into Los Angeles from San Diego.

Driving into Los Angeles from San Diego.

Have Entertainment Available 

Our form of entertainment used to be our mom telling us ghost stories (lots of those in Indonesia). These days, though, I make sure to have my iPod fully loaded with songs, podcasts, and .mp3 talks (I get most of mine from here). They not only provide us with entertainment, but the talks become a discussion topic that, more often than not, bring us closer together as friends.

Schedule a Break

When you’re on the driver seat and if you love driving like I do, time seems to fly when you go on these road trips. But, it’s a totally different story when you’re sitting as a passenger. For the sake of everyone’s well-being, I always make sure to schedule a break every 2-3 hours. Whether it is a washroom break or a coffee break, it’s always good to get out of the car and stretch your legs for a little bit.


Have a Stash of Snacks

My mom used to pack a cooler of juice boxes and Taro chips (these were delicious) for us kids. On our last road trip, we stopped by the Superstore and stocked up on fruits, waters, Cheetos, and Fuzzy Peaches.

Have a Road Map or an Atlas

I didn’t get this one from my parents, but more from experience. My parents seemed to just know where they were going. They didn’t have a GPS nor did they have a road map with them. Even when we went on a longer road trip, say to Bali or to Jogjakarta, they just drove and relied on the kindness of strangers to direct them and we would arrive wherever it was we needed to be. Me, on the other hand, I had a GPS to guide me, but we also found it extremely helpful to have a legit road map with us. It helped us in seeing the big picture and gave us a glimpse of what to expect for the next several hours of driving.

Stunning red rocks in Sedona, Arizona

Stunning red rocks in Sedona, Arizona

Flexibility is Key

Most importantly, be flexible. Plan all you want, but always make sure you are open to new experiences. It’s YOUR road trip, so stop whenever you feel like stopping because you saw something cool.  Believe me, we’ve done this way too many times to count and truly without those stops, we wouldn’t find these gems.

And one last thing for the drivers:

No Cruise Control 

Sure cruise control can regulate your fuel expenditure, making your trip more economical, but I think cruise control can also become dangerous. As soon as you switch it on, your brain goes into a lull/idle mode and your foot stops moving from the gas to the brake pedal and vice versa. This is dangerous especially if you are driving on a flat, long stretch of highway with nothing to see around you (read: the 401 between Toronto and Ottawa). It makes you unaware and before you know it, your eyes are starting to droop and you’ll find yourself fighting to stay awake. True story. Since then, I much prefer exercising my leg muscle and my brain power than using the cruise control and let my mind wander away. Note: This suggestion is based on what I have experienced, so take it with a grain of salt. For all I know, you may be a more responsible (and an overall better) driver than I am.


How my brother drives…

So? What are you waiting for? Plan your next road-trip! The open road awaits!

On our way to the Grand Canyon

Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. Stunningly beautiful.

What do you do on your road trips? Are you anti cruise-control like I am? Are you more of a driver or a passenger? Do your companions call “Shot gun” and fight for the honor of sitting on the front seat? Mine do! 

Lastly, if you’re on Instagram, let’s be friends!


  • Reply Aswin January 15, 2014 at 9:00 pm

    My passengers don’t call shotgun, but they fight for their songs to be played on the car’s stereo! Also, I use cruise control all the time.

    • Reply Pauline January 21, 2014 at 3:44 pm

      Clearly, you and I have had different driving experiences and expectations. I’m beginning to think we will not be able to survive a trip together… :p

  • Reply Lisa January 16, 2014 at 2:28 pm

    I love how you love driving. I remember how long it took to get your license. :) I drove on this last Europe trip but Alex drove in BC and in Italy. I LOVE driving too! Although there are benefits to both roles. Keeping the driver awake while you are a sleepy passenger is not fun. Have you ever driven for long hours at night?

    • Reply Pauline January 21, 2014 at 3:50 pm

      I know, right!! How silly of me! I drove through the dark when we went to Ottawa during the holidays. It was no fun and I much prefer driving during the day instead. How was the autobahn? I really want to learn how to drive manually so I can rent a car without paying the exorbitant fee next time I’m in Europe!

      • Reply Lisa January 23, 2014 at 11:42 am

        I strongly believe that everyone should have to learn to drive manual FIRST (before auto), because it makes for much better driving! Which probably explains why the drivers in Europe (especially Germany) drive so well and actually know & follow rules.

        “Autobahn” is the word for highway in German, so every highway is an “autobahn”. Some sections have no speed limit, while others do (depending on traffic flow, residential areas, etc.). It was GREAT though!

        • Reply Pauline January 23, 2014 at 5:34 pm

          Yea! I should have listened to my mom when she offered to put me in a (manual) driving lesson when I was in Indonesia!

  • Reply Montecristo Travels (Sonja) February 6, 2014 at 10:27 am

    I am going to add uploading photos and information to the ipad on the towns and places you are driving past or going to stop at. It’s a blast to read while on the road. Google images is great for this. AND … our BEST tip? We have a series called 1,000 questions for couples (it can be one for friends or whatever!) and the conversations that have come from this list have been AMAZING. I have learned more about my husband on some 2 hour drives than over a 2 month period from these. There are some available online – our was an ebook we uploaded once when we had a 8 hour flight to look forward to. It’s really worth it. Skip the ones that go into “what is your secret fantasy” type questions … the ones we have asks questions like: When do you feel the most confident? What is the one thing that you fear most? And so on.

    • Reply Pauline February 6, 2014 at 1:49 pm

      OH! I know that – the 1,000 Questions Book. There is a free version available and I downloaded it at one time. My friends and I started going through it and I must admit, some questions are VERY hard to answer. For example, would you rather be betrayed by your best friend or your boyfriend? Or something along those lines. I had to think for quite some time before answering that. Thanks for the tip, Sonja! I’ll be sure to have this in mind next time we go on a road trip.

    Leave a Reply

    CommentLuv badge