At the height of summer road trip season, it feels right to think about the journey instead of the destination.
Despite all the travel options we have today, road trips are still one of my favorites. And apparently I’m not alone: a recent State of the American Traveler report told us that auto travel still makes up almost 75% of all leisure trips. Heading into this summer, the report said, a drop in gas prices would make for an especially healthy season for vacations by car. You know, that familiar and paradoxical place where, as Jerry Seinfeld described it, “you’re moving and you’re still, and you’re inside and you’re outside.”
I think there are at least a few reasons the road trip is alive and well. First, it’s generally affordable, especially when you’re traveling in a group. It’s also comfortable – if not in the cushiness of the seats or the smoothness of the ride, it’s in having some personal space; it’s an extension of home. Car trips are also flexible, and flexibility is another word for freedom. Freedom to leave when you want, pack what you want, detour when you want. It’s your music, your schedule, your path. It’s pet-friendly. It’s at your pace. It’s not a perfect mode of transportation, but when you’re cruising along toward something new and exciting and you feel comfortably in control, it can feel liberating and exhilarating.
Car companies know this. In a quick look at six or seven major car company websites, I found that (not surprisingly) most feature cars in some sort of aspirational destination: on the coast, in a big city, in a remote and dramatic wilderness. The message: the car is key to getting you there. Cars are practical and used every day, but they’re also how we get away.
The “Great American Road Trip” is a classic adventure that has merged with our culture, literature and lifestyle. But road trips don’t have to be grand to be good. Even a day trip can be packed with great and memorable moments, and that’s what vacation is all about.
From spontaneous day trips to cross-country treks, people are getting behind the wheel in their downtime. Are your destinations steering them in the right direction? What does your destination offer travelers at the end of their road trip journey?