I’ve been on my fair share of road trips. Growing up, I spent countless hours squished between my brothers in the back of my parents’ car, pumping Backstreet Boys through my Walkman and watching the world whiz by. Looking back, it’s not the destinations that stand out in my mind, but the random stops along the way, the laughter in the car, and the unpredictable moments. I think of the time my brother not-so-politely requested that I stop singing ‘Backstreet’s Back’ while the rest of the car was trying to listen to Cat Stevens (I swear I didn’t realize I was singing – it was just so catchy), to searching the vehicles around us for licence plates from different provinces and states, or to the time our four hour drive somehow turned into seven hours and required a random stop to stretch our legs at one of the most beautiful lakes I’ve ever seen.
The unplanned moments that seem to go hand in hand with road trips are the reason I love them. Sure, I like the speed of flying and enjoy the old school feeling of taking the train, but there’s just something especially comforting about piling into a car with your friends and family and setting off for the unexpected.
I’ve carried my love of road trips with me into adulthood and have had the chance to execute plenty of my own. I’ve perfected road trip games, learned exactly how far I can travel once my gas light comes on, and created playlists for every mood. I’ve narrowed executing the perfect road trip down to five simple steps and lucky for you, I don’t mind sharing.
1) Fill the Car
This means more than just filling the gas tank (though that’s not something to overlook). Pick the people you can spend hours with and pile them in – it’s the people you’re with that will truly shape the trip and this is an opportunity to carve out time from busy schedules to be together. Once they’re accounted for, add in the snacks (my recommendations include Sour Patch Kids, peanut M&Ms, and granola bars), grab a blanket or two for anyone like myself, who freezes when the AC is on, and throw in a couple of pillows for maximum comfort. One more thing: it’s always a good idea to throw a spare key into someone’s purse or pocket. Hopefully you won’t need it, but being prepared beats waiting for CAA in the rain any day.
2) Flood the Airwaves
It doesn’t have to be Backstreet Boys, but music is necessary. Don’t forget to bring a CD or load up a playlist for when those backroad detours take you far away from radio waves. I always find that the right music not only perfectly fills the silent moments, but also adds a great backdrop as it mingles with eager chatter in the car.
3) Pick Your Destination
A great thing with road trips is that you don’t really need a plan, but I’d recommend starting out with at least a destination in mind. This will provide a direction to set out in and help with knowing what to pack.
If you’re looking for something unique, and maybe a little quirky, I’d recommend any of the following three destinations. The choice is yours and just depends on if you’d like to travel below ground, high above the ground, or solidly on the ground.
a) Underground Exploration
Where: Bonnechere Caves near Eganville
The Experience: Feed your curiosity and see the world through new eyes with a venture below the surface at Bonnechere Caves. This is the chance to discover the story of our Earth and learn how the unique geology of the land has shaped life in the surrounding communities.
This trip is perfect for you if: Your group is intrigued by the power of Mother Nature and you are looking to expand your minds.
Bonus: Try snagging tickets to one of the unique underground events held at Bonnechere Caves, like underground dining, featuring dinner by candlelight with live music on September 9th and 16th, or to Cavestock – Underground Concert Series, a subterranean concert series involving a tour of the caves and dinner at a local Eganville restaurant, followed by a unique experience of music underground on August 17th, 24th, and 31st.
b) Adventure Among the Trees
Where: Haliburton Forest and Wild Life Reserve
The Experience: The Canopy Tour is the chance to travel from river basin to treetop as your group works together to paddle a voyageur canoe across the lake then straps on harnesses and travels 20 metres above ground to walk among the trees.
This trip is perfect for you if: You and your friends love to flex your muscles and don’t mind heights.
Bonus: Every August, Haliburton Forest hosts the Forest Festival, bringing a lineup of great Canadian talent to perform from two unique venues: a floating stage set on Bone Lake and in the Historic Logging Museum. This is an experience like no other and certainly worth planning a road trip around.
c) Rock Solid Ground
Where: Bon Echo Provincial Park near Cloyne
The Experience: Known for its picturesque cliffs and amazing rock faces, Bon Echo Provincial Park is home to the famous Mazinaw Rock, which rises 100 metres above the lake and features over 260 Indigenous pictographs. Hop on the Mugwump Ferry Boat to travel across Mazinaw Lake and enjoy the challenge of climbing the 1.5km trail to the top of Mazinaw Rock for a sight that will take your breath away (ok, that might be from the uphill climb).
This trip is perfect for you if: Your group is looking to take your time and get closer to nature.
Bonus: Take a trip on The Wanderer, a 26 passenger cruise vessel providing a relaxing interpretive tour of Upper Mazinaw Lake to discover historical and interesting features of the area.
4) Stop Along the Way
See something interesting at the side of the road? Notice a sign for a viewpoint ahead? See something claiming to be the “World’s Largest” or “World’s Best” anything? Stop! Remember what I said about not needing a plan? The flexibility to stop when you want is the true beauty of a road trip. These random stops and detours will be what contribute to some of the best memories you make. The destination may be important, but don’t forget to enjoy the journey there.
5) Take Pictures
This is a step I sometimes forget, but it’s so important. Lucky for me, I have an awesome friend who never seems to be more than five feet from her camera and doesn’t mind sharing the shots she captures. Many of these are what decorate my office, and sit atop my dresser, there to cheer me up during a stressful day and pull me back to those shared moments. Maybe your perfect shot will be of your group lit by flashlights underground at Bonnechere Caves, strapped into harnesses traversing the Canopy Tour, or standing proudly atop Mazinaw Rock. Or maybe it’ll simply be a photo of your overflowing car, sunlight shining through your windshield and smiles all around. Wherever your road trip takes you and whatever shots you capture, they’ll be there to remind you of the good times and provide a brief interlude to daydream about doing it all over again.