An Expert’s Guide to Actually Enjoying the Scenic Route

The Great American Survival Manual to The Almost Entirely Enjoyable Family Road Trip.

byMichael Febbo| PUBLISHED Dec 8, 2022 8:00 AM
An Expert’s Guide to Actually Enjoying the Scenic Route
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The family road trip, it predates the car by a considerable margin. If we want to get technical, humans were traveling in groups tens of thousands of years before there were even roads—they probably just called them “trips.” Even then, I’m guessing, there were threats of “If you kids don’t stop that, I’m turning this wooly mammoth around!”

Our prehistoric relatives were going places no one had ever gone before. Consequently, those early migrations lacked many of the things we take for granted in modern travel—most notably, the ability to plan ahead.

Today, the key to a good trip is doing just enough planning and research to allow spontaneity without stress. Sunoco, supplier of Top Tier certified Sunoco Ultratech Fuel sold at over 5,000 stations in more than 30 States, teamed up with The Drive to help maximize your road trip enjoyment. We can start with keeping your car’s engine running cleanly and efficiently with high-quality fuel, that’s a no-brainer. But, a little forethought about everything from packing, to accommodations, to food will go a long way in helping you enjoy your time on the road.

Travel Hacking Your Road Trip Packing

I’ve heard “efficient packing” referred to as both an art and a science. It’s neither. Packing is a transcendental state of mind. Take this from someone whose living requires him to survive for weeks at a time with the contents of a rollaboard and a laptop bag—it all starts with the mantra, “That won’t happen, I don’t need that, the universe provides.”

You are on a family vacation, you won’t need that sport coat. You don’t need two outfits per day. Any hotel worth staying in has some form of laundry service available if things get too out of hand. A hoodie is surprisingly warm and modern technology has created raincoats that fold up smaller than your iPhone.

Sadly, clothes aren’t always the biggest wastes of space. You are on a road trip to experience new things; leave your house at home. You don’t need your blender, your beach chairs, or your 50-quart cooler. Convenience stores are so named because they are so convenient. Travel light, save a little gas, and save a lot of space.

Focus on Having A Good Time, Not Making Good Time

The United States has an amazing Interstate Highway System. It’s also boring. Our greatest minds: Confucius, Emerson, Tolkien, and Bourdain, to name a few, all shared motivational-poster-worthy wisdom on travel. To sum up, do it. Do it often, do it with eyes and heart open. Do it for the journey and not the destination. Stop often, see the sights, and talk to people. When possible, get off the walled-in six-lane concrete and cruise the asphalt backroads.

Twenty years from now, your family won’t remember getting to your vacation rental two hours early, but they will tell the story of seeing the Biggest Ball Of Twine In Minnesota or The Thing Museum in Central Arizona, which explains how aliens hunted the dinosaurs to extinction. Who Knew? You’re taking a road trip for a reason, if you want to get there fast, fly.

Check Into Tourist Tech

There’s a good chance your car has built-in navigation and I’m sure your smartphone has at minimum, two navigation apps. Those tools are focused on getting you from your starting point to your destination as efficiently as possible; that’s the opposite of what we’re going for.

You can find countless websites and phone apps for vacation route planning focused on adventure and sightseeing; most of them work as well as the next. You input your starting point and destination. From there, you can set how many miles per day you travel, and how often you would like breaks. You can then tell it your car’s fuel economy and tank size, or just how many miles between fill-ups. On road trips especially, using a high-quality Top Tier fuel like Sunoco Ultratech will help maximize fuel economy; more on that later.

The fun part of these apps and websites is the ability to see attractions along the way. Giant dinosaurs, potato museums, or maybe something more traditional like a jelly bean factory? Just click on it and the app will give you ratings as well as tell you how long your diversion will take in both miles and time. These same apps can also find and book hotels, and even recommend restaurants and coffee shops.

Keeping The Truckster’s Tank Topped

The last thing you want to worry about on your family road trip is your transportation; make sure it’s ready to go before the trip. Check your fluids, and make sure maintenance is up to date. Check your tires for wear, pressure, and punctures. To maximize fuel economy on the trip, choose a Top Tier certified fuel like Sunoco Ultratech. I know it sounds like marketing spin, but fuel with an approved detergent additive package really will keep your engine cleaner and running more efficiently—it’s science.

Carbon deposits in your engine, at best decrease efficiency and at worst can cause engine damage. Top Tier fuels are certified by a group of the world’s best automakers to contain a detergent package that will not only minimize deposit formation, but help to remove existing build-up. Using Top Tier fuel like Sunoco Ultratech is not only better for your engine, and the environment, but clean valves and fuel injectors will help get the most out of every gallon of gas.

Sure, the peace of mind you get from knowing your engine is running more efficiently is great, but Sunoco also makes your life easier with its Go Rewards smartphone app. It not only helps you find Sunoco stations along your route but discounts on every gallon of fuel you purchase (Fuel up 2x a month to keep the savings going). So, save your adventurous consumption for roadside culinary treats and play it safe with what’s going in the family truckster’s tank.

Keeping The Youngsters’ Tank Topped

I’m sure you’re a gold-star parent and only allow little Astrid and Huck to eat farm-to-table artisanal, gluten-free snacks at home. You aren’t at home, go nuts, maybe literally. Try new things that would make the other parents in your Wine and Story Time group apoplectic. The convenience store is full of adventures from snack cakes and smoked meats to the king of road trip snacks, the corn nut—available in a variety of delicious flavors.

For meals, eat local. Nothing connects you to a place like food. Stay out of big chain restaurants, venture out of the tourist districts, and eat with the people who live there. Do some research and figure out what the area’s specialties are. If you’re in an area that grows certain vegetables, chances are, they know what to do with them. This is everyone’s chance to embrace their inner food-travel-influencer. Your kids may even ask you to help film a TikTok.

An Inch of Maintenance is Worth a Mile On A Tow Truck

An old German machinist I worked with had tons of sayings like that. Or something like that—he had a very thick accent and I think sometimes things were lost in translation. He believed in the power of preventative maintenance, as we all should.

It probably goes without saying, but if you’re about to hit the road, take a look at your current mileage then add the miles you expect to cover. If that number exceeds a maintenance interval, oil change, scheduled service, tire rotation, or anything else mechanical, take care of it before you leave. Everything from the condition of you spark plugs, to tire pressures, and wheel alignment will have a measurable impact on fuel economy. Top Tier certified fuels will help keep injectors and plugs cleaner, but if they are past their service life, they need replacing.

The only thing worse than having your car hooked to the back of tow truck during your family vacation, is knowing it’s on there because of something totally preventable, and often something far cheaper than the bill for the tow. Think ahead, be prepared, and like Horst always said, “If you prepare the mustard to your best, later you won’t have to worry about the wurst.” Vater jokes are great in any language, am I right?

Just Relax And Enjoy It

All the clichés are true, especially—the days are long, but the years are short. Set time limits on headphones, listen to music as a family, talk, and be present. Deep down, your kids want to be understood and they would like to understand you. This is your chance, they’re a captive audience; they only pretend to not like your dad-jokes.

Sponsored by Sunoco.