Road trips are an American right of passage! Whether it was a summer vacation spent trekking across the country in the back seat of a station wagon, or just you and a group of buddies making a spring break run to Daytona Beach, Florida, you’ve no doubt shared in the road trip experience one or twice before. The question is, how much of those trips — and all the amazing sights and scenes you passed along the way — do you actually remember? If the details of your past journeys are a bit hazy, check out this list of the five best ways to document your road trip, and start making those memories last!
Take lots of pictures and videos. This may sound like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at how many people take a road trip and forget to take any pictures, because they are too busy driving. You don’t have to be the typical tourist and take photos of every sign, scene and storefront you pass. But make a point to take some group shots with the people you’re traveling with (both inside and out of the car). Set your video camera or cell phone on your car’s dashboard and get some footage of the road, and all the cool stuff you see along the way (be sure to record the live audio of your behind-the-wheel commentary too). Stop at designated rest stops and look out points, and capture some of the scenery that most people simply speed past. Yes, stopping for photos and videos may alter your travel schedule a bit. But after the trip, when you look back at all your pictures/videos, and can actually remember what you saw, you’ll be glad you did.
Keep a travel log. Taking lots of pictures and videos is a great way to document your road trip. But if your photos don’t provide any clues about where you are or when the photo was taken, it can be difficult to remember what you’re actually looking at later on. Keeping a travel log or journal of your trip will eliminate this problem. You don’t have to write out a full “Dear Diary” entry every day. But you should try to at least record the travel date, start/end destination, total miles traveled, the cities/states you passed through, and all the major stops (restaurants, tourist attractions, other points of interest) you made during that day. You could also include some interesting facts about the places you visit. Tuck a spiral notebook in the glove box, and update your log every time you stop for gas.
Eat your memories. Stopping for food, drinks and snacks (and eventually bathroom breaks) is a major component of any road trip. Nowadays, all the nation’s major roadways have been populated with an abundance of fast food joints and chain restaurants, which — with the exception of some regional variance — can be found in almost every city in America. So when it comes time to chow down on your next road trip, skip McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Taco Bell, and go for the old diners, greasy spoons and roadside stands you see along the way instead. Experiencing the new and unknown is part of what makes road tripping so much fun. So why go with the same old burgers and fries you can get anywhere? By sampling some of the local cuisine, you’ll also have a chance to create your own memories, as you interact with the local servers, cashiers and townsfolk you’ll no doubt rub elbows with inside.
Spring for a souvenir. From T-shirts to key chains, and shot glasses to coffee mugs, nearly every city, state and tourist stop you pass through will provide an opportunity for you to purchase a souvenir. While extreme souvenir spending can throw off your travel budget, buying a couple keepsakes along the way will help you to remember all the fun and fascinating places you visited on your trip. That doesn’t mean you have to go crazy and buy the whole store, but taking home a magnet from the Grand Canyon or an umbrella from Niagara Falls, will help remind you of the good time you had. Besides, in the age of Photoshop, how else can you prove you actually went somewhere, if you don’t bring home a souvenir?
Send some postcards. Today, the use of social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram allow users share pictures and status updates, and communicate with friends and family about how the trip is going. Back in the day, people used to mail postcards to accomplish this feat — and believe it or not, they still can! The cool thing about postcards is: they are cheap (usually about a quarter a piece); easy to find (available in almost every gift shop on earth); fun to pick out, and even more fun to receive! Imagine how excited Grandma will be when she opens her mailbox and finds out what a great time you had at the Alamo! How hot it was in Utah when you passed through! Or how much money you won in Las Vegas! Not only will you be further documenting the fun and excitement of your road trip, you’ll be recruiting friends and family members who will now be able to help you remember all that you’ve seen and done!