Road trips are a quintessential element of an adolescent’s life. They provide a fun and exciting break from monotonous day-to-day living. Constructing the perfect road trip takes practice, though, and it’s likely not something you’ll hit on the first try. We’ve all had those lousy trips where we’ve run out of gas on some lonely road in the middle of nowhere, gotten into a fight with an angry trucker or simply forgotten to bring someone home with us. It’s important not to let these negative experiences deter us from believing that we, too, can be the master of a great road trip.

The first thing to think about is the “where” question. Where are we going? Sure, simply riding the roads and completely disregarding where you’re going might be fun at first, but after awhile, it just turns into a tiresome nightmare and a waste of gas money. The destination should be far enough away so that you’re not so close to home that it feels like a field trip, but not so far away that you need an endless supply of gas and time to get there and back. After all, we’re college students – we’re supposed to be poor, not to mention short on time. If you’re leaving from Rochester, then places like Buffalo, Ithaca or Toronto make good destinations for a long weekend. The important thing is that you don’t want to spend the majority of the trip in your car; the ratio of time spent in car to time spent out of car should be quite skewed.

You also have to think about the “who” question. Who should I bring with me? This is an important question and one that should be given considerable thought. Don’t think “is this a person I like to party with on a Friday night?” but consider “is this a person I could spend a few days with and still like after spending hours in a confined space with?”

The next thought to ponder: where will I sleep? Are you going to stay with friends, on the side of the road in your car or do you need a hotel room? Any option can provide immense amounts of road trip fun as long as you plan ahead of time. Don’t expect to pull up in front of a hotel, say “this looks sweet,” walk in and get a room – most hotels will be unpredictably full, so make reservations ahead of time. If you’re staying with friends, make sure they have room for everyone. It’s never fun being the one who picked the shortest straw and is now sleeping on the hurl-stained couch in the dorm lounge.

Also, make sure to meet people along the way. Some of the most interesting people you’ll ever meet are the ones you meet on the road. Approach this goal with caution, though. Some good questions to ask yourself are “Is this person fully clothed? Do they look like they’re about to puke on me? Could this person physically hurt me while puking on me and not being fully clothed?” If you answered yes to any of the above, I’d move on to someone else.

Spontaneity is important, too. The best road trips are those that are somewhat spontaneous, so have an idea of what you want to do, but make sure to improvise along the way. For example, you know that you want to visit “Elmwood Taco and Subs” in Buffalo (because that place is super fantastic), but you could also embarrass one of your friends spontaneously on the way because it’s fun to laugh and point at them.

You may be thinking “Gee, now that I know the basics of constructing a great road trip, what should I bring with me?” Well, there are many options for this one, but three important things you should bring along with you on a road trip are money, a camera and extra clothes. Money will buy you food. Money will buy you beer. Money equals happy road trippers.

A camera isn’t a necessity, but if you’re planning on having one of those, “Wow, I was soooo trashed moments” while bonding over pictures with your roommates, then it is kind of a necessity. The possibilities are endless for why you might need extra clothes, and the majority I don’t think I need to discuss, so leave that one up to your imagination.

Good music is also a necessity. Make sure you have something that can accommodate everyone. Personally, I would say classic rock, with some jazz mixed in and a sprinkle of Ani DiFranco makes a good mix tape, but that’s just me. Stay away from anything that sounds too repetitive and can easily create migraines (cough, Fall Out Boy).

Lastly, here are some random things to remember. Bring Tylenol – you’ll probably need it at some point. Maps can be helpful if you know how to read them. Illegal substances can actually get you in trouble – as college students, we sometimes forget this, so either leave them at home or hide them well. Cheap souvenirs from road trips can make great gifts for belated birthdays. And finally, don’t screw around with the Customs officials at the border, even if it seems like a good idea at first. After they’ve strip-searched you, you won’t be saying the same thing. Have fun!

Kraus is a member of class of 2009.

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