Photographers are explorers, and there's no better way to explore than by taking a road trip. Road trips take a bit of legwork, which is why they often end up stuck on the bucket list. But once you get through the logistics phase, the spontaneity, freedom and exhilaration are well worth it. Here’s a guide to planning (and following through with!) a long-distance American adventure by car.
Pick Your Destination
Are you looking to weave along the jagged coast of New England, catching snippets of wildlife and the character of quaint seaside towns? Or is it the culture you’re after - touring a region by cuisine and the local scene. Pick a destination (and perhaps a theme), and then jot down a list of must-photograph sites along the way.
Set a Budget
Flexible though they may be, successful road trips follow a well-planned budget. Factor in things like museum tickets, parking fees and tolls, in addition to the necessities (gas, lodging, food, etc.). Start by fueling up at the cheapest gas station in your area before you hit the road, and travel efficiently by resisting the tendency to overpack.
Sketch the Basics and Let the Rest Happen
Check out apps like Roadtrippers and OnTheWay. These apps not only track your route and calculate your costs, but also offer suggestions for lodging, restaurants, and attractions. Pencil in overnight stays, and always overestimate the amount of time you’ll spend at each stop. Nevertheless, don’t feel confined to a strict schedule – the best road trips allow for inspiration and impromptu exploration. Oh, and don’t forget to notify your clients before you embark that you'll minimally available to complete new projects.
Take Safety Precautions
Double check the weather and traffic warnings before you hit the road. Bring car phone chargers, insurance cards, blankets, a first aid kit, extra batteries, memory cards, and — of course — a physical roadmap!
Make a Playlist
Whether you’re traveling solo or en masse, driving for hours on end can get repetitive. Do yourself a favor by making a playlist or mixtape. We'd even recommend making a different playlist for each day or leg of the trip.
Food is easy to find. Plus, sampling local fare is half of the fun. But, still bring water bottles and power snacks (i.e. peanut butter, bread, granola bars, trail mix) so you can stay energized enough to keep shooting, even when the next rest stop is an hour away.
You’re bound to encounter a myriad of cool new things as you tour your chosen region(s) by road. You may start to deem the more ordinary sites unworthy of space in your memory card. But if you neglect to snap on that impulse, you'll regret it. Whenever in doubt, photograph everything — or at least take more photos than you think you’ll need. Your memory will fade over time, but your photos will last forever.
What's on your road trip itinerary? Tell us in the comments below, and share your road trip photos with us on Twitter and Instagram.