The Road Trip Survival Guide Summertime, and a BIG Pearl Jam tour. What better time than to load up the car and drive around the country seeing as many shows as you can? It seems like lots of people have this idea, and it's a good one: the weather is great, people are out of school or have work vacation time, and hell -- who knows if we'll ever get another tour like this one again. :(
I've been roadtripping seeing bands since I was in high school (of course, my parents still don't know that -- hi dad, if you're reading this!). I like to think that I've learned a lot about the ups and downs of this kind of travel over the years; it's not like just going on vacation. So, here are some tips:
1. Money: The old travel adage proves out on roadtrips like these: pack half of what you think you need and take twice as much money as you think you will. What can go wrong will go wrong.
2. Car: Get it fixed before you go. Don't put off ANY repairs that need to be made in the next six months, or you'll find yourself stranded on the side of the road, missing the show, waiting for a tow truck.
3. AAA: Triple A can be your best friend on the road when you're stuck waiting for that tow truck. Also, you can get free maps and city guides; always lots of fun going in there with a list of unrelated cities and asking for them to plan a route. Remember, summer is construction time on the American highway, and the AAA maps are up to date. And if you ever do need to be towed, it will be well worth the membership fee.
4. Cellphones: Really, I don't work for AT&T Wireless, but there are some situations for which a cellphone is invaluable, and roadtripping is one of them. If you're stuck, if you're stranded -- there are countless situations in which a cellphone will save your butt. Borrow one, buy one, rent one. You'll be amazed at how much time it saves you.
5. Hotel Reservations: You will want a hotel close to the venue. Trust me on this one. However, so will everyone else, and in most cities, hotels closest to the venue will fill up the day the tickets go on sale. Yeah, you can wing it, but if you've been driving 16 hours to get to a show, and then you sit through a PJ show, you're not going to want to be driving around a strange city in the dark, hoping to find a decent, cheap, vacant hotel/motel. AAA's city guides can help a lot with this one.
6. Fly In Early: If you're flying around, don't cut your arrival time too close, or you'll find yourself carting your suitcase into the gig (if they will even let you bring it in!). This has happened to me. Give yourself time to get to the city, get to where you're staying, and make it to the venue without feeling like you are trapped in a tornado. You won't enjoy the show if you're that frantic anyway.
7. Know Your Travel-mates: It probably seems like the greatest idea in the world to pile into a car with your roommate, some friends of theirs, and maybe your cousin. How well do you know these people? 12 hours in a car with someone you can't stand, with no end in sight, isn't a lot of fun. Are you a morning person? Do you need to sit and eat a meal instead of wolfing something down in the car? Are you mellow or really hyper? Is money tighter for some people than it is for others? Don't laugh; these are the kinds of issues that can ruin a really fun roadtrip. If you know what people's weaknesses are you can deal, but if you're just getting to know someone in this context, be prepared for the best and the worst. And to quote a recent email we received, "You need to have more in common than just a mutual love for Pearl Jams music to embark on such a journey."
8. Buy A Cooler: Food gets expensive and time-consuming when you're on the road. A cooler (known as an "esky" in Australia) with some of those cooling things (I don't know what they're called for the life of me) will save you time, money and sanity when you're on the road. Don't count on eating fast food or in restaurants all the time.
9. PLAN!: Yeah, it's fun to be spontaneous, but you have places to go and people to see. A little bit of planning can help you actually see the country you're driving through, while making it to the show on time and safely.
10. Confirm Everything: Hotel reservations, car reservations, write down those confirmation numbers and take them with you -- they are your ticket to getting that room or that car when everything is sold out. Also, if you're under 21, be sure to ask if the hotel has any rules about renting to people under 21; for car rentals, remember that many places don't rent (or charge more) for people under 25.
11. Plan for Emergencies: That means stash $20 or so in your glove compartment in case you lose your wallet and need gas money or money to bail you out of the parking lot when you lose your wallet in the mosh pit.
Be sure to check out our 5h Show Survival Guide and Tour/Ticket FAQ