Formula for the Perfect Road Trip – What Science Tells Us

Summer time is upon us and not everyone has the time to hop a plane across the planet. When time is short, finances are tight and the travel bug has bitten it is time to pull out the tried-and-true “road trip” as your outlet for fun. We’ve all had great road trips and some that weren’t so cool. Luckily, researchers in England led by Dr. David Holmes using information from a survey* gathered by Hertz rental cars, has just found the perfect code for an amazing road trip.

*The survey of 1,000 UK residents 18 years of age was conducted by Censuswide on behalf of Hertz in June 2014

According to them, these three (3) factors must be analyzed in order to determine the quality of a road trip:

  • number of passengers
  • final destination
  • comfort level of vehicle
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Mommy & Fatty fueling up on our latest trip to Eureka Springs, Arkansas

To look more deeply into these three variables, the researchers issued a survey that showed:

  • 42% of the population in the UK are more likely to travel by car to a vacation destination this year than did in years past.
  • 46% said they wanted to take a road trip just to explore new areas and go places they have never been before.
  • 63% want to take a road trip to experience the freedom of it
  • 46% are taking road trips because it’s cheaper than other methods of travel
  • 34% are road tripping because they can carry all the baggage they want without restrictions
  • 28% say that a road trip gives them more spontaneity to do what they want without hassle
  • 80% say that cars are simply more comfortable to travel in when compared to other forms of transportation

Pretty good information and I have to say that as an avid road tripper, I completely agree!  Cars tend to be roomy and comfortable, you can listen to any music you want and talk with your friends, you can use your phone or wireless device and you have complete control of whether or not you want to take a sudden change of direction or make an unexpected stop.  Road trips give you total control over your travel and if you are traveling with friends, they can be very affordable and fun.

Dr. Holmes has used all of this information to develop a formula to enhance the fun and adventure that a road trip provides.

The formula for the perfect road trip primarily contains these five (5) factors:

  • It must be a new destination or experience
  • Equal gender mix of 2-4 passengers (equal boys to girls)
  • a comfortable vehicle
  • 4-6 hours of drive time
  • Has about 3 or 4 stops along the way

Dr. Holmes says that road trip travelers should have a mix of companions who are capable and trusted to drive the vehicle at any time so that the entire group can have fun and adventure and participate in all of the aspects of the road trip.  He also mentions that predictable, bright and cheerful weather conditions tend to support a positive and fun atmosphere when traveling by car as well.  As I have flash-backs from my latest trip to southern Louisiana I can confirm that nothing sucks worse that driving for hours in the pouring rain!

Hertz Rental Cars produced a scientific formula for the perfect road trip holiday:


  • (A) = Outgoing personality
  • (TD) = Proportion of trusted drivers
  • (C) = Car comfort factor
  • (F) = Freedom factor
  • (P) = New places to visit
  • (G) = Gender mix
  • (N) = Number of travelers
  • (W) = Weather
  • (H) = Hours of travel

Dr. Holmes does mention that, “while this formula may not account for every eventuality, it should provide the basic guidelines to send you on the road to the perfect sunset.  All work and no play will make us all dull boys and girls at any age.  Road trips can provide an adult version of the psychological boost that a child gets by simply going out to play, and you may come back with new skills and enduring memories that a package holiday could never provide. Being active and making your own way will give you a psychological boost and you will be happier during and after the holiday.”

This is an example of how I would begin to plan a 4-6 hour road trip from my home in Tulsa, Oklahoma

The Hertz issued survey also found that the things most likely to be taken on a road trip:

  • snacks (69%)
  • music (61%)
  • sun screen (31%)
  • a picnic (31%)

Road trips give you great freedom to travel on your own personal timeline. No waiting on metros, planes and trains like my friend Andy and I are doing here in Paris.

That’s a pretty solid bit of information to consider the next time you plan a road trip.  I found all of this information to be pretty spot on with my own road trip experiences and can tell you that it is worth considering these factors any time you are thinking about hopping in a car and taking off across the country with a friend or group of friends.  For me personally, the most important factors to a successful road trip are the following in order:

  • Time – do I have enough time to get where I want to go and back without rushing?
  • Company – those I am going with had better be cool.  This is a deal breaker.
  • Freedom – it’s nice to be able to change plans on the spur of the moment.
  • Luggage – I can carry my Osprey Porter 46 backpack and anything else I want without any worry
  • Control – I can sleep late or wake early and can hit the road when I want.  No waiting for plans or trains.

Those five (5) things I find to be the most important aspects for a successful road trip are pretty much the same as those found in Dr. Holmes’ research.  Coupled together, I’d say that makes for a pretty reliable thought process.  Good travels to you my friends!

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