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Sunday, March 13 2016 20:25

The Great American Road Trip: 5 Essentials to Rock the Road in 2016

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THE ROCK FATHER Magazine is a #ShellCrowd #FuelRewards Brand Ambassador, taking part in a special content series with SocialStars and Shell.

The Great American Road Trip. It's a time-honored tradition to load up the family and hit the highways in search of fun and adventure. We've done a few of them in recent years, highlighting them right here on THE ROCK FATHER Magazine. In 2014 we hit the road and headed east toward Philadelphia, visiting the birthplace of America before hitting some other locales. In 2015 we headed northwest toward Minneapolis, visiting the Mall of America and Nickelodeon Universe, making some fun stops along the way as we chronicled the whole thing across my social networks. For 2016, I'm not entirely sure where the road will take us, but a few different smaller runs look likely, with Wisconsin Dells in the mix, and perhaps a jaunt across Florida. No matter where you happen to go, it's always best to be prepared, and that's why I'm serving up Five Essentials to Rock the Road!

Nickelodeon Universe
One minute you're driving a real car, the next it's a bumper car.

1. Road Trip Playlist: There is absolutely no excuse for hitting the road in a ride devoid of great music. Back in the day you'd make a mixtape... then a mix CD (or you'd pop a stack in the changer)... and eventually technology gave way to making custom mixes on MP3 players, iPods and Smartphones. Now, with services like Spotify, millions of songs are at your fingertips, and there's even a fine selection of pre-made, themed playlists ready to go. In fact, I've even curated one for you. Check out my first-ever Rock Father Rides Road Trip Playlist on Spotify for nearly three hours of music hand-picked by yours truly!

Nickelodeon Universe - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
When you encounter a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle during your road trip, he might like to listen to Vanilla Ice's "Ninja Rap."

2. Shell Fuel Rewards Card: I've mentioned Fuel Rewards before, and I'll absolutely mention it again because it can literally save you money while you're doing exactly what you'd be doing anyway! Unless you're rockin' an electric vehicle or a hybrid, you're gonna need gas. It's easy to sign-up (for free!), and to start earning rewards that convert into legit savings at the pump. Simply link a credit card to your account (MasterCard preferred) earn bonuses, and new members get a 25¢ per gallon bonus on their 2nd fill-up. You use that same card for daily purchases and dining, and the points add up. My favorite example comes from last month, when I took the Equniox to Shell and saved 30¢ per gallon. Check out the picture below... if you can see it, the pump says $1.39, while the sign at the road says $1.69. For prime Road Trip use, download the App and you'll always know where there's a Shell Gas Station nearby!

Shell Fuel Rewards
Everyone can agree that savings at the pump is a good thing.

3. A Solid Spill-proof Travel Mug: I drink a lot of coffee, and over the years I've managed to become scalded by my favorite hot beverage exactly once - on the way to the Mall of America last year. We'd stopped somewhere in Wisconsin and picked up some coffee in disposable cups. Unfortunately, mine was a perfect storm of danger - between a paper-thin cup that was easily squashed by my powerful grip, paired with a lid that probably wasn't properly secured, the entire beverage ended up in my lap. Fortunately, I was able to maintain control of our car, but I did suffer actual burns on my stomach and legs. Get a travel mug like the ones that Contigo makes. 

4. Activities to Keep the Kids Busy: I used to be 100% opposed to having TVs and Tablets in the car, but I've turned... totally cool with it in the case of a long road trip. On the flipside, I'm still all for creative activities for the back seat. A selection of crayons, pens, pencils and coloring materials are a must-have. Additionally, we like to bring some comic books along for the ride, with the pockets of our back seat loaded with some that have been designated for travel-only... books that really show their wear. 

Road Trip Fun - Sparta, Wisconsin
Always make time for a detour with your family.

5. A Plan that Allows for Detours: Don't limit yourself by having an iron-clad route that's limited to tight time constraints. The beauty of a road trip is the opportunity to explore the world and see things and visit places that you might not have a chance to visit again. Allow time for those unplanned detours and stops. You never know where the perfect opportunity for a timeless photo opp may present itself!

Paul Bunyan - Wisconsin Dells
Sometimes a BIG detour!

BONUS: By reader suggestion (and of course, the list could go on and on), an updated Road Atlas for when cell service or wi-fi drops out and renders your navigation system useless, and also knowledge of how to change a tire (and make sure you have a spare!).

Wherever the road may take you, saving money is a good thing, and Fuel Rewards makes that effortless. Get started at FuelRewards.com!

James Zahn

James Zahn is not a journalist, nor a blogger, though he may be credited as such by others, or even accept the title... depending on the circumstance.  Instead, he considers himself largely to be an "entertainment and lifestyle writer," bringing 25+ years of experience in the entertainment and publishing industries into the family realm as THE ROCK FATHER™.

As a media personality, commentator, adventurer and raconteur, James now finds himself raising a pair young girls - The Rock Daughters™ - along with his wife from their Illinois home.

He is a member of The Toy Insider Parent Advisory Board, has contributed to The Toy Book and writes a regular Star Wars column - Transmissions from a Galaxy Far, Far Away for The Pop Insider. He also regularly serves as a Brand Ambassador and spokesperson for several Globally-recognized pop culture and lifestyle brands in addition to consulting for a number of toy manufacturers. 

Creatively, James has directed/edited music videos, lyric videos, and album trailers for bands such as FEAR FACTORY, has appeared as an actor in feature films and commercials, written comic books, and performed in bands. He currently serves as an artist manager and video director for PRODUCT OF HATE, whose debut album was released by Napalm Records in 2016, distributed by ADA/Warner Music in the U.S. with Universal Music handling global.

James and/or his work have been featured in/on CNN, FOX Business, NBC, ABC, WGN, G4, The Chicago Tribune, BusinessWire, Babble, Fangoria, Starlog and more. He's appeared as a music expert on CNN's AC360 alongside Anderson Cooper, and has been interviewed by Larry King. In the past he served as a writer for the Netflix Stream Team,  Fandango Family and PBS KIDS, penned articles for Sprout and PopSugar, and was a contributor to Chicago Parent.

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