How To Plan A Killer Road Trip! Part 3: Copilots

Copilots Becky & Bowie in Monument Valley

If traveling together is the ultimate test of friendship then road tripping is trial by fire. For the majority of the trip you’ll be trapped within two feet of your copilot and if you happen to disagree about when and where to drive, stop, eat, talk, sleep or, most importantly, what kind of music to play, your road trip will go straight to hell, nevermind the scenery.

I can’t tell you how to pick your copilots. Everybody looks for different qualities in friends and traveling companions. The best advice I can give is to be unflinchingly honest from the start because after a few days or weeks on the road, all your filters will come off. I have very dear friends whom I would do anything for, except take them on the road. Some friendships are just best left at home.

Copilot Amy in Joshua Tree

Once you’ve talked somebody into taking time off to hit the road, the next step is to sit down together with your Adventure Atlas (again, accept no substitutes!) and find some common ground. What kind of road trip are you both envisioning? Cities or small towns? B&B’s, cheap motels, campgrounds or boondocking? Luxurious or frugal? Obviously, compromise is key, but it’s important to set out with likeminded expectations.

Copilot Drew in Zion 

I have a very short list of friends whom I have taken on the road and I can honestly say I’d travel almost anywhere with any of them again (you guys know who you are!). However, about half my road trips are solo trips for the simple reason that I travel almost constantly and I don’t know that many people who are willing or able to take several weeks off to hit the road. Plus, I really like flying solo. Being alone on the open road, listening to all 60 of my Dylan albums, and stopping whenever I want is the ultimate in freedom.

Of course, I’m not totally alone: I’ve crossed the country 10 times and only once left my dogs at home. Good dogs are the best road trip partners anybody could ask for. They’re quiet, enthusiastic about stopping, love all music and make excellent bodyguards.

Not every dog is road trip ready and some poor beasts just aren’t cut out for life on the road but with a little training and a lot of experience most dogs will thrive. After all, dogs evolved to follow people and there’s no better way to forge a bond with a dog than by traveling together. Training your dog for the road is a whole other post in itself — it’s on my to write list — but if I can turn a feral Navajo dog into a road trip professional, there’s hope for your dog too.

Desert D.O.G. in New Orleans

But isn’t it dangerous to travel by yourself?!  I get this question a lot, especially from other women. Never once in all my travels have I ever been threatened by anybody. Maybe it’s because I travel with two large dogs (though I’ve been to South America twice on my own) or maybe it’s all in the way I carry myself, or maybe I’ve just been lucky. The world is not out to get you. Don’t be stupid or take candy from strangers and you’ll probably be just as safe on the road as you are at home.

Stay tuned for more road tripping tips including my next post on How To Pack For A Killer Road Trip. I’m scheming big time for my upcoming road trip to Colorado this weekend! No better way to celebrate the 4th of July than by seeing more of this country!

A True Patriot- Molas Pass, Colorado

About theblondecoyote

Mary Caperton Morton is a freelance science and travel writer with degrees in biology and geology and a master’s in science writing. A regular contributor to EARTH magazine, where her favorite beat is the Travels in Geology column, she has also written for the anthologies Best Women's Travel Writing 2010 and Best Travel Writing 2011. Mary is currently based in western Colorado. When she’s not at the computer she can usually be found outside -- hiking, skiing, climbing mountains and taking photographs. Visit her website at
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21 Responses to How To Plan A Killer Road Trip! Part 3: Copilots

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  9. kotascatch says:

    I also live by travelling and camping with my dog. My last dog I had from 4 weeks old until his death in my arms in the woods — he was 14 and 1/2 years old. Now I have a rescued nipper who had to be completely retrained by me. She is a great traveller and woods dog now! Hasn’t nipped any one in over a year! People always ask me if its safe. It has been for me, but I never seek out or hang out with questionable people. Yet, I do meet some really great people. And I’ve seen some great country and had some wonderful hikes. Our country is fabulous!

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  20. My boyfriend shared an article you wrote, and said ‘Check out the author’.

    I have to say you are living the dream I have only just begun.
    In 2013, despite things most folks would say were reasons not to go, I got my life long dream of traveling and photographing started.
    By Greyhound bus and CouchSurfing with new friends … I visited PA, SC, GA, FL, TN and even made it to Staten Island in my home state of NY.

    In months of traveling, only once did I feel ill at ease; but never actually threatened.

    I would also agree that traveling solo is the ultimate. It’d be nice if my boyfriend still had a travel bug left in him – but it is nice to know I have back up one phone call away. As for traveling with friends, I did it on two trips, one short & one long. I have no friends or family to pack up for weeks at a time – but would follow your sensible guidelines if I did.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I have all the rest of your blog to read, starting with that thing about an Adventure Atlas …. I DO love cartography.

    Wish we knew each other – I’d tag along to see Alaska. Best wishes and happy dog travels!!! 🙂

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