Destination: Disaster

Roadtrips are one of those great American traditions. As a result, there's no shortage of movies that revolve around this tradition. While most of these movies do have happy endings, there's a lot of misery that could have been avoided if the characters were a little more mindful of their road trip experiences. Here are four classic road trip movies, the problems that can happen to you, and ways to fix them before they have a chance to derail your adventures! 

Are We There Yet?

Courtesy of Revolution Studios

In addition to being rapper Ice Cube's first venture into family entertainment, Are We There Yet? is an affectionate take on bonding through road trips. The film stars Ice Cube as Nick, a bachelor determined to win his crush's affection by driving her kids to a New Year's party in his brand new 2004 Lincoln Navigator. Determined to prevent Nick from hitting on their mother, kids Lindsey and Kevin sabotage the trip at every opportunity. 

What It Gets Right:

Kids. Although Lindsey and Kevin's antics are over-the-top, everyone who's taken a road trip can likely relate to the stress that comes from having antsy children sitting in the back seat. Making sure that kids have something to do is a vital part of preserving your sanity during road trips.

The question "Are we there yet?" is charming to hear the first few times, but quickly gets exhausting once you start hearing it every few minutes. Although most road trips don't involve fist-fighting deer, lighting cars on fire, and crashing a karaoke party in pursuit of a pharmacist clown, bad morale in the back seat tends to circulate pretty quickly. 

What Nick Could Have Done:

Keep the kids entertained. Travel writers have repeatedly noted that the most effective forms of entertainment during road trips aren't just distractions, they instead offer unique ways to experience the scenery. One such tool is laminated maps: simply print out a copy of your trip's route (preferably with landmarks) and laminate it. This lets you make a game of tracking progress by encouraging any kids to mark progress with markers and highlight any landmarks that you pass. That way, you'll always have an answer when kids ask, "Are we there yet?"

Dumb and Dumber

Courtesy of New Line Cinemas

Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels star in this timeless screwball classic about two friends trying to take a road trip to Aspen, Colorado to return a briefcase full of money. After accidentally intercepting a ransom payment from a wealthy socialite, Harry and Lloyd find themselves caught up in an elaborate kidnapping plot that they never show more than an incidental awareness of. The duo's utter incompetence works in their favor as they unintentionally diffuse all sorts of harebrained problems.

What It Gets Right:

The unexpected. While your road trips, hopefully, don't include hitchhiking goons or complex ransom plots, dealing with the unexpected is a frequent occurrence on the road. Closed hotels, ferocious weather patterns, and flat tires are all potential events waiting between your home and your destination. While digital alerts have made it easier to be forewarned about road closures and traffic accidents, it's not a real road trip until you've had to frantically reassess plans at 1 a.m.

What They Could Have Done:

Plan ahead. Not everyone has Harry and Lloyd's supernatural luck, so it's always possible for events completely out of your control to derail your itinerary. You don't have to memorize every single street or turn, but it helps to have a good idea of both where you're going and how to get there. Thankfully, most map software offers advanced warnings on things like road closures, but trying to find a vacant motel at 2 a.m. in a sleepy town can be an equally unexpected stress. Make sure to document your itinerary with the approximate amount of driving you plan to do each day, along with a list of interesting features you'll pass. 

Also, maybe don't pick up hired thugs disguised as hitchhikers and accidentally poison them. That's good advice for normal driving, too. 

Little Miss Sunshine

Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures

Sheryl Hoover is a stressed-out mother who has two days to get her daughter Olive to the titular Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant. Along with four other members of her dysfunctional family, they set out in a clunky Volkswagen van that seems to develop new mechanical issues with every scene. This van isn't the only dysfunctional part of their trip, however. The Hoovers quickly find themselves at each other's throats, trying to balance their familial insecurities with the stresses of a road trip. 

What It Gets Right:

Tension. Road trips are an inherently intimate experience. Sharing a journey that's largely inside a confined space with people means that bad moods, insecurities, and general stress can quickly become group activities. Long days of driving, nights in motels and gas station food can quickly begin to wear on groups. During times of low morale, it's not uncommon for well-intentioned comments to escalate, becoming full-blown arguments as people latch on to the most immediate way to vent their frustrations. 

What They Could Have Done:

Communicate. Being honest about any bad moods or disagreements is a good way to ensure that they don't escalate into arguments. Most people can get restless from long hours in the car, especially if they haven't had a chance to stretch out. You'll all still be friends and family once you hit the next rest stop, so try to remember that while you're sitting in the backseat. If there's something you'd like to express concern or frustration with, it's helpful to be direct and concise to avoid accidentally phrasing it like the start of an argument. Focus on the things making you uncomfortable, and the most direct way to address them. 


Courtesy of Sony Pictures Releasing

Bob Munro (played by the legendary Robin Willaims) is an executive for a beverage company. One of his family vacations gets hijacked when his work expects him to visit Boulder, Colorado, for an important sales pitch meeting. After getting his family to agree to the trip by pretending like its a normal vacation, Bob rents an RV. What follows is pretty much every bad thing that can happen to an RV. Bob and his family manage to crash their RV into just about every hard surface possible before finally sinking it into a lake towards the end of the movie. Although his important meeting ultimately ends with Bob turning his back on his employer, he emerges from the experience with a renewed love of his family. 

What It Gets Right:

The bonding opportunities. In addition to his family, Bob encounters the Gornickes, a family of eccentric road trippers with a penchant for obnoxious custom car horns. While Bob is ultimately dismissive of both these people and his family, he comes to depend on them for both emotional support and a means of finally getting to his destination. Driving to unfamiliar places means also meeting people with new cultures or perspectives. 

What Bob Could Have Done:

Keep an open mind. Even if you aren't planning on becoming besties with the people you meet, being open and friendly is a way to experience cultures outside of the ones that you're used to. Road trips are just as much about the journey as the destination. Keeping an open mind during that journey can turn it from a boring grind into a chance to learn new things about both yourself and the people you encounter along the way.

Can you think of any more classic road trip movies with important lessons? Let us know in the comments below!